Coolio’s Struggles, Success, and Legacy

Coolio, one of the most popular rappers from the 90s, was just announced to be dead at the age of 59.

Reportedly, Coolio was at his friend’s house and used the bathroom. But when Coolio didn’t come out after a while, they called for him but didn’t answer. Then his friends decided to open the door, found him lying there, and immediately called for emergency help. But when the emergency medical technicians arrived, they pronounced him dead on the scene.

Indeed, a time for mourning, especially for those that have been heavily influenced by Coolio’s artistry. And while listening to his music, let’s take a bit of time to reminisce about his life.

The Struggles Before Success

Most of the time, people just see the success and popularity that someone currently has. People tend to overlook the struggles these successful people have had to overcome. So, in honor of Coolio, let’s take the time to realize his struggles.

Childhood Woes

Unlike most celebrities that came from a complete family and experienced a happy childhood, Coolio or Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. came from a broken family, his parents separated when he was 11 years old. This affected his childhood so much that he became very eager to find a group in school that he can fit in. But Artis wasn’t able to fit in school because he’s sickly, small, and very intelligent.

Due to having a hard time fitting in, he started associating with the Baby Crips. Wanting to fit in with the Baby Crips, Artis started to create trouble by bringing weapons to school and stealing items. Due to his actions, he has quite a few run-ins with the police and even has to serve a few months in jail at the age of 17.

Early Songs and Drug Addiction

His career started during his college days when he developed an interest in rapping. Eventually, Artis joined contests and then due to his ability gained quite a reputation. His current name “Coolio” came from one of these contests where some called him “Coolio Iglesias”.

Then, Coolio started getting popular and was getting regular invites from radio stations in Los Angeles. This was also the time when he released his first song, “Watcha Gonna Do”.

Sadly, this early success got Coolio associated with bad company which influenced him to use cocaine. This resulted in cocaine addiction and caused an abrupt pause in his music career.

After his rehabilitation, he didn’t immediately return back to music. He first built-up discipline by serving as a firefighter in California for more than a year. Then, he returned to Los Angeles to rebuild his music career.

The Breakout Success

Coolio wasn’t able to immediately rebuild his music career. It was really a struggle. In fact, he even had to work on various side jobs just to make ends meet. And when he released his single “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in 1987, it became a massive flop.

Realizing that he needs connections in order for his music career to take off, he immediately tried to build connections with prominent hip-hop artists in Los Angeles. After a few years, he got featured in a few albums and then landed a contract with Tommy Boy Records in 1994.

Fantastic Voyage

In the same year he signed with Tommy Boy Records, Coolio released an album called “It Takes a Thief”. But, contrary to the expectations that the lead single would be the one to take off. It was the song “Fantastic Voyage” that pushed the album to platinum sales.

If you’re a fan of Coolio, I bet it’s already playing in your head. “Come along and ride~ on a fantastic voyage~ Slide~ slide~ slippity-slide~”

The reason why they thought Fantastic Voyage won’t be much of a hit is that it is only a remake of the song by the funk band Lakeside. And that most listeners would likely focus on other songs in the album that tackles welfare issues.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Coolio
Actress Michelle Pfeiffer shared this photo on social media of her and Coolio on the set of the Gangsta’s Paradise film clip in 1995.(Supplied: Michelle Pfeiffer)

Gangsta’s Paradise

Now, this! This song is the peak of Coolio’s career. In fact, when saying the name Coolio, this is the song that people will mention, “Gangsta’s Paradise”.

When this song is mentioned, casual listeners would remember the hook “Been spending most our lives, livin’ in a gangsta’s paradise”. But true rap fans will remember how Coolio boldly foretold in each line how dark, difficult, and gritty the ghetto life is.

This bold and gritty rap song by Coolio, it had earned him a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance. And I say it’s well deserved.

His Legacy: Charity and Climate Change Awareness

Aside from his songs, Coolio left behind a legacy of leading charities for improving the welfare of black people, especially the youth. Also, he is an active advocate of climate change awareness often going to events and universities to talk about climate change and can be done to mitigate it.

In summary, as the first line of “Gangsta’s Paradise” goes, “as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, Coolio really lived a hard and dark life but overcame it and became successful.

And now we can say, that maybe, Artis now lives in another paradise.