b. Artis Ivey, 1964, Compton, Los Angeles, California, USA. Boasting of a long, though infrequently recorded, career in hip-hop, rapper Coolio appeared alongside other west coast luminaries such as Dr. Dre when he was still with the World Class Wreckin' Crew. He even signed to Ruthless Records for a brief, unproductive spell. His debut release was 'Whatcha Gonna Do', one of the very first Los Angeles rap records, followed by 'You're Gonna Miss Me'.

After attending rehabilitation classes in an attempt to kick his cocaine habit, Coolio started making music again, with WC and DJ Alladin as part of WC And The MADD Circle (one album for Profile Records ). He then joined the 40 Theivz, a hip hop community made up of producers, rappers and dancers. Along with a friend called Dobbs the Wino, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records who released the single 'County Line' about his experiences on welfare assistance. 'Fantastic Voyage', based on Lakeside 's similarly-titled 1980 release, also made waves when released as a single, and Coolio's profile was further enhanced by an autumn tour with R&B megastar R. Kelly. It Takes A Thief became a major seller, going platinum and establishing Coolio at the forefront of mid-90s hip-hop. 'Gangsta's Paradise' was a resigned lament performed with the gospel singer 'LV' and a full choir that sampled Stevie Wonder 's 'Pastime Paradise'.

The single, featured in the film Dangerous Minds, went to number 1 in the US and the UK. In the UK this was the first time anything approaching true 'street rap' had achieved such sales. As the music business magazine Music Week commented, 'in Britain for such a record to reach number one is quite sensational'. It subsequently won a Grammy in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance.