Coolio’s Fantastic Voyage

In 1994, hip-hop was stuck between the "keeping it real" ethos and entering a shiny suit era birthed on the East Coast, But along came Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. from Compton, CA, who would soon be known to the world as Coolio.


Mar. 11 2024, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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The rapper changed hip-hop with his signature spiked braids and West Coast G-funk bounce sound, injecting rap with some much-needed fun and energetic party vibe with his single "Fantastic Voyage."

Coolio emerged on the scene like a superhero with no cape, captivating audiences with his then-unique melodic rap style. He stood on originality, creating a lane of his own during a time when the hip-hop genre embraced originality.

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Before stepping onto the scene in the mid-1990s, Coolio recorded his first single titled “Whatcha Gonna Do?” in 1987 and by the early 90s, he joined the West Coast group WC and the Maad Circle, led by rapper WC. Coolio was credited co-contributor on the group's debut album Ain't a Damn Thang Changed, however his solo career propelled him into the spotlight.

Coolio's accomplishments in music and pop culture will never be repeated; make no mistake, Coolio will always and forever be an icon, above and beyond the realm of hip-hop culture. Coolio is one of the pioneers of hip-hop who took rap music global and "mainstream," a term hip-hop purists loathed at the time.

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In 1995, Coolio released "Gangsta's Paradise," featuring R&B singer L.V. for the film "Dangerous Minds” that not only spoke to the struggles and triumphs of the inner city but also a song of hope and resilience, inspiring young people to overcome even the harshest of circumstances. Today, in the age of social media, “Gangsta’s Paradise” has now amassed over 1 billion streams on YouTube.

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It became one of the most successful rap songs of all time and was the highest-selling single of 1995 on the Billboard charts. It was also the top selling single in 1995 in the United States across all genres of music. In addition, it was a global hit in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, and New Zealand, among several other countries, proving its message resonated cross-culturally despite the song's harsh and gritty lyrics. The single peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart, sold one million copies domestically and was certified platinum, a true masterpiece of rap music.

In 1996, Coolio won an American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance with "Gangsta's Paradise.". In 2008, the song was ranked No. 38 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop" list. Coolio would win five awards and fourteen nominations throughout his career.

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There was something about Coolio everyone loved, which was his affable, regular guy persona that resonated with even the most out-of-touch rap fans. From the big screen to the small screen, Coolio extended his reach outside of music, appearing in several movies like Batman & Robin, Daredevil and Dracula 3000 and TV shows, including his hit reality TV show Coolio's Rules in 2008.He even authored a cookbook in 2009 titled Cookin with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price.

Coolio has sold 4.8 million albums in the U.S., according to Luminate a feat even by today's music standards. It's been said that a man is not judged or defined by his mistakes, and though the world lost Coolio on September 28, 2022, from an accidental drug overdose, Coolio was able to capture the imaginations of millions of devoted fans worldwide.

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