September 28, 2022 - 6:50 pm
Updated September 28, 2022 - 7:30 pm
LOS ANGELES — Coolio, the rapper who was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage,” died Wednesday at age 59, his manager said.
Coolio, whose legal name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., died at the Los Angeles home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately clear.
Coolio won a Grammy for best solo rap performance for “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the 1995 hit from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds” that sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise.”
He was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late-1980s.
Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, California, where he went to community college. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to the hip-hop scene.
His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, “It Takes a Thief.” It’s opening track, “Fantastic Voyage,” would reach No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A year later, “Gangsta’s Paradise” would become a No. 1 single, with its dark opening lyrics:
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left, ‘cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin’ so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.”
The rap superstar had a home and studio facilities in Henderson. His longtime friend ProHoeZak, late of the pioneering hip-hop group Digital Underground, said Wednesday, “I feel like I’ve just died,” shortly after learning the news.
“I’m in pain. He was a great, longtime friend,” ProHoeZak said during a phone conversation from his Henderson home. “I’ve known him since the ‘80s. This is just messed up.”
PhoHoeZak, whose legal last name is McKinley, said Coolio was due to call in for ProHoeZak’s son’s birthday.
“I have an autistic son whose birthday is tonight at 12, and Lio was going to wish him a happy birthday,” ProHoeZak said.
The recording artist and producer said he and Coolio were in pre-production for a children’s TV show.
“He had just lent me his camera, and we were about to start shooting for a show that was like ‘Sesame Street’ meets ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ on steroids,” ProHoeZak said. “We called it, ‘Hydraulic Junkyard.’”
But the two were more friends than professional collaborators.
“We just started working on stuff recently, but we never tripped like that, you know?” ProeHoeZak said. “We was just homeboys, you know what I mean?
— Columnist John Katsilometes contributed to this report.