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Gangsta 39;s Paradise

Gangsta's Paradise: The Story Behind Coolio's Iconic Song


If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you have heard of Gangsta's Paradise, the rap song by Coolio featuring L.V. that became a global hit and a cultural phenomenon. But do you know the story behind this song? How did it come to be? What does it mean? And how did it affect the music industry and society?

What is Gangsta's Paradise?

Gangsta's Paradise is a single by American rapper Coolio, released on August 1, 1995. It interpolates Stevie Wonder's song Pastime Paradise (1976), and features vocals from American singer L.V., who served as a co-composer and co-lyricist with Coolio and Doug Rasheed, with Wonder also being credited for the composition and lyrics. The song is about the harsh realities of living in the inner city, where violence, poverty, and despair are common. It also reflects on the spiritual consequences of this lifestyle, as the narrator questions his fate and seeks redemption.

gangsta 39;s paradise

Why is Gangsta's Paradise important?

Gangsta's Paradise is important because it was one of the most successful rap songs of all time, reaching number one in several countries and selling over five million copies worldwide. It also won several awards, including a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rap Video and Best Video from a Film, and a Billboard Music Award for the song/album. It was also featured in the soundtrack of the movie Dangerous Minds (1995), starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a teacher who tries to connect with her troubled students in an urban school. The song helped to popularize the movie and vice versa, creating a synergy that boosted both their profiles.

The Making of Gangsta's Paradise

The Inspiration: Pastime Paradise by Stevie Wonder

The main inspiration for Gangsta's Paradise was Pastime Paradise, a song by Stevie Wonder from his 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. Pastime Paradise is a social commentary on the state of the world, where people are obsessed with materialism, racism, violence, and ignorance, while neglecting their spiritual needs. It also features a chorus sung by a choir in Swahili, adding to the global perspective of the song. Coolio was a fan of Stevie Wonder and decided to sample his song for his own version.

The Collaboration: Coolio and L.V.

Coolio was not alone in creating Gangsta's Paradise. He collaborated with L.V., a singer who was also signed to Tommy Boy Records at the time. L.V. had previously worked with Coolio on his song Mama I'm in Love wit a Gangsta (1994), where he provided the hook. For Gangsta's Paradise, L.V. came up with the chorus "Been spending most our lives living in a gangsta's paradise", which he sang in multiple layers to create a choir-like effect. He also co-wrote some of the verses with Coolio, adding his own perspective as a former gang member who had seen his friends die or go The Production: Doug Rasheed and Stevie Wonder

The producer of Gangsta's Paradise was Doug Rasheed, a musician and songwriter who had worked with Coolio on his debut album It Takes a Thief (1994). Rasheed was the one who came up with the idea of sampling Pastime Paradise, after listening to Stevie Wonder's album Songs in the Key of Life. He made a beat with the sample and played it for Coolio and L.V., who liked it and started writing lyrics. Rasheed also added some keyboards, bass, drums, and strings to the track, giving it a cinematic and dramatic feel.

However, before the song could be released, they had to get permission from Stevie Wonder himself, who owned the rights to Pastime Paradise. According to Coolio, this was not an easy task, as Wonder was initially reluctant to let his song be used in a rap context. He said: "When Stevie heard it, he was like, 'No, no way. I'm not letting my song be used in some gangster song.' So that was a problem."

Fortunately, Coolio's wife at the time had a connection with Wonder's brother, and she managed to arrange a meeting between the two artists. Coolio explained to Wonder the meaning and message of his song, and how it was not glorifying violence, but rather exposing the harsh realities of life in the ghetto. He also agreed to change some of the profanity in the lyrics, as Wonder requested. Wonder eventually gave his blessing to the song, but on one condition: he wanted 95% of the publishing rights. Coolio said: "Had I known that, I'm not sure I would have went ahead with that but I don't know, maybe I would have."

The Impact of Gangsta's Paradise

The Success: Charts, Awards, and Sales

Gangsta's Paradise was a huge success, both commercially and critically. It was released as the lead single from Coolio's second album of the same name, as well as from the soundtrack of the movie Dangerous Minds (1995), starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a teacher who tries to connect with her troubled students in an urban school. The song helped to popularize the movie and vice versa, creating a synergy that boosted both their profiles.

The song reached number one on several charts around the world, including the US Billboard Hot 100 , where it stayed for three weeks. It also topped the charts in Australia , Canada , France , Germany , Ireland , Italy , New Zealand , Norway , Sweden , Switzerland , and the UK . It was certified platinum in several countries, and sold over five million copies worldwide.

The song also received several awards and nominations, including a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance , two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rap Video and Best Video from a Film , and a Billboard Music Award for Top Soundtrack Single of the Year . It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song , but lost to Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas .

The Controversy: Weird Al Yankovic and Tommy Boy Records

Gangsta's Paradise was not without controversy, however. One of the most famous incidents involved Weird Al Yankovic , a musical comedian known for his parodies of popular songs. In 1996, Yankovic released Amish Paradise , a spoof of Gangsta's Paradise that changed the lyrics to mock the lifestyle of the Amish people. The parody was accompanied by a video that mimicked Coolio's original video, with Yankovic sporting Coolio's trademark hairstyle.

Coolio was not amused by Yankovic's parody, and claimed that he did not give permission for it. He said: "They asked me if they could do it and I said no and they did it anyway." He also accused Yankovic of disrespecting him and his culture, saying: "I ain't with that shit... Ain't nothing cool about a white guy singing 'Gangsta's Paradise'." He even wrote some diss lyrics against Yankovic on his song Throwdown 2000 (1997), where he rapped: "Uppercuts and fight kicks with Weird Al Yankovic."

Yankovic claimed that he had received permission from Coolio's label, Tommy Boy Records , to do the parody, and that he was unaware of Coolio's objections until after the release. He said: "I had no beef with. Coolio. I thought he was cool with it. I was very surprised when I heard he was upset." He also apologized to Coolio and said that he meant no harm or disrespect. He said: "I'm very sorry that he's upset. I'm a big fan of his work and I really respect him as an artist."

The controversy was eventually resolved, as Coolio and Yankovic made peace with each other. In 2014, they met at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and hugged it out. Coolio said: "Everything's cool now. I mean, I can't be mad at him forever." He also admitted that he had overreacted and that he liked the parody. He said: "I think it's actually funny now. I mean, it was funny then, but I was too uptight to see it."

Another controversy involved Tommy Boy Records, the label that Coolio was signed to at the time. According to Coolio, the label did not pay him properly for the royalties of Gangsta's Paradise, and also interfered with his artistic vision. He said: "They didn't pay me what they were supposed to pay me. They didn't promote my album the way they were supposed to promote it. They tried to make me do songs that I didn't want to do." He also accused the label of being racist and exploiting black artists. He said: "They don't care about us. They just care about making money off us."

Coolio eventually left Tommy Boy Records in 1997, and signed with Warner Bros. Records. He said: "I had to get out of there. They were killing me." However, he also faced some difficulties with his new label, as his subsequent albums did not achieve the same level of success as Gangsta's Paradise.

The Legacy: Influence, Covers, and Parodies

Gangsta's Paradise has left a lasting legacy in the music industry and society. It is widely regarded as one of the best rap songs of all time, and one of the most influential songs of the 90s. It is also considered a classic example of conscious rap, a subgenre of rap that focuses on social issues and political commentary.

The song has been covered and sampled by many artists from different genres and backgrounds, such as James Morrison , In Fear and Faith , Postmodern Jukebox , Like a Storm , Falling in Reverse , and 2WEI . It has also been parodied by various comedians and shows, such as Weird Al Yankovic , The Simpsons , Family Guy , South Park , Key & Peele , and Saturday Night Live .

The song has also been used in various media and events, such as movies, TV shows, video games, commercials, sports, and politics. Some examples are: - The movie Pain & Gain (2013), starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson , used the song in its trailer and soundtrack. - The TV show Glee (2009-2015) featured a performance of the song by Kevin McHale and Amber Riley in its third season premi


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