Artis Leon Ivey Jr. (born August 1, 1963), known professionally as Coolio, is an American rapper, chef, actor, and record producer. Coolio achieved mainstream success in the mid to late 1990s with his albums It Takes a Thief (1994), Gangsta's Paradise (1995), and My Soul (1997). He is best known for his 1995 Grammy Award-winning hit single "Gangsta's Paradise", as well as other singles "Fantastic Voyage" (1994), "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" (1996) and "C U When U Get There" (1997). He was also known for rapping the theme song for the late 1990s Nickelodeon series Kenan & Kel. Coolio has since gone on to release albums independently, as well becoming a chef, creating a web series titled Cookin' with Coolio and releasing a cookbook.
He recorded two singles in 1987, titled "Watch Gonna Do" and "You're Gonna Miss Me". Coolio made connections in the L.A. rap scene, and in 1991, ended up joining the group WC and the Maad Circle, led by rapper WC. He had a few verses on the group's debut album Ain't a Damn Thang Changed, including on the single "Dress Code". The album was regionally successful.
Tommy Boy Records and It Takes a Thief
In 1994, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and released his debut solo album It Takes a Thief. The lead single "Fantastic Voyage" received heavy rotation on MTV, and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Fantastic Voyage" would become one of the biggest rap singles of the year, and the album contained a few other minor hits in "County Line" and "I Remember". It Takes a Thief peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200, becoming certified Platinum. The album received praise for bringing a humorous and lighthearted perspective to often violent and profane themes of typical gangsta rap.
In 1995, Coolio made a song featuring R&B singer LV for the movie Dangerous Minds, titled "Gangsta's Paradise". It would become one of the most successful rap songs of all time, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. It was the #1 single of 1995 for all genres, and was a global hit, as it reached #1 in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. The song also created a controversy when Coolio claimed that parody artist "Weird Al" Yankovic had not asked for permission to make his parody of "Gangsta's Paradise", titled "Amish Paradise". At the 1996 Grammy Awards, the song won Coolio a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Originally "Gangsta's Paradise" was not meant to be included on one of Coolio's studio albums, but its success led to Coolio not only putting it on his next album, but also making it the title track. The title track sampled the chorus and music of the song "Pastime Paradise" by Stevie Wonder, which was recorded nearly 20 years earlier on Stevie Wonder's album Songs in the Key of Life. The album Gangsta's Paradise was released in 1995 and was certified 2X Platinum by the RIAA. The album contained two other major hits in "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" and "Too Hot" with J.T. Taylor of Kool & the Gang doing the chorus. Despite no longer being an official member of the group, Coolio made an appearance on the second WC and the Maad Circle album Curb Servin', on the song "In a Twist". In 1996, Coolio had another top 40 hit with the song "It's All the Way Live (Now)" from the soundtrack to the movie Eddie. He was also featured on the song "Hit 'em High" from the soundtrack to the movie Space Jam with B-Real, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes.
In 2014, the band Falling in Reverse did a cover of "Gangster's Paradise" for "Punk Goes 90's", with Coolio making a cameo in the music video.
Red Hot Organization and Tommy Boy Records dismissal