Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist Coolio, known for hits such as “Gangsta’s Paradise”, died at the age of 59, his longtime manager Jarez Posey confirmed to The New York Times on Sept 28. The rapper, whose full name is Artis Leon Ivey Jr., died while visiting a friend in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Coolio’s manager, Jarez, told the publication that Coolio had excused himself to go to the bathroom and when he didn’t return, his friend went to investigate. Coolio’s friend opened up the door and found the rapper lying on the floor.
Paramedics were called, and while they tried reviving him, they pronounced Coolio dead at the scene around 5pm. An official cause of death has not been revealed, and an investigation into his death has begun. While no foul play is expected, the coroner will determine his official cause of death after an autopsy is done on his body, according to TMZ, who was first to report the news.
His label Casual issued a statement to HollywoodLife shortly after his death. “We are honored to be a part of Coolio’s musical family. Coolio is a legend who has inspired a generation of artists to unapologetically share their visions with the world,” said Jen Pearce at the label. “We are beyond grateful Coolio shared his talents with us, and at the same time, we are extremely saddened to be a bookend on his amazing musical journey,” she added.
Teddi Gold, an artist who worked recently with Coolio, also issued a statement to HollywoodLife. “I have an immense amount of gratitude and love for Coolio,” they said. “His musicianship, big heart, sense of humor, and loyalty to his friends and family were the light he shared with the world. As somebody whose music I grew up listening to, the opportunity Coolio gave me to record and perform with him was a life changing experience I will carry with me forever. I send every ounce of love I have to his family and friends at this time.
Coolio was born in Pennsylvania but eventually moved to Compton, Los Angeles and had a rocky childhood. He became involved with the gang Baby Crips, per All Music, and while he was never initiated, he reportedly created a troublesome persona for himself. He was jailed at the age of 17 for larceny, but turned his life around when he got out and studied at Compton Community College, where he started taking interest in rap. He found his stage name by luck in his early years of rapping when someone at a rap competition called him “Coolio Iglesias.”
Coolio’s career began to take off and he was even featured on KDAY Los Angeles, a rap-focused radio station. He released his first single, “Watcha Gonna Do”, during that time. Unfortunately, he fell into drug use and eventually went to rehab to get himself help. As he was recovering, he took up various jobs such as working security at Los Angeles International Airport.
Coolio made his way back into the music scene with his single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and although it didn’t do much, he began making connections in the rap world and signed with Tommy Boy. In 1994, Coolio released his debut album, It Takes a Thief, which included the single “Fantastic Voyage”. The song landed at the No. 3 spot on the pop charts and boosted his record sales.
His sophomore album, Gangsta’s Paradise, and the lead single of the same name cemented his space into rap stardom, with the latter becoming the most popular single of the year. It won a Grammy in 1996 for Best Solo Rap Performance and was nominated for Best Song of the Year. Furthermore, it was featured in the 1995 film Dangerous Minds starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Coolio has been producing hits ever since and has eight studio albums to his name.
More impressively, Coolio was a cooking fanatic and wrote the 2009 New York Times bestseller Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price. Coolio made it his brand to recreate old dishes in a cheaper and/or healthier way to show others they can be smart and swift in the kitchen regardless of where they come from. “People learn better when they’re entertained. Cooking isn’t just for the starched-stiff elite. Everyone should know how to cook something,” he said, per his website.
Coolio also had a successful acting run, appearing in shows such as Robbery Homicide Division, All That, and Malcolm & Eddie, and films such as Judgment Day, Leprechaun in the Hood, and Dracula 3000.
Coolio was not married at the time of his death, but he had two serious relationships during his life. The hip-hop star was married to to ex-wife Josefa Salinas between 1996 and 2000, and he welcomed four children with her. His three daughters, Artisha, Brandi, and Jackie, and son, Artis, starred with him in his 2008 reality show, Coolio’s Rules. Coolio has two other kids from other relationships, according to Page Six.
Coolio was also in a serious relationship with Mimi and they appeared on a 2013 episode of Celebrity Wife Swap. Although their situation appeared doomed, the pair defeated the odds and were together until at least Jan. 2022, when Coolio took to Instagram to call Mimi his “Wifey”.