Coolio, the US rapper best known for the chart-topping 1995 song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” has died, his manager said Wednesday. He was 59 years old.
The Grammy-winning musician passed away in Los Angeles. No cause of death was immediately provided.
Coolio’s friend and long-standing manager Jarez Posey confirmed the news to AFP without providing additional details.
Posey told celebrity news website TMZ that Coolio was found unresponsive in the bathroom of a friend’s house on Wednesday afternoon.
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr on August 1, 1963 in Pennsylvania, the artist spent most of his life in Compton, California, attending community college and working jobs including airport security before finding success in rap.
Coolio began his music career in California in the late 1980s, digging roots in the Los Angeles scene by 1994 when he signed to Tommy Boy Records.
His single “Fantastic Voyage” off his debut studio album “It Takes a Thief” charted as high as three on the Billboard Hot 100.
But it was “Gangsta’s Paradise” the following year that would make Coolio a household name.
The rapper soared to global fame in 1995 when he released the song for the soundtrack of the film “Dangerous Minds” that starred Michelle Pfeiffer.
He said in interviews that he started rapping at 15 and knew by 18 it was what he wanted to do with his life, but would go to community college and work 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.”
Social media lit up with reactions to the unexpected death.
“This is sad news,” Ice Cube said on Twitter. “I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace, @Coolio.”
“Weird Al” Yankovic tweeted “RIP Coolio” along with a picture of the two men hugging.
Coolio had said in an interview at the time it was released that he wasn’t cool with Yankovic’s 1996 “Gangsta’s Paradise” parody, “Amish Paradise.” But the two later made peace.
The rapper would never again have a song nearly as big as “Gangsta’s Paradise,” but had subsequent hits with 1996′s “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” (1996), and 1997′s “C U When U Get There.”
His career album sales totaled 4.8 million, with 978 million on-demand streams of his songs, according to Luminate. He would be nominated for six Grammys overall.
And with his distinctive persona he would become a cultural staple, acting occasionally, starring in a reality show about parenting called “Coolio’s Rules,” providing a voice for an episode of the animated show “Gravity Falls” and providing the theme music for the Nickelodeon sitcom “Kenan & Kel.”