US rapper Coolio (real name Artis Leon Ivey Jr), known for the iconic hit Gangsta’s Paradise, has died at the age of 59.
According to his longtime manager Jarez Posey the artist was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor of a friend’s house in Los Angeles.
Coolio is best known for his 1995 single Gangsta’s Paradise, for which he won a Grammy for best solo rap performance. The runaway hit came from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds and sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song Pastime Paradise.
He was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late 1980s.
His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album, It Takes a Thief, on Tommy Boy Records. Its opening track, Fantastic Voyage, would reach No 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A year later, Gangsta’s Paradise would become a No 1 single, with its haunting opening lyrics.
Earlier this year, the song hit one billion views on YouTube. “I want to thank everybody for all the years of love and being there for me,” Coolio said in a video marking the milestone, Billboard reported. “I hope I got you through some good times and got you through some bad times.”
Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, California, where he went to community college. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to hip-hop.
His early work for firefighting crews in the San Jose area was “a way to clean up”, he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “In firefighting training was discipline I needed. We ran every day. I wasn’t drinking or smoking or doing the stuff I usually did.”
In recent years, Coolio had appeared on the reality show Big Brother and developed a cooking series which grew an online following. He made headlines in 2013 for a planned auction of his music rights, including to Gangsta’s Paradise, in order to fund his career as a chef. He also wrote a cookbook and appeared on celebrity cooking shows.