The 90s was an era of gangsta rap and one particular song which every hip hop fan has listened to and enjoys to this day is Gangsta’s Paradise. Legendary rapper from Compton, Coolio was the artist behind this hit and it made an everlasting impact. He sang various other songs like C U When you get there, Fantastic Voyage and Rollin with My Homies, which cemented his place among the stars of hip hop. He suffered a cardiac arrest and took his last breath on 28th September, 2022.
Coolio was born as Artis Leon Ivey Jr on Thursday, 1st August 1963 (age 59 years; at the time of death) at Torrance, California. His zodiac sign is Leo. From childhood, he was smart, intelligent and focused on his education. There was a library near his house and in an interview with the rolling stone magazine, he said,
“I lived in that library, man. I read every kid’s book they had in there. I even read Judy Blume” (the author who specializes in books about female adolescence).
He suffered from Asthma from his childhood and had a skinny structure. At the age of 11, he moved to Compton, the birthplace of gangsta rap. He could not fit easily into the violent life of his new residence and he joined the ‘Baby Crip’ gang to get a sense of safety however due to his physical limitations, he was not treated equally by his fellow gang members and he started carrying weapons to school to enforce his gangsta image. However, he left the gang when he witnessed a gruesome murder. He said,
“I watched them beat him to death, then I threw up. That’s when I stopped rolling with the gang.”
While he was struggling to find focus on education, he found a new outlet for his energy. He had access to the music from his childhood and he said,
“When I was a kid, my mom and stepfather was listening to Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, the Dramatics, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield — all that shit. Back in those days, people didn’t have big album collections, at least not in the ghetto, but we did. I listen to old soul, old funk, a couple of old rap albums, maybe some new rap stuff here and there. I don’t like new R&B — period.”
He was charged with theft and spent some time in jail. After his release, he started going to Compton Community College. He got addicted to crack-Cocaine during his adolescent days however after coming out of hail, he was forced by his brother, Spoon to turn his life around. He enrolled in the firefighter program and said,
“It was the hardest work I ever did, It helped me get my mind back together. I was down to 100 lbs. I was a skeleton and Spoon pointed a .38 caliber at my head and told me if I didn’t promise to clean up, he would kill me. It was just what I needed. Routine, order, discipline and a strong physical regimen to toughen me up.”
He also worked as security personnel at the Los Angeles International Airport for a very brief period of time.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Weight (approx.): 80 kg
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Brown
Parents & Siblings
His father was Artis Leon Ivey Sr who worked as a carpenter and his mother was Jakie Slater, a factory worker. He has a brother Malieek Straughter, who has also performed with him on the track, C U When U Get There.
Wife & Children
He married Josefa Salinas, a radio personality in 1996 and they got divorced in 2000.
Coolio with his wife, Josefa Salinas
He has 10 kids, 4 from his wife Josefa and 6 from other women. His 4 sons are Grtis Ivey, Milan Ivey, Darius Ivey and Artis Ivey III. His 6 daughters are Brandi Ivey, Zhaneand Ivey, Jackie Ivey, Artisha Ivey, Shayne Ivey and Kate Ivey.
Coolio with his children
He also has 5 grandchildren.
Coolio with his granddaughter Arya Ivey
He has been romantically linked to Adina Howard and Nora Amile (2007).
In 2013, he was accused of domestic violence by his alleged girlfriend of 3 years at that time, Anabella Chatman. She accused that he had bought his other girlfriend, Melynda Karr and when she stopped him to leave with their child, he hit her. He admitted to police for physical altercation however denied hitting her.
He participated in a show, ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ with his alleged girlfriend, Mimi, an exotic dancer and reportedly, they broke up after the show was over. However he said this was all fabricated and he said,
“Listen. It was all set up. I’m nothing like that. I’m not even with Mimi. I never was.”
Coolio with Mimi
As per various reports, he followed Islam however he once said,
“You know, I’m not a believer in any organized religion, I don’t call myself a Muslim or a Christian or a Buddhist. But I do believe in one God. And he’s been watching over me. I mean, by now I should be in jail, living on the streets or dead.”
He belonged to Black African – American community.
He has a multifaceted personality as he was a singer, actor, social activist and chef.
His debut song was ‘Whatcha Gonna Do?’ in 1987 however it did not receive the attention of fans. He kept on working and later joined the group ‘WC and the Maad Circle’. His debut solo album ‘It Takes a Thief’ received widespread attention and went platinum. It climbed up to 8th position on Billboard 200 chart. In 1995, he released the album Gangsta’s Paradise and the title song of the album was featured in the film ‘ Dangerous Minds’. It took his career to new heights as it was the number 1 track in the US, Switzerland, UK, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand and France charts. He was 32 years old when he released the legendary song ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. It featured in the movie ‘Dangerous Minds’ starring ‘Michelle Pfeifer’. The song has 1 billion views on both YouTube and Spotify. In an interview, he described the song as a blessing and a curse both. He said,
“I thought it was going to be a hood record, I never thought it would crossover the way that it did – to all ages, races, genres, countries and generations.”
He released many albums over the course of his music career. The list of his albums is
1994 It Takes a Thief
1995 Gangsta’s Paradise
1997 My Soul
2002 El Cool Magnifico
2006 The Return of the Gangsta
2008 Steal Hear
2009 From the Bottom 2 the Top
Acting Career & Chef
He appeared in multiple films, TV shows and cooking shows. His transition from music to films was smooth as his music was already featured in many films and he was able to establish great chemistry with them. The films he has acted in films like Retirement, Phat Beach, Batman and Robin and Tyrone. At the time of his death, he was working in the movie ‘Bobcat Moretti’. He was a part of many TV shows as well like Big Brother, Cooking With Coolio, Coolio’s rules and Celebrity Wife Swap. He also made a title song for the sketch comedy show, Kenan and Kel Show, which premiered on the kids channel Nickelodeon. He was of the view that everyone should know to cook at least one dish and he said,
“People learn better when they’re entertained. Cooking isn’t just for the starched-stiff elite. Everyone should know how to cook something.”
He did multiple performances in Bosnia Herzegovina and Tuzla for UN peacekeeping troops. He said,
“I perform for soldiers because they are important, They are willing to die in order for me to be able to do the things I do everyday … for my kids to be able to go to school, and to be free. I just think it’s my responsibility as a human being and an entertainer to see the soldiers.”
He suffered from Asthma since his childhood and became a spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He said in an interview,
“The big message I want to get across is if you have symptoms, you need to get them checked out. If you have asthma, you need to be responsible and recognize that fact and deal with it, because otherwise you can get sick and wind up hospitalized.”
He was also the spokesperson for Environmental Justice and Climate Change’s (EJCC) campaign to educate the African-American community in historically black colleges and university’s (HBCU’s) in the U.S. about global warming. He also debated in 2009 for global warming with a fellow participant of the show.
Run-ins with the Law
He was arrested in his late teens for bringing weapon to school and spent some time in jail for theft.
In 1998. he was arrested for carrying a gun, a small quantity of marijuana and driving on the wrong side of the road with an expired driving licence.
In 1998, he was arrested for violence with a shopkeeper in Stuttgart, Germany. He paid a $30,000 fine and was kept on probation.
In 2009, he was arrested for carrying illegal drugs at Los Angeles International Airport and went through a Rehabilitation program for 18 months.
In 2013, he was arrested for domestic violence allegations by his girlfriend, Anabella Chatman.
In 2016, he was arrested for unlawful possession of a gun at Los Angeles International Airport. Though, a member of his entourage said that the gun belonged to him however later, Coolio admitted that the gun belongs to him. He said outside the courtroom,
“A mistake was made. It was a misunderstanding. I don’t condone the use of firearms, illegal or legal. Thanks to the court and the attorneys for handling this for me. I was very worried. I don’t do crime. I’m not into anything illegal.”
Gangsta Paradise Parody
Weird Al Yankovic made a parody/spoof version of the hit song Gangsta Paradise and named it ‘Amish Paradise’. Coolio was not happy with it and expressed his discontent when the song was released however after some years, he was fine with the spoof version and said in an interview,
“No, man, I let that go so long ago. Let me say this: I apologized to Weird Al a long time ago and I was wrong. Y’all remember that, everybody out there who reads this stuff. Real men and real people should be able to admit when they’re wrong and I was wrong, bro.”
Child Support Lawsuits
He was fighting 3 court cases for 3 child support petitions. A woman named, Juanita Randle filed a case in 1999 for child support and both parties settled after 5 years. In 2010, another woman named, Taleya White filed a case and the case was dismissed in 2012. In 2010, another case was filed by a woman named, Annabella Bellesi and it was eventually settled in 2012.
Fight with Record Label
He said when he got famous, he got wound up in business and music was not the same for him. He was not into the money aspect of the business and he didn’t like it. He quit his music career and returned 6 months later. He said,
“This s— is my life… If I wasn’t doing hip-hop, I’d be dead, in jail or on drugs right now. It saved my life, it’s taken care of my family, it’s made me mean something to people and allowed me to have a voice. It’s allowed me to travel the world, and it’s opened my mind and I respect it.”
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- He won Grammy Awards for ‘Best Rap Solo Performance’ for the song ‘ Gangsta’s Paradise’ in 1996.
- He won MTV VMA awards for ‘Best Rap Video’ for Gangsta’s Paradise, ‘Best dance video’ for ‘1 2 3 4 (Sumpin’ New)’ and ‘Best Video from a Film’ for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise in Dangerous Minds’.
Not much is known about his cars however at the peak of his career in 1996, he reportedly owned a Hummer.
His salary is around $100,000 per year.
His net worth was $1 million at the time of his death.
He was present at his friend’s house in Los Angeles and passed away after he suffered a cardiac arrest at the age of 59. He died on Wednesday, 28th September 2022. Family and friends also speculate that he might have passed due to Chronic Asthma. Several people from all over the globe sent out messages after the shocking news spread.
His co-star, Michelle Pfeifer from the movie, Dangerous Minds posted on Instagram,
“Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist @coolio. A life cut entirely too short. As some of you may know I was lucky enough to work with him on Dangerous Minds in 1995. He won a Grammy for his brilliant song on the soundtrack – which I think was the reason our film saw so much success. I remember him being nothing but gracious. 30 years later I still get chills when I hear the song. Sending love and light to his family. Rest in Power, Artis Leon Ivey Jr. ❤️”
Legendary West Coast rapper, Ice Cube, tweeted,
This is sad news. I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace @Coolio https://t.co/vCeyn08Vsi
— Ice Cube (@icecube) September 29, 2022
Another legendary West Coast rapper, Snoop Dogg, posted on Instagram,
- He got the nickname in his college as he performed song by Julio Iglesias and got the name ‘Coolio Iglesias’ which was meant as an insult. Some other sources claim that he got the name after he was caught listening to ‘José Feliciano’ and his friends called him ‘Coolio Igelisis’. It was meant as an insult however he liked the name and later kept it as his artist name.
- He was a Bookworm during his school days and would go to his school while reading a book.
- He once retired from music and returned after 6 months.
- He released a book in 2009, ‘Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price’, which was New York Times bestseller.
- He also worked as Voice Over artist in the series Futurama.
- Hip-hop rivalry between East Coast and West Coast was at its peak in 1996 and in his Grammy-winning speech, he said,
“I’d like to claim this Grammy on behalf of the whole hip-hop nation, West Coast, East Coast, and worldwide, united we stand, divided we fall.”
Coolio(Left) After winning Grammy 1996 with L.V(right)
- He once suffered an asthma attack in a live concert and a fan gave him his inhaler. One fan said,
“Coolio was having problems with his asthma, but someone from the audience provided him with their inhaler that he used between verses of Gangsta’s Paradise, and his other songs.”
- He was known in LA rap scene before his song got featured in the movie and after the song premiered, he was known worldwide and with 1 billion views on YouTube, it is one of 80 songs having 1 billion views.
Snoop Dogg, Coolio, Tupac, MC Hammer, Coolio’s brother Malieek Straughter (Right to left)
Coolio(second from right) with Dr Dre(first from left) and Eazy E(second from left, bentover)
- His signature hairstyle, standing braids became famous worldwide and he kept those till his death.
- His favourite ingredient for cooking was Bacon.