Coming from a broken home, Coolio fought poverty and drug addiction to become one of the most successful rappers of the 1990s.
His first two singles, ‘Watch Gonna Do’ and ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, did not evoke any enthusiasm from music lovers.
His role in band WC and the Maad Circle’s debut album was also limited. He decided to go solo and released the album, ‘It Takes a Thief’.
Its single ‘Fantastic Voyage’ gave him the much-needed breakthrough. The album was refreshing as it replaced dark and violent lyrics heard on typical rap tracks with a humorous and happy outlook.
He closely followed his debut album with the song ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ for the film, ‘Dangerous Minds’. It found unprecedented success and was an international hit.
He released an album of the same name which was certified double platinum, thanks to the two singles, ‘1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)’ and ‘Too Hot’. Although his third album, ‘My Soul’, did well, it could not replicate the success of his previous albums.
His subsequent albums were also poorly received. He has acted in films and television series, either playing himself or doing minor roles. He has appeared on numerous cookery shows and contests, and intends taking it up seriously.
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Born Artis Leon Ivey on August 1, 1963,, to Artis Leon Ivey Sr., a carpenter, and Jackie Slater, a factory worker, Coolio was prone to asthma attacks. Intelligent, studious and well-informed, he found life outside home difficult.
He joined the street gang, Baby Crips, and tried to create a wild and violent image of himself by carrying weapons to school. His studies suffered after being jailed for several months for larceny.
After high school, he attended Compton Community College and renewed his high school interest in rap and performed in contests where he was called ‘Coolio Iglesias.’, and on L.A’s rap radio station, KDAY.
To overcome his cocaine addiction, which disrupted his budding career as a rapper, he entered rehab. When he came out, he worked various odd jobs, but was determined to revive his rap career.
In 1994, his debut solo album, ‘It Takes a Thief’ boasted the hit single ‘Fantastic Voyage’ that reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and minor hits including ‘County Line’ and ‘I Remember’.
Cashing on the success of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, he released an album by the same name in 1995. This double platinum album had two hit singles ‘1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)’ and ‘Too Hot’.
Despite having officially left the band, WC and the Maad Circle, he contributed to their second album, ‘Curb Servin’,’ in 1995; he featured in the single, ‘In a Twist’.
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In 1996, he featured in the soundtrack of two movies singing, ‘It’s All the Way Live (Now)’, and ‘Hit ’em High’ (with four other rappers), for the movies, ‘Eddie’ and ‘Space Jam’, respectively.
For Red Hot Organization’s much acclaimed compilation CD, ‘America is Dying Slowly’, in 1996, he contributed the single, ‘I Breaks ‘Em Off’, and recorded the theme song for the TV series, Kenan & Kel.
His 1996 album,’ My Soul’, certified platinum, included the super hit single ‘C U When U Get There’, but performed below expectations, and Tommy Boy Records ended their contract with the singer.
Between 2001, and 2008, he released four albums, ‘Coolio.com’, ‘El Cool Magnifico’, ‘The Return of the Gangsta’, and ‘Steal Hear’, which failed to show up on the charts.
In 2002, he appeared on the television program, ‘Celebrity Fear Factor’, calling himself, “El Cool Magnifico”, (which became the name of his fourth studio album). That year, he won the ‘Celebrity Bootcamp’.