Tragic Details About Coolio

The devastating death of Coolio in 2022 marked the passing away of a noted gangsta rapper and highly successful 1990s solo artist, whose hits were nigh-inescapable during his heyday. Coolio, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., was just 59 years old when he died.

Coolio's career spanned many decades, and if a person is only familiar with his absolute biggest hits, they might toil under the impression that the artist's life was the epitome of easy success: Get in the music game, score a handful of lucrative hits, and live happily ever after with the massive profits of your 15 minutes of fame. 

Of course, no one's life can be condensed to its brightest moments of glory alone. Coolio's 59 years on this Earth involved plenty of wins and losses, and while his hits are what the majority of people remember, it's well worth noting that he went through considerable troubles, as well. Here's a look at some of the more tragic moments in the artist's life.

He had a very difficult childhood

Coolio's personal tragedies started at a very young age, as he came from a fractured home. According to Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith and Anthony J. Fonseca's "Hip Hop around the World: An Encyclopaedia," his parents divorced when he was young. In an interview with Hot Press, Coolio himself shed some light on his early days, noting that his actual father was, in fact, in prison even before the divorce came. "I come from very humble beginnings," the rapper said. "My mother was a factory worker, my stepfather was a postal worker, and my real father was a convict. And when I was 11, my stepfather and mother divorced, and believe me, it got pretty rough around that time."

Per Steve Huey of Allmusic, Coolio's status as a divorce kid was just part of his troubles. He couldn't quite fit in with his peers because of his small stature, asthma, and studious nature. Even his attempts to join the Crips gang didn't really work out, as he remained a peripheral figure. Coolio still ended up in trouble with the law, mind you. When he was 17, he even spent some time in jail, reportedly on account of trying to cash in a stolen check.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Coolio was addicted to drugs

Coolio's music might be on the poppier end of the hip-hop genre, but as The Guardian notes, this stylistic choice belied the fact that his background gave him more than enough street credibility.  Young Artis Ivey Jr. was 11 when he moved to Compton — the troubled L.A. County city that became synonymous with gangsta rap in the late 1980s with N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton," per CBC. This is where he got his start as a rapper — but only after his life almost took a far worse path, because, for a time, young Coolio was using crack.

There's no telling where Coolio would have ended up, had he not been able to get clean. Fortunately, he managed to get off the drugs, and focused on volunteer firefighting for a while to get back on track. However, it seems to have been a pretty close call. In an interview with Radar Online, Coolio recounted that his drug abuse got so bad that his brother, Spoon, actually had to threaten him with a firearm. "I was down to 100 lbs.," Coolio said. "I was a skeleton and Spoon pointed a .38 caliber at my head and told me if I didn't promise to clean up, he would kill me."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He was convicted for theft in Germany

Coolio famously strayed from the straight and narrow path in his youth (via The Guardian), but he wasn't entirely incident-proof during his adult years, either. According to Associated Press, in 1997, the rapper was touring Germany when he entered a Stuttgart clothing store with a six-strong entourage, and attempted to walk away with $940 worth of clothes. Allegedly, he also punched the owner while attempting to leave (via Chicago Tribune). The group was eventually arrested in another city.

When the court date came in 1998, Coolio's defense argued that the artist was operating under the assumption that his entourage would receive free clothes after an autograph signing session, and also that the store was cash-only and declined his credit card. 

Coolio was found guilty, but he avoided the four-year prison sentence he could have potentially received. Instead, the theft incident earned him a $30,000 fine and six-months probation. 

He faced drug charges in 2009

As The Guardian notes, Coolio was addicted to crack cocaine in his youth, and getting off the drug was instrumental to his development as an artist. However, relapse is often part of recovery, and the rapper struggled with this, as well — as evidenced by his 2009 arrest for possession of crack cocaine (via The Guardian). 

During a search of Coolio's luggage at the Los Angeles International Airport, the authorities discovered a drug pipe. According to The New York Times, the rapper faced charges for possession of the drug and the pipe, as well as battery charges due to grabbing an official during the incident. In June 2009, however, he pleaded guilty to the drug possession charge, which allowed him to avoid the others. In the end, he was sentenced to 18 months in a rehab program, instead of the three years in prison he might have received. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He had a one-sided feud with Weird Al Yankovic

It can be hard to be a celebrity and avoid attracting the ire of another famous person. There are tons of celebrity feuds that got out of hand, but few musician feuds out there are stranger than the one Coolio is known for. Instead of partaking in a feud against a fellow rapper, Coolio took issue with comedy musician "Weird Al" Yankovic (via Newsweek). Yankovic made a parody version of Coolio's hit "Gangsta's Paradise," called "Amish Paradise." The rapper felt Yankovic didn't have permission to cover the song (via Variety) and made his feelings publicly known.

Eventually, Coolio came to realize that he was in the wrong. In a 2014 interview with Vice, the rapper revealed that he deeply regretted his animosity toward "Weird Al," and considered the feud one of the lower and more humiliating points of his public career. "It's one of those things where I made a wrong call and nobody stopped me," he said about lashing out against Yankovic. "That's one thing I'm still upset about — my management at the time. Somebody should've stopped me from making that statement because it was dumb. And I think it hurt me a little bit. It made me seem stupid."

Fortunately, at the time of Coolio's death, the feud was already a thing of the past. In fact, Yankovic paid tribute to the rapper with a Twitter post that featured a picture of the two hugging it out.

His only marriage ended in a divorce

Divorce is one of the more tragic things that can happen to a family, and like so many other celebrities, Coolio had to go through it. According to Heavy, the rapper married his wife, Josefa Salinas, in 1996. Unfortunately, their marriage wasn't meant to last, and they ended up getting a divorce in 2000. 

The reason behind Coolio and Salinas' decision hasn't been made public. Still, while divorces can be pretty stressful (via Psychology Today), at least Coolio and Salinas seem to have managed to stay on decent terms after they went their separate ways, which is probably just as well, considering that they have four children together. In July 2022, Salinas even wholeheartedly congratulated her ex-husband for the music video of "Gangsta's Paradise" reaching a huge billion-view benchmark on YouTube

"Its OFFICIAL !!!!!" she wrote on Instagram. "Congratulations to @coolio ! Gangsta Paradise hit ONE BILLION views!!!! Only 200 songs out of 80 million on @youtube are in this club! Welcome home where you belong @coolio Well deserved!"

Singapore didn't appreciate Coolio

It's one thing to play a concert to an audience that doesn't appreciate your art. However, it takes things to a whole other level when you don't even get the chance to play said gig ... because the country the concert is supposed to take place in refuses to let you in. This exact strange thing happened to Coolio in 2017, per the Straits Times

In September 2017, Coolio was supposed to play a gig at a Formula One afterparty in Singapore. The trip had already been somewhat inconvenient, as the rapper's entourage had missed a connecting flight, and arrived late. However, when Coolio and his gang finally landed in Singapore, the authorities promptly prevented him from entering the country. 

As TNP noted at the time, Coolio was a convicted felon with a history of troubles with the law, which may or may not have contributed to the decision to keep Singapore's doors shut to the artist. For their part, the country's authorities declined to comment on the subject. 

Coolio was arrested for an illegal firearm

Per The New York Times, Coolio pleaded guilty to drug possession in 2009 after officials found illegal materials in his luggage at the Los Angeles International Airport. In 2016, the officials at LAX once again made an interesting discovery, when a backpack that belonged to Coolio was found to contain a loaded firearm ... that was stolen, no less (via ABC 7). The rapper and another man were arrested for the incident, which Coolio later downplayed after posting the $37,308 bail. 

"Just wanted to say something about the little misunderstanding at the airport today," he said in a YouTube message to his fans, and confirmed that he was quite all right, at least for the time being. "I appreciate everybody's concerns and all your posts and everything," he said. "Everybody saying positive things. For those that are not, hey, much love to you, too."

Per Reuters, Coolio ended up pleading guilty to the incident, though, as with his earlier LAX troubles, he avoided the jail time he could potentially have received. Instead, he was sentenced to three years on probation. 

He was fired by his record label

Fame is a fickle mistress, and while Coolio retained name recognition until the very end, there's little denying that the highest peak of his fame came with 1995's "Gangsta's Paradise" (via Slate). The success didn't come long after the rapper had left gangsta rap group WC and the MAAD Circle and embarked on a solo career. In 1994, he signed a solo deal with Tommy Boy Records, which served as his label throughout his mid-1990s heyday.  

Coolio himself felt that "Gangsta's Paradise" loomed far too large over the rest of his career, per The New York Times. This certainly seems to have been the case when it came to his relationship with his label. When Coolio's 1997 album "My Soul" couldn't hold a torch to the success of the "Gangsta's Paradise" album, Tommy Boy Records ended up dropping the artist. This marked the end of Coolio's days as a commercial powerhouse. 

In 2009, Coolio insinuated that his later days with Tommy Boy Records involved much executive meddling and pressure to change his image (per Digital Spy).

A reality show cost him a relationship

In 2013, Coolio was dating a woman called Mimi Ivey (via Yahoo). The pair took part in the ABC reality show "Celebrity Wife Swap," which is exactly what it says on the tin. Unfortunately, the show ended up having disastrous effects on the couple's relationship.

Coolio and Mimi switched partners with musician Mark McGrath and his wife Carin, who turned out to be ... less than impressed with the swap. As Mrs. McGrath took over Mimi's household tasks, she soon found out that Mimi was handling virtually every single thing in the house, while Coolio did very little. Meanwhile, at the McGrath household, Mimi discovered that the Sugar Ray vocalist took a very positive and hands-on approach to family life, and realized the chore imbalance in her own relationship. Disillusioned with the amount of work and household duties Coolio had piled on her, Mimi ended up breaking up with the rapper shortly after their appearance on the show. "Our relationship sucks. It really does," she told Coolio.

Coolio later contested the events of the episode, claiming that "Celebrity Wife Swap" deliberately presented him in an awful light, and even stating that he and Mimi never dated in the first place. "Listen. It was all set up," the rapper said (via Daily Record). "I'm nothing like that. I'm not even with Mimi. I never was. She's a friend of mine. They tried to make me look bad. I don't want to do that stuff again."

Coolio died too young

Whenever someone dies at just 59 years old, it qualifies as a tragic event. Coolio's death on September 28, 2022, certainly fits the bill (via Variety). The artist died at a friend's house in Los Angeles, CA, per TMZ. The paramedics were called in, but Coolio was ultimately pronounced dead on the scene. Per Coolio's manager Jarez Posey, the cause of death was a heart attack (via NBC News).

"We are saddened by the loss of our dear friend and client, Coolio, who passed away Wednesday afternoon," the rapper's talent manager Sheila Finegan stated. "He touched the world with the gift of his talent and will be missed profoundly. Please have Coolio's loved ones in your thoughts and prayers." 

Per the BBC, Coolio was far from a retired superstar, and was, in fact, touring with Young MC and Vanilla Ice at the time of his death. He was also far from forgotten. Though his highest-charting hits came in the 1990s, his influence was evident in the way numerous peers and famous acquaintances were quick to pay tribute to the fallen star after the news of his passing came public. 

He was a highly controversial Celebrity Big Brother contestant

In 2009, Coolio took part in Channel 4's UK reality show "Celebrity Big Brother," along with a number of other famous contestants, according to the BBC. It ... did not go well. Communications regulator Ofcom received no less than 527 complaints about the rapper's interactions with others. Many had found Coolio's remarks and overall behavior threatening and even sexist, and while Ofcom didn't find anything wrong with Coolio's actions within the program's context, outlets like the Mirror pointed out that Coolio received ample viewer criticism for his boastful behavior, unsavory language — including outright slurs and comments on abuse, per the Daily Star and the Mirror. There were allegations of sexual harassment from fellow contestant Mutya Buena, and another contestant, Lucy Pinder, noted that Coolio's comments and behavior were highly concerning.

While John McDonnell of The Guardian praised Coolio as an outrageous, yet highly entertaining reality show star, Channel 4 itself allegedly failed to air some of the rapper's worst scenes ... and Coolio was eventually removed from a 2010 follow-up program, after things escalated with yet another contestant (via The Sun).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).