Coolio, Grammy Award-Winning Rap Star, Dead at 59

Coolio, Grammy Award-Winning Rap Star, Dead at 59
Rapper/actor Coolio performs at halftime of a game between the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 31, 2022. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Coolio, one of the biggest names in the 1990s hip-hop industry who achieved enormous success with hits like “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage,” died on Wednesday, his manager confirmed. He was 59.

The Grammy Award-winning musician, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., died at the Los Angeles, California, home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press.

Details on the circumstances around the rapper’s sudden death were not immediately clear.

Police sources told tabloid TMZ that no drugs or drug paraphernalia were located at the scene of Coolio’s death. The final cause will be determined by a coroner’s office at a later time following an autopsy and toxicology tests.

Authorities reportedly also revealed to the paper that a death investigation has been opened, but as of this time, there doesn’t appear to be any signs of foul play.

Grammy Award

Coolio won a Grammy for best solo rap performance for “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the 1995 hit from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds” that sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise.” The song reached No. 1 and stayed there for 3 weeks.

NTD Photo
Rapper/actor Coolio attends producer Wade Martin’s premiere of music videos by Flavor Flav and Coolio, the first ever to use full-HD virtual reality technology, at STK at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sept. 1, 2015. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

To this day, the song has continued to live on. This year, it reached a milestone of one billion views on YouTube.

Coolio was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late-1980s.

His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, “It Takes a Thief.” Its opening track, “Fantastic Voyage,” would reach No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Born on Aug. 1, 1963, in Monessen, Pa., south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, Calif., where he went to community college. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security at Los Angeles International Airport before devoting himself full-time to the hip-hop scene.

In 1994, Coolio told the Los Angeles Times that he became a firefighter “to escape the drug thing,” likely becoming the only rap star to ever work as a volunteer firefighter.

“It was going to kill me and I knew I had to stop,” he told the publication. “In firefighting training was [the] discipline I needed. We ran every day. I wasn’t drinking or smoking or doing the stuff I usually did.”

In 2009, the rap star pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine but avoided jail by entering an 18-month drug rehabilitation program.

During an interview with “Sway in the Morning” in 2015, Coolio also opened up on his past cocaine addiction, while also revealing the story behind his 1995 hit soundtrack, “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

Many musicians, including American rapper and filmmaker Ice Cube, reacted on social media to Coolio’s 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 is survived by his six children and ex-wife, Josefa Salinas, whom he married in 1996. The former couple filed a divorce in 2000, after just four years of marriage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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