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5 classic Coolio songs that aren’t “Gangsta’s Paradise”

With hands up displaying peace signs, Coolio poses in a spangled white jacket with Venice's Saint Marks Square behind him.
U.S. rapper Coolio poses after he performed the traditional “Flight of the Angel” hanging from a cable tied from the bell tower to a St. Mark’s Square filled to capacity, in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Jan.27, 2008.
(Luigi Costantini / AP)

Artis Leon Ivey Jr., better known as Grammy Award-winning rapper, actor and producer Coolio, may have been born in Pennsylvania, but throughout his career, he always claimed Compton as his home turf. His death yesterday at 59 was a shock to the L.A. hip-hop scene.

Coming up in Compton, Coolio was already a well-respected emcee when he joined the group WC and the Maad Circle in 1991, contributing to their debut album “Ain’t a Damn Thang Changed.” But everything did change for him in 1995 when the film “Dangerous Minds” was released with his song “Gangsta’s Paradise” on the soundtrack. The song stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks, he won a Grammy for best rap solo performance and Weird Al Yankovic even did a cover of it called “Amish Paradise.” “Gangsta’s Paradise” became one of the most successful rap songs of then, and now, with Billboard ranking it No. 85 on the list of the greatest songs of all time.

Coolio, who grew up in Compton and died Wednesday afternoon, won a Grammy for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise,’ which was featured in the movie ‘Dangerous Minds.’

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While he might be best known for “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Coolio is far from a one- or two-hit wonder, achieving major label success throughout the ’90s. His music also made appearances in Hollywood movies (who could forget Brittany Murphy singing “Rollin’ With My Homies” in “Clueless”?) Since then, Coolio rarely slowed down, popping up on reality TV shows such as “Celebrity Big Brother,” “Celebrity Cook-Off,” and “Coolio’s Rules,” and crossing the country on tours with rappers such as MC Hammer and Sir Mix-a-Lot.

To show our gratitude for his life and music, here are some of the other hits from Coolio’s catalog.

“1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New)”

The second hip-hop fans heard the counting that kicked of the ’96 classic “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New),” they knew it was time to dance. Coolio always excelled at delivering feel-good songs with a meaningful messageand this song from the “Gangsta’s Paradise” album is a prime example. Whether dancing in the car or grinding in a club, when “1,2,3,4" came on, you were gonna get up. And then, you were gonna get down.

“Fantastic Voyage”

If you’re of a certain age, there is no song that will make you miss the ‘90s quite like “Fantastic Voyage.” It was a summer banger, if a summer banger lasted an entire year plus a lifetime. Off his 1994 debut album “It Takes a Thief,” there was, and still is, nothing like cranking this tune to the highest decibel while cruising in your own ride, wanting to take that ride with Coolio. While this song lyrically is about flipping switches, set trippin’ and possibly getting steak to accompany beans and rice, it also includes the line, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” making it a teachable moment too.

“Aw, Here It Goes!”

From 1996-2000, teens everywhere couldn’t get enough of the Nickelodeon series “Kenan & Kel,” staring Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. And sure, Kenan and Kel were all the rage, but that theme song? Straight fire. Double K tapped Coolio to record their intro and it felt like getting dessert before dinner. Rapping about K&K’s misadventures and schemes, “Aw, Here It Goes” also gave us a glimpse into how Coolio viewed the guys, likening them to “Siegfried and Roy or Abbott and Costello. Magic and Kareem, or Penn and Teller.”

Kee Riches, a 23-year-old L.A. rapper, was shot and killed in Compton on Saturday night along with another man who was also pronounced dead at the scene.

“Too Hot”

Dr. Coolio checks in to give a sex education lesson in his 1995 hit “Too Hot,” and every line he raps in this thoughtful song is still valid in 2022. The message is one of respecting your body and making smart decisions with it. And a great way to do that is to be safe sexually. “Latex, safe sex, you better learn.” Coolio was great about communicating with the younger generation. That’s what makes “Too Hot” such an important song, as it rings true even all these years later.

“C U When U Get There”

In 1997, off his third album, “My Soul,” Coolio dropped “C U When U Get There” featuring 40 Thevz and it was met with high praise around the globe. This song hits so differently with the passing of Coolio, as it became somewhat of an anthem used at funerals in the late ‘90s. It’s an emotional song of struggle made more intense by the chorus, all while delivering an inspirational message of choosing to have faith in yourself over falling to temptation. RIP, Coolio. “I guess I’ll see you when you see me.”


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