How Gangsta's Paradise changed the course of hip-hop

September 30, 2022 8:38 am

[Source: BBC]

When Coolio first heard the demo that became Gangsta’s Paradise, he had the same reaction as the rest of us.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I really like this song.'”

The Pennsylvania-born, Compton-raised rapper was at his manager’s house in 1995 to pick up a check, when he noticed producer Doug Rasheed messing around with the song in another room.

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“So I went to Doug said, ‘Yo! What’s this?'”

“He said, ‘It’s just a song we’re working on’,

“And immediately I said, ‘It’s mine’. Just like that.

“I freestyled the whole first line, then I sat down, I picked up a pen and I started to write.”

Released in August 1995, and boosted by a memorable video starring Michelle Pfeiffer, the song immediately ruled the airwaves.

Those lurching stings, the other-worldly choir, and that soaring hook, combined with Coolio’s distinctive, confessional storytelling, made it an instant classic.

It was the first “serious” rap song to top the UK and US charts, opening the door for acts like 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G, who, until that point, had been considered too abrasive for the mainstream.

And its appeal has never lessened. The biggest-selling single of 1995 in America, Gangsta’s Paradise has now been streamed more than one billion times on both Spotify and YouTube.

“I thought it was going to be a hood record,” he told The Voice in 2017. “I never thought it would crossover the way that it did – to all ages, races, genres, countries and generations.”

And yet… Gangsta’s Paradise faced several hurdles on its way to the top.