Coolio (originally, Ivey, Artis)

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Coolio (originally, Ivey, Artis)

Coolio (originally, Ivey, Artis) , popular gangsta rapper; b. Compton, Calif., Aug. 1, 1963. While he generally gets classified with the Calif, gangsta rappers, Coolio seems somehow safer, probably due to the combination of his sense of humor and prevailing attitude that there is a better life than street life. The tension between street and safety, however, made him an enormously popular artist through the mid-1990s.

In his teens, Artis Ivey hung with gangs, did drugs, and did time. After getting out of prison and kicking his crack habit, he became a fire fighter, which he likened to boot camp. He pursued his interest in hip-hop during his off-hours, performing free rap shows for radio station KDAY in LA. His carefully cultivated looks included his now trademark Medusa-like dreadlocks.

Coolio signed to Tommy Boy records and in 1994 released the single “Fantastic Voyage,” which went to #3 in the charts, selling platinum. The album It Takes a Thief debuted at a peak of #5 on the pop charts and also went platinum.

Coolio followed this up with the double platinum Gangsta’s Paradise the following year. The title track, featured in the film Dangerous Minds, heavily sampled Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise.” It went to #1 and sold triple platinum. However, the follow-up, “Too Hot,” only hit #24. Coolio returned to chart success with a remixed version of the track “Sumpin’ New” titled “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New).” The single reached #5 pop and sold gold. The album went to #9 and Coolio won the best solo rap Grammy for the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” in 1996.

Coolio contributed the track “All The Way Live (Now)” for the soundtrack to the Whoopie Goldberg film Eddie. The tune went gold, although it only hit #29. He made appearances on television shows like Sabrina the Teenaged Witch, solidifying his popularity among pre-teens to the extent that he won two Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice awards. He also started appearing in films, including a cameo appearance in Batman and Robin.

Coolio’s gold single “C U When U Get There,” built around samples of Pachabel’s Canon In D, was released late in the summer of 1997. From the soundtrack to the film Nothing to Lose, it reached #12 and went gold. Considering how successful his previous singles were, that was considered a disappointment, as was the performance of the My Soul album, which also only went gold, topping out at #39.

A dispute with Tommy Boy kept Coolio out of the recording studios after that. He has considered releasingn his music via the Internet and started his own label, Crowbar Records.


It Takes a Thief (1994); Gangsta’s Paradise (1995); My Soul (1997).

—Hank Bordowitz