On this day, Aug. 1, Artis Leon Ivey Jr., better known as West Coast rapper Coolio, was born. Today, the rapper celebrates his birthday as he now turns 55 years of age.
Born in Compton, Calif., Coolio got his rapping start when he recorded his first single, "Whatcha Gonna Do" all the way back in 1987. Coming of age as a rapper at the peak of the G-Funk movement, the rapper made his LP debut when he, WC, Big Gee, Chilly Chill and Sir Jinx dropped off their Ain't a Damn Thang Changed album in 1991.
Coolio jumped head first into his solo career when he dropped off his solo LP, It Takes a Thief, in 1994. The album was powered by "Fantastic Voyage," an escapist breakout single that finds the rapper imagining a world without the dangers of the ghetto.
"Ain't no blooding, ain't no cripping/Ain't no punk ass niggas set trippin'/Everybody got a stack and it ain't no crack/And it really don't matter if you're white or black," he raps over a smooth G-Funk beat.
A solid success, It Takes a Thief peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Still, it was his next album—or, single—that would propel the blooming West Coast artist into the stratosphere.
In 1995, Coolio linked with R&B singer LV for "Gangsta's Paradise," a single that would ultimately come to define his rap career. Using a sample from Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life track, "Pastime Paradise," "Gangsta's Paradise" sees a fatalistic Coolio reflecting on the life of someone trapped in the hood.
"As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I take a look at my life and realize there's nothing left/‘Cause I've been blastin' and laughin' so long/That even my momma thinks that my mind is gone," he spits.
To say "Gangsta's Paradise," a song originally concocted for the Michelle Pfeiffer-starring film, Dangerous Minds, was a hit would be a massive understatement. After being released, the track spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and 12 weeks in the chart's top two.
Powered by the success of the single, Coolio decided to title his sophomore LP Gangsta's Paradise. Praised for its insightful lyrics, the 1995 project earned critical acclaim while also being certified twice platinum.
In subsequent years, Coolio would drop off projects like My Soul (1997), Coolio.com (2001), El Cool Magnifico (2002), The Return of the Gangsta (2006), Steal Hear (2008), From the Bottom 2 the Top (2009), Hotel C. (2015) and Long Live the Thief EP (2017), making him one of the more prolific artists on the West Coast.
Additionally, the newly minted 55-year-old has appeared in a ton of movies in films, including Batman & Robin, Charmed, Duckman, Black Jesus and more. 10 years ago, he became one of the first rappers to hop into the web series game when he launched his YouTube-based program, Cookin' with Coolio, a show that saw the rapper get his chef on. In 2017, Coolio announced plans to run for President of the United States.
With at least a couple of classic tracks, several dope projects and the willingness to spread his wings and fly into other genres of entertainment, Coolio is more than certified.
Happy Birthday, Coolio!