The music world is mourning the loss of Coolio, who has died at the age of 59.
Tributes to the rapper, producer and actor have been pouring in today from fellow musicians such as Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, as well as Hollywood icon Michelle Pfeiffer, who starred in Dangerous Minds, a film soundtracked by Coolio’s most enduring creation: Gangsta’s Paradise.
It was a song of superlatives: one of the most haunting opening lines in all of hip-hop, rapped over one of the genre’s most recognisable beats, leading up to one of the best known choruses of the Nineties.
Here, we revisit the 1995 song in some of its most startling numbers, from it’s record-breaking sales to its continued success in the modern streaming market, via award wins, reality show appearances and one famous parody.
YouTube views for the Gangsta’s Paradise video. The video, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, passed the 10-figure hurdle in July 2022, just shy of five years after it was uploaded.
Spotify streams. It’s not just on YouTube that Gangsta’s Paradise has surpassed one billion hits. Only 303 other songs (out of some 80 million on Spotify) have achieved the same feat on the streaming platform.
UK sales as of 2017. Gangsta’s Paradise was the first ever rap single to sell more than 1 million copies in the United Kingdom, and had added more than 500,000 extra copies to that figure as of 2017. This isn’t including streams, which are now combined with physical sales in the final count — expect the overall number to skyrocket in the wake of Coolio’s death.
Chart placement after re-entering the UK top 40 in 2009. Reality TV buffs will remember Coolio coming third in the sixth series of Celebrity Big Brother in 2009 — a performance that sparked a chart revival for Gangsta’s Paradise, peaking at number 31.
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Songs to have sampled or interpolated Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. While it’s the most famous one to have done so, Gangsta’s Paradise isn’t the only song to have borrowed from Wonder’s 1976 track. According to WhoSampled (an authority on these things), 25 artists have woven it into their own creations: musicians such as Erykah Badu, Three 6 Mafia, Mary J Blige and… UK pop group Blue, on their 2004 song Curtain Falls.
Countries in which it went to number on the charts. It wasn’t just the record-buying masses in the US and UK that fell in love with Gangsta’s Paradise, with the song topping the charts in a further 12 countries: Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.
Major American music awards won. Gangsta’s Paradise scooped Best Rap Solo Performance at the Grammys in 1996, and won twice at the MTV Video Music Awards in the same year, named Best Rap Video and Best Video from a Film. The year before, it was given the Billboard Music Award for Top Hot 100 Song.
Times parodied by Weird Al Yankovic. In 1996, Coolio joined the likes of Michael Jackson, Nirvana and Madonna in having his hit song reworked by Weird Al Yankovic. The parody, Amish Paradise, caused a bit of a scuffle between the two parties — Weird Al claimed Coolio’s record label had given permission, but Coolio was upset he wasn’t asked personally — although they eventually made their peace.