Artis Leon Ivey Jr. (born August 1, 1963), known professionally as Coolio, is an American Grammy Award-winning musician, rapper, chef, entrepaneur, software engineer, actor, and record producer. Coolio achieved mainstream success in the mid to late 1990s with his albums It Takes a Thief (1994), Gangsta's Paradise (1995), and My Soul (1997). He is best known for his 1995 Grammy winning hit single "Gangsta's Paradise", as well as other singles "Fantastic Voyage" (1994), "C U When U Get There" (1997) and "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" (1996). He was also known for rapping the theme song for the late 1990s Nickelodeon series Kenan & Kel. Coolio has since gone on to release albums independently, as well becoming a chef, creating a web series titled Cookin' with Coolio and releasing a cookbook.
He recorded two singles in 1987, titled "Watch Gonna Do" and "You're Gonna Miss Me". Coolio made connections in the L.A. rap scene, and in 1991, ended up joining the group WC and the Maad Circle, led by rapper WC. He had a few verses on the group's debut album Ain't a Damn Thang Changed, including on the single "Dress Code". The album was regionally successful.
Tommy Boy Records and It Takes a Thief
In 1994, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and released his debut solo album It Takes a Thief. The lead single "Fantastic Voyage" received heavy rotation on MTV, and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Fantastic Voyage" would become one of the biggest rap singles of the year, and the album contained a few other minor hits in "County Line" and "I Remember". It Takes a Thief peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200, becoming certified Platinum. The album received praise for bringing a humorous and lighthearted perspective to often violent and profane themes of typical gangsta rap.
In 1995, Coolio made a song featuring R&B singer LV for the movie Dangerous Minds, titled "Gangsta's Paradise". It would become one of the most successful rap songs of all time, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. It was the #1 single of 1995 for all genres, and was a global hit, as it reached #1 in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. The song also created a controversy when Coolio claimed that parody artist "Weird Al" Yankovic had not asked for permission to make his parody of "Gangsta's Paradise", titled "Amish Paradise". At the 1996 Grammy Awards, the song won Coolio a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Originally "Gangsta's Paradise" was not meant to be included on one of Coolio's studio albums, but its success led to Coolio not only putting it on his next album, but also making it the title track. The title track sampled the chorus and music of the song "Pastime Paradise" by Stevie Wonder, which was recorded nearly 20 years earlier on Stevie Wonder's album Songs in the Key of Life. The album Gangsta's Paradise was released in 1995 and was certified 2X Platinum by the RIAA. The album contained two other major hits in "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" and "Too Hot" with J.T. Taylor of Kool & the Gang doing the chorus. Despite no longer being an official member of the group, Coolio made an appearance on the second WC and the Maad Circle album Curb Servin', on the song "In a Twist". In 1996, Coolio had another top 40 hit with the song "It's All the Way Live (Now)" from the soundtrack to the movie Eddie. He was also featured on the song "Hit 'em High" from the soundtrack to the movie Space Jam with B-Real, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes.
Red Hot Organization and Tommy Boy Records dismissal
In 1996, Coolio appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD America is Dying Slowly, alongside Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan, and Fat Joe, among many other prominent hip hop artists. The CD, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African American men, was heralded as "a masterpiece" by The Source magazine. That same year, he recorded the theme song and appeared in the opening sequence of the Nickelodeon TV series Kenan & Kel which ran for four seasons.
After the success of Gangsta's Paradise, Coolio's next album was expected to be another hit. His third solo album titled My Soul, came out in 1997. Although it contained the major hit "C U When U Get There" and the album went platinum, it failed to reach the success of his previous two albums. Coolio was dropped from Tommy Boy Records and his albums since then, 2001's Coolio.com, 2003's El Cool Magnifico, 2006's The Return of the Gangsta, and 2008's Steal Hear, have not charted on any Billboard chart. He did have a minor hit in the UK in 2006 with "Gangsta Walk" (featuring Snoop Dogg), which peaked at #67 on the UK pop chart.
While touring with hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse, Coolio received a tattoo as a homage to the group's fanbase, reading "Jugalo Cool" [sic]. He stated that the misspelling was intentional. Coolio has performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos.
Coolio was featured on an international collaboration track called 'Fuck the DJ' by UK rapper Blacklisted MC also featuring Bizarre of D12, Adil Omar (from Pakistan) and Uzimon (from Bermuda) the song was premiered on music website Noisey from Vice in October 2014.
In 2009, Coolio appeared as a housemate on Celebrity Big Brother. He later went to appear on Ultimate Big Brother in 2010, where he decided it was best to leave the house after numerous confrontations with Nadia Almada and others in the house. In January 2012, he was one of eight celebrities participating in the Food Network reality series Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, where he represented the Music Saves Lives organization. He came in second place with a Zagat score of 23 out of 30, losing to Lou Diamond Phillips. As runnerup, he was awarded $10,000 for his charity.
Coolio was featured on the March 5, 2013, episode of the ABC reality program Wife Swap, and his girlfriend at the time left him after the program was taped. On June 30, 2013, he appeared alongside comedienne Jenny Eclair and Emmerdale actor Matthew Wolfenden on UK game show Tipping Point: Lucky Stars, where he came second. Also on June 30, Coolio voiced a wax figure of himself on Gravity Falls.
Coolio and jazz saxophonist Jarez were enlisted in July 2008 as spokespersons by the group Environmental Justice and Climate Change to educate students at historically black colleges and universities about global warming. Coolio is a spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He says that he and his children are asthma sufferers. As a child, he was taken to the hospital several times due to asthma complications.
In 1998, a court in Stuttgart sentenced Coolio to six months' probation and fined him $17,000 after convicting him of being an accessory to robbery and causing bodily injury.
Coolio appeared in the 2009 season of the British television show Celebrity Big Brother. He talked about his ten children from four different relationships.
Coolio also appeared in Celebrity Wife Swap which aired March 5th 2013.