Artis Leon Ivey Jr. (born August 1, 1963), better known by the stage name Coolio, is an American musician, rapper, actor, and record producer. Coolio achieved mainstream success in the mid 1990's with his albums It Takes a Thief, Gangsta's Paradise, and My Soul. He is best known for his Grammy winning hit single "Gangsta's Paradise", as well as other singles "Fantastic Voyage", "C U When U Get There" and "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)".
He recorded two singles in 1987, titled "Watch Gonna Do" and "You're Gonna Miss Me". Coolio made connections in the Los Angeles rap scene, and in 1991, ended up joining the group WC and the Maad Circle, led by rapper WC. He had a few verses on the group's debut album Ain't a Damn Thang Changed, including on the single "Dress Code". The album was regionally successful. In 1994, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and released his debut solo album It Takes a Thief. The lead single "Fantastic Voyage" received heavy rotation on MTV, and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Fantastic Voyage" would become one of the biggest rap singles of the year, and the album contained a few other minor hits in "County Line" and "I Remember". It Takes a Thief peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200, becoming certified Platinum. The album received praise for bringing a humorous and lighthearted perspective to often violent and profane themes of typical gangsta rap.
In 1995, Coolio made a song for the movie Dangerous Minds, which was titled "Gangsta's Paradise". "Gangsta's Paradise", which featured R&B singer L.V., would become one of the most successful rap songs of all time, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. It was the #1 single of 1995 for all genres, and was a global hit, as it reached #1 in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. The song also created a controversy when Coolio claimed that parody artist "Weird Al" Yankovic had not asked for permission to make his parody of "Gangsta's Paradise", titled "Amish Paradise". At the 1996 Grammy Awards, the song won Coolio a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.