(CTN News) _ The rapper Coolio, whose hits included “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage”, died at age 59 on Wednesday.
According to longtime manager Jarez Posey, Coolio died at the home of a friend. It wasn’t clear what caused it.
The 1995 hit from the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds” sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise” and was played constantly on MTV.
Coolio won the Grammy for best solo rap performance.
During the peak of his popularity, in 1996, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were killed in a fierce feud between the hip-hop communities of the two coasts.
He accepted the Grammy on behalf of the whole hip-hop nation. “United we stand, divided we fall,” he said.
Coolio was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh. His mother sent him to Northern California as a teen because she felt the city was too dangerous.
In 15 he started rapping, and by 18, he knew it was what he wanted to do, so he went to community college and worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security.
“It Takes a Thief,” his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, launched his career. A Billboard Hot 100 Top 3 for “Fantastic Voyage.”.
With its dark opening lyrics, “Gangsta’s Paradise” became a No. 1 single a year later:
The more I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the more I realize there’s not much left. I’ve been blastin’ and laughing so long, even my mom thinks I’ve lost my mind.”
Reactions on social media lit up.
Ice Cube tweeted: “This is sad news. I witnessed first hand this man’s rise to the top. @Coolio, rest in peace.
The two men embraced in a picture tweeted by “Weird Al” Yankovic.
The two later made peace after Coolio said he wasn’t cool with Yankovic’s 1996 “Gangsta’s Paradise” parody, “Amish Paradise.”
With his distinctive persona, he starred in a parenting show called “Coolio’s Rules,” voiced over “Gravity Falls,” and provided the Nickelodeon sitcom’s theme music.
In 1998, he was convicted of punching a boutique shop owner who tried to stop him from taking merchandise without paying.
Upon probation, he was fined $30,000.