It’s Official: Fentanyl Killed Coolio (With a Little Help From its Friends)
By now you undoubtedly know that the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner has determined that rapper Coolio died from a lethal mix of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine. PCP was reportedly also found in his system.
The death, which occurred on September 28, 2022, has been ruled accidental.
Coolio, born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., had a long history of asthma. In fact, as a child he was taken to the hospital several times due to asthma complications. He was also suffering from cardiomyopathy, a disease that can make it harder for the heart to pump blood. And while both his physical ailments and the miscellaneous substances surely contributed to Coolio’s overdose, his death is quite likely due to fentanyl.
That would make Coolio just one more in the over hundred thousands of killings caused by the synthetic opioid. It would also make him just one more too many.
As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left.
You don’t even have to have even been alive in the ‘90s to know the opening words to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. You probably don’t need to be told they were inspired by The Bible’s Psalm 23 either. Because, as everyone from The New York Times to your next door neighbor will quickly point out, it’s “one of the most widely remembered verses in ’90s rap”.
That’s no surprise really. Especially considering the verse also belongs to one of the era’s most successful songs.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” was indeed a blockbuster. The Grammy Award-winning song spent three weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 and was later certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. New York Times reporters Eduardo Medina and McKenna Oxenden say the song “outshin[ed] the movie it was featured in” — the high school drama Dangerous Minds.
They might be on to something. While few folks still discuss the Simpson/Bruckheimer movie, despite it starring Michelle Pfeifer, “Gangsta’s Paradise” has reached that rare billion views on YouTube.
As you probably know, the song was based upon Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise.”
“Coolio told Rolling Stone that he had cleared the usage through a family connection,” offers the NY Times, “his wife knew one of Mr. Wonder’s brothers.” There was a stipulation though, An inarguable stipulation.
“The song couldn’t contain any profanity.”
Other Coolio Milestones
That wasn’t the only milestone in Coolio’s early pop cult crossover career, reminds the Times:
Another 1995 movie, the comedy “Clueless,” gave Coolio another crossover moment. His song “Rollin’ With My Homies” was on the soundtrack, and its hook, beloved by the character Tai — the desperate-to-be-hip new girl played by Brittany Murphy — is a running joke in the film.
Coolio had his TV moments too, including appearing as the nerdy “gift wrapper” in The Nanny and a Kwanzaa-bot in Futurama. (We’ll leave his later Reality TV run up to others.)
Crack & Christianity
Bookish and asthmatic, the Compton-raised Coolio apparently fell afoul of the ‘80s crack epidemic. And he didn’t get clean until he moved up to San Jose to live with his father and fight fires with the California Department of Forestry. “He became more spiritual there,” writes the Times, “and later credited Christianity for helping him overcome his addiction.”
Since then though, Coolio’s legal woes were few and far between. A guilty plea in an ‘09 drug case ended in rehab. And a 2016 felony firearms possession charge was worked off with community service. The charge arose after a gun was found in his carry-on bag at LAX. And while one of his entourage reportedly attempted to claim possession, Coolio stepped up and did the right thing.
His physical ailments however seemingly continued apace. In fact, that same year, Coolio suffered had an asthma attack at a performance in Brooklyn and was saved by a fan who had an inhaler.
Coolio’s breathing woes may have been why he became a spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Then again, he could’ve just been a good guy.
Wiki says “Coolio and jazz saxophonist Jarez were enlisted in July 2008 as spokespersons by the group Environmental Justice and Climate Change to educate students at historically black colleges and universities about global warming. Coolio also appeared with Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan and Fat Joe on the Red Hot Organization’s America is Dying Slowly. The cause? To increase inner city AIDS awareness.
Coolio Was Not Ready to Die
Coolio could not have been ready to die. Not even close. In fact, BuzzFeed News Reporter Stephanie K. Baer notes that he’d “appeared at Riot Fest in Chicago just over a week before his death.”
That means he was likely simply partying with friends. It’s something Coolio has probably done on thousands of occasions. So there’s really no reason for him to think this time would be any different. Unfortunately, this isn’t the ‘90s. Or even the Oughts. And nobody really knows just what’s mixed into the drugs we use.
That also leaves us with one alternative – don’t use drugs.
It’s easier said than done, of course. A person doesn’t simply snap their fingers and change their ways. Especially if that person has been living a certain way for decades.
Frankly, it really shouldn’t have to be. Coolio was certainly old enough to make his own decisions. And he most likely was flush enough to not have those decisions financially impact anyone other than himself. Sure there are other ways to impact people – after all, Coolio reportedly had 10 kids and five grandkids. But it could be argued that none of them would even be here if Coolio hadn’t been allowed to be Coolio.
Coolio Was Coolio: Nuff Said
If it was okay for Coolio to be Coolio then, well, why why wasn’t it okay for him to be Coolio now?
So, we won’t judge the man’s actions. We will however applaud the man’s life. And anyone who applauds the man’s life, shouldn’t criticize the way he chose to live it.
“Coolio presents himself as an entertainer,” said Spin, way back when “one who projects an unhinged personality while creating solidly commercial sounds.”
It worked for him. And it worked for the world.
In fact, Coolio told Rolling Stone that it was during a Europeans tour when he realized it worked beyond his wildest dreams.
“I was No. 1 all over the entire planet,” he said, “not just in the States. I was No. 1 everywhere that you can imagine.”
And while that success may have awed Coolio then, it didn’t take away from the way he saw the mark he made on the world.
“I’m sure after I’m long gone from this planet, and from this dimension,” he said, “people will come back and study my body of work.”
We’re kind of partial to the Rolling Stone oral history quote New York Times’ writer Julia Jacobs brought up in an ace assessment of “Gangsta’s Paradise”
“A lot of people say it saved them from whatever demons they were dealing with, that they listened to the song and it helped them carry on.”
Now that’s legacy!