The significance of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” may be lost on us now only because the song has been around for so long. Rap fans would be hard-pressed to say that it was, quality-wise, one of the best songs to emerge from that particular era of rap. The song has been frequently parodied, and its sound sits firmly encased in that of the ‘90s. In the year of its release, however, “Gangsta’s Paradise” was one of the most commercially successful rap singles of all-time, and the single was a turning point not only for Coolio but for rap as a genre. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the classic ‘90s track below.
Coolio will perform at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on March 10 along with Salt-N-Pepa, Mark McGrath and more as part of the I Love The 90’s tour. Check out ticket information here.
1. Coolio wrote the song’s verses in one sitting
According to a Rolling Stone interview, Coolio freestyled the famous first lines of the song, and the rest was history. About writing the song, Coolio said “You know, I like to believe that it was divine intervention. ‘Gangsta's Paradise’ wanted to be born; it wanted to come to life, and it chose me as the vessel.”
2. L.V., the singer featured on “Gangsta’s Paradise” wrote the rest of the song
L.V. laid down the chorus and all his vocals before Coolio became involved. L.V. also recorded the choir heard during the chorus.
3. Initially, Stevie Wonder did not approve the use of the sample
To use Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” sample, Wonder requested that Coolio take out all of the profanity in the song.
4. Likewise, Coolio did not like when “Weird Al” parodied the song
Though he has softened his stance on “Amish Paradise” in recent years, Coolio did not like “Weird Al’s” take on his biggest hit which also turned into one of “Weird Al’s” biggest hits. Yankovic’s album, Bad Hair Day, remains one of his best selling albums to date.
5. The song was originally shopped to appear in the film “Bad Boys”
Instead of paying the money for “Gangsta's Paradise," the “Bad Boys” producers went with Diana King’s “Shy Guy” as the film’s lead single for the soundtrack. It launched Diana King’s career, but the single was never on the same level as “Gangsta’s Paradise,” or “Shake Ya Tailfeather” for that matter.
6. “Dangerous Minds” the film was not doing well in test screenings before the song’s release
Despite negative test screenings, the film went on to be a box office success. Beyond “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the movie’s soundtrack was also a success, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and going three times platinum. Still, for all of that, “Dangerous Minds” still holds a 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Antoine Fuqua of “Training Day” fame directed the video
Fuqua made his name directing music videos before stepping into the director’s chair for films. He was a co-producer for “Dangerous Minds,” and producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave him free reign over the now-iconic video.
8. It was the first rap song to be a year-end chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100…
Given rap’s ubiquity today, that doesn’t seem like a huge feat, but consider a few things. The closest a rap record ever came to topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart before “Gangsta’s Paradise” was Sir-Mix-Alot in 1992 with “Baby Got Back,” which hit No. 2. Then, after 1995, a rap song didn’t hit No. 1 on the year-end chart until 2003 when 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” reigned. Also consider that Coolio beat out TLC at the height of their powers as “Waterfalls” and “Creep” came in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. “Gangsta’s Paradise” is forever.
9. The Recording Academy nominated the song for two Grammys
Coolio took home the award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1995, which seems like an upset looking back. “Gangsta's Paradise” was up against a gamut of certified ‘90s classics, including Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa,” 2Pac’s “Dear Mama,” Skee-Lo’s “I Wish,” and Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin’.” But when it came to the second nomination, the Grammys held firm to their long-running tradition of never letting a rap song win Record of the Year, and Coolio lost to “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal. A rap song still has yet to win Record of the Year at the Grammys.
10. There have been some interesting covers over the years
Besides “Amish Paradise,” the song has undergone some weird interpretations over the years. Postmodern Jukebox made the song a smoky speakeasy jazz number with an “Al Capone Style” cover (Gangsta...Al Capone was a gangster. You get it.) And screamo, post-hardcore band In Fear and Faith covered it. Listen at your peril.
Coolio will perform as part of the I Love The 90’s Tour, which stops at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on March 10. For tickets click here.