Saturday, September 9, 1995

Coolio's “Gangsta’s Paradise” hit #1

Gangsta’s Paradise

Coolio with L.V.

Writer(s): Artis Ivey Jr. (Coolio), Larry Sanders (LV), Doug Rasheed, Stevie Wonder (see lyrics here)


Released: August 8, 1995


First Charted: August 19, 1995


Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 21 RR, 2 RB, 12 UK, 5 CN, 113 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 1.79 UK, 6.39 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 240.75 video, 595.65 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

The original intent for the music on the Dangerous Minds soundtrack was alternative music. However, the movie’s story line was about Michelle Pfeiffer as an ex-marine who becomes a teacher at a high school in the ghetto so Kathy Nelson, who supervised soundtrack music for producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, suggested a more urban approach. She liked the sound of rapper Coolio’s voice on the song “Fantastic Voyage” and brought him in to see footage of the movie. He was sold on the movie’s positive message about school. BR

Coolio, who grew up in Compton, had experienced drugs, gangs, and jail and crafted “Gangsta’s Paradise” about the consequences of such a lifestyle and why he got out. He crafted a “more compassionate and more realistic” CR version of Compton than rap group NWA, one that “was agreeable rather than abrasive.” CR The song grew out of an unexpected moment. Coolio was picking up a package at a studio and heard singer Larry Sanders (known as L.V. for Large Variety) crafting a song out of Stevie Wonder’s “Pasttime Paradise.” Coolio was a big Stevie Wonder fan, but had not heard the album cut from 1976’s Songs in the Key of Life. Coolio started writing on the spot and finished the song three hours later. BR

Wonder originally rejected it, but approved it after Coolio took out a few vulgarities. Nelson was excited by the end result. She said, “It didn’t fit any of the trends happening in hip-hop or rap music at the time. And it was very different for Coolio. With ‘Fantastic Voyage’ everyone was expecting a fun party record from him. Instead they got this gothic, dramatic, much slower-paced song” BR which captured the “despair and abandonment felt by the kids at the school” SF featured in the film. Disney executive Joe Roth was sold on the song as well, even deciding to center the movie’s promotional campaign around the song and a video of Coolio and Pfeiffer which featured clips from the movie. BR

The song hit #1 in Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. WK It was the first rap single to sell more than a million copies in the UK and its 13-week stay atop the Australian charts made it the biggest #1 there until Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” broke the record 22 years later. SF While it only spent 3 weeks at #1 in the U.S.A., it spent another 9 weeks at #2, making it Billboard’s biggest song of 1995.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Coolio
  • BR Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 840.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 167.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 10/31/2019; updated 4/4/2021.

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