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But where did this song come from, and what happened to the artist, born Artis Leon Ivey Jr, better known as Coolio?
When anyone asked Wonder what string section he hired to play the part, Wonder would tell them it was the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing the part.
It was not the only thing Gangsta's Paradise borrowed from Wonder's Pastime Paradise — both share a chorus, with some minor but important lyrical adjustments by singer Larry Sanders, known by stage name L.
As is often the case in these kinds of stories, Coolio happened to be passing by and instantly recognised it as something special.
After freestyling the opening lines, he sat down and wrote all three verses in a single sitting, detailing a young man weighing up his gangster lifestyle and wondering if there is any way out of it.
As the song took shape, everyone involved in its creation thought it was a winner. Only problem was, no one had cleared the sample or the chorus interpolation with Stevie Wonder.
Someone got the track to Wonder, who was unhappy about his work being "used in some gangster song," as Coolio put it. But a meeting was arranged and Wonder eventually gave permission, so long as Coolio removed a couple of n-words and f-words from the original lyrics.
Coolio complied, making it one of the few "clean" tracks in his back catalogue. Wonder's approval, which apparently came with a sizeable share of any future profits, was timely.
Coolio's manager was already shopping the song to filmmakers in the hopes of landing a potentially lucrative soundtrack spot.
To complete the symbiosis, Pfeiffer agreed to star in the film clip with Coolio — an unheard-of collaboration at the time between white Hollywood and gangsta rap.
The film, despite getting mostly negative reviews, was a box office smash and the soundtrack flew off the shelves, driven by lead single Gangsta's Paradise and its Antoine Fuqua-directed film clip, which became an MTV staple.
Entertainment Weekly's David Browne wrote it "may be the bleakest tune ever to top the pop singles chart".
In Australia, national youth network triple j was one of the first radio stations to play it. Francis Leach, a triple j presenter at the time, recalled it being one of the few hip-hop songs on high rotation.
But Gangsta's Paradise cut through the noise of mostly white men playing guitars. The song landed at number 3 in triple j's Hottest of , setting a then-record as the highest-ranking hip-hop song in the countdown — a record that would not be surpassed until In fact, it would be the only hip-hop song to make the Hottest 's top 10 until Coolio never had another hit on the scale of Gangsta's Paradise, leaving many to pin him as a one-hit wonder, but the rapper had seven top hits in Australia.
He failed to trouble the charts after , but has kept releasing albums including last year's Nobody's Foolio, and built up a sideline in acting and as a celebrity chef, with a cookbook and short-lived web series called Cookin' with Coolio.
Twenty-five years on, the size of the venues has changed, but Coolio is still doing what he loves. An Aussie tour in saw him playing suburban pubs and according to his website he is hoping to hit the road again in COVID permitting , including a stopover in Australia.
Should the tour happen, you can bet the biggest singalong will be for Gangsta's Paradise. News Home. Key points: Released in , Coolio's hip hop track Gangsta's Paradise remains one of the top biggest-selling singles in the world The song spent 13 weeks at 1 in Australia, setting a long-standing record Sales were boosted by the track's appearance in the hit film Dangerous Minds It begins with a haunting string sample some listeners recognise from a vintage Stevie Wonder track, layered over simple hip-hop percussion and deep bass.
In , Stacker placed it at number 19 in their list of "Best 90s pop songs". The music video for the song was directed by Antoine Fuqua , and featured Michelle Pfeiffer reprising her earlier role in Dangerous Minds.
In Australia, the song stayed at No. In the United Kingdom, "Gangsta's Paradise" is the first rap single to sell over a million copies.
In the United States, the single spent twelve weeks in the top two of the Billboard Hot , of which three were spent at No.
The song was certified triple platinum by the RIAA on February 23, indicating 3 million copies sold. There are several parodies of the song, including " Amish Paradise " by "Weird Al" Yankovic , which was released the following year, reaching number 53 on the U.
Coolio claimed that he did not give permission for the parody, which led to disagreements between the two. Yankovic claimed that he had been told Coolio had given the go-ahead through his record label, and apologized.
Because of this incident, Yankovic now seeks approval for song parodies through the artists themselves, rather than communicating through intermediaries.
This version did not feature Coolio, and featured additional lyrics written by L. In , the song was covered by Battery for the electro-industrial various artists compilation Operation Beatbox and their album, Distance.
Austrian melodic death metal band Artas covered the song in on the album The Healing. In , post-hardcore band Falling in Reverse covered the song for the compilation album Punk Goes 90s Vol.
The video included an appearance by Coolio. In , Postmodern Jukebox produced a version in a s jazz style. That same year, New Zealand hard rock band Like a Storm covered the song on their second studio album, Awaken the Fire.
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