Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise is one of the most successful songs in Hip-hop. Released in August of 1995, the single shot up to the top of the charts and sent out a message worldwide to all lovers of Hip-hop. Not only did the song do well in mainstream music, but it spread to film as well, which jumpstarted new opportunities and introduced new audiences to something they’d never heard before.
Compton, California native, Coolio was a one of the many ‘underrated’ rappers of the 90s, but ironically had one of the most successful singles in Hip-hop of all time. Gangsta’s Paradise went 3X Platinum in the United States and quickly went number one in over 13 different countries. The song spent 12 weeks within the top two songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 and is on the list of Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All Time.
The single was only the second rap song to get nominated for the Recording Academy’s Record of the Year in 1996. Although Coolio did not win this award, he did win the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance (over Notorious B.I.G and Tupac!) that year and got to perform the hit at the awards show.
Gangsta’s Paradise features lyrics and audio samples from Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. In order to get Wonder’s approval to release the song, he had to write and perform it without profanity. Doug Rasheed produced the song and L.V. recorded the additional vocals. When Coolio re-presented the clean song to Wonder, he loved it.
The song was featured on the soundtrack and in the movie, Dangerous Minds, which sparked the song’s popularity rapidly. The controversial movie embodied the song and gave it that push it needed to go even further. Scenes from the movie were used to create the music video for Gangsta’s Paradise. The music video went on to win the MTV Video Award’s Best Rap Video award, and beat Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony’s Crossroads video (Coolio said that he thought that Crossroads should have won) and Best Video from a film.
Not only was Gangsta’s Paradise one of the greatest selling singles of all time, but it really helped to change the perspective of 90s Hip-hop culture. The song was a reflection of the life of a gangster and he realizing that if he continued to go down this path, he may not get a second chance at life. The song combined rap with scripture and inspirational lyrics to open the eyes of the people around him.
Gangsta’s Paradise opened doors to new opportunities for both Coolio and Hip-hop in general. This record set the bar real high for the genre. It paved the way for Hip-hop’s film and television placement and proved that Hip-hop could crossover into mainstream entertainment. Still featured on many notable lists of the greatest songs ever, Gangsta’s Paradise gave way to a new era of music in the 90s and made its mark in Hip-hop forever.