Photo by Steve Arcila
John K and his "quaranteam"
Quarantine Diaries: John K Is Recording In The Home Studio & Playing With His Pit-Mix Rescue
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, pop newcomer John K shares his Quarantine Diary. Listen to his new single "6 Months" here.
When I signed to Epic Records, and even long before, I had an idea in my head of what it would be like to put the finishing touches on my debut album. It would be dope. I’d be in the top studios in L.A., recording on my dream microphone (probably a vintage 251 that’s older than I am), face-to-face with established writers and producers in the industry. I’d have in-person meetings with the label regularly. I’d be going on tour. I’d be having celebratory dinners at my favorite restaurants with my favorite people.
None of the above has been my experience... and I actually love it.
If I’m being honest, me and my team weren’t even in the headspace to finalize an album prior to COVID-19. We were in go mode. Create mode. Chase-The-Next-Single-mode. And the truth is, that mindset was on track to bury some really amazing songs we’d written in the last couple of years.
If you know me, you probably know that I keep my circle small. There are three guys who gave up everything in order to pursue this dream with me four years ago. That’s why it’s no surprise that Rob Zarrilli, Donte Blaise and Ian Gagnon didn’t hesitate for a second when I asked them to quarantine together and be productive during all this unknown.
Not sure if it was dumb luck or just sheer boredom, but we sat down one night with a bottle of Casamigos and listened through all the songs we’d written since signing to Epic. We quickly realized we had written a good amount of bad songs. But also realized that we had an entire album’s worth of material (and then some) that just needed the finishing touches.
So here we are, almost three months later, and this is my day-to-day:
Daily alarm at 6:30 a.m.
Spend some time with Lily K (if you don’t know her, she’s my pit-mix rescue).
Coffee, work out, breakfast.
Shift to studio time with the boys (a cramped, 10x10 space in my house) to work. We finish cutting vocals, send notes for mix and mastering, or virtually link up with writers in other cities to create new songs. (We unexpectedly added three tracks to the album that were written via Zoom during quarantine!)
Virtual Performances (via Insta, Skype, Facebook, Twitch... we have done a ton of these over the last 10 weeks! Shoutout to all the amazing hosts, radio stations, and various platforms that have gracefully put up with my awkwardness and my occasional foot-in-mouth syndrome)
Cook dinner, family time, bed.
I should preface this to say that I’m not normally a routine-based person by any means, but I’ve found that having structure every day has provided me with the clarity, balance and motivation I need.
So we’re locked in the house, what do we do. We book 5-6 Zoom sessions per week the entire month of April. We choose 16-20 songs that are album-worthy contenders to narrow down and finish by the end of May. We start a new YouTube series called "Rearranged" where we release a cover video every Wednesday. We’ve been busy.
Yesterday our air conditioner broke on the side of the house where the studio is—and we live in Orlando, Florida where it’s 90 degrees and humid, so there are currently bedsheets duct taped to the walls separating the functioning and non-functioning sides of the house so that we don’t melt.
We've binged some awesome shows—shoutout to "Schitts Creek," "Ozark," "Westworld" and "Dead To Me." And some weird ones—shoutout "Tiger King." We got bored and filmed a music video for my single "6 Months" on the roof, which has probably been my most memorable day so far because the neighbors started pulling out lawn chairs and watching us film during sunset.
But most times, I still don’t know what day it is.
What I do know is that the world needs music. I definitely do. And when it seemed like everything stopped around us, we actually decided to start.
Most importantly, I end each day with a thankful heart and pray for those who are really going through it right now. We’ll get through this together because we’re in it together. Sending much love your way.
xx John K
If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website.
GRAMMY Rewind: Rosalía Thanks Female Trailblazers Who Inspired Her As She Accepts A Latin GRAMMY For "Malamente" In 2018
As she stepped onstage to claim her Best Urban/Fusion Performance trophy at the 2018 Latin GRAMMYs, Rosalía thanked the women who came before her in the music industry — and proved that it pays off to go your own way.
2018 was a banner year for Rosalía at the Latin GRAMMY Awards: She brought home her first Latin GRAMMYs at the ceremony — both for "Malamente," the first single off of her second album, El Mal Querer.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, let's turn back the clock to that big night in November at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and revisit the moment when Rosalía's name was called as the winner of a Latin GRAMMY in the Best Urban/Fusion Performance category.
The visibly stunned singer gradually made her way to the stage amid audience applause, and when she arrived at the podium, she was quick to thank those who helped her shape her sound.
"This is incredible. It's like a dream," she told the crowd in Spanish. "Thank you for all the love. Thank you for all this recognition."
Of course, fans and family were foremost on the list of people that Rosalía mentioned in her acceptance speech. Still, she also made special mention of some musical acts who've come before her.
Specifically, she wanted to thank the female artists across all genres who have inspired her, over the course of her career, to make music on her own terms. "I take pride in always leading in my projects and making music that represents me — taking risks, and sharing it with the world, and being here," Rosalía reflected.
"I want to thank women like Lauryn Hill, WondaGurl, Björk, Kate Bush, Ali Tamposi, Ninja," she went on to list. "All the women in the industry who've taught me that it can be done, because I'm here because of them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. For real."
Press play above to watch Rosalía's full acceptance speech, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com every Friday for more episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Behind The Board: Alex Kline Traces Her Journey To Becoming An In-Demand Nashville Producer And Songwriter
The Nashville-based songwriter and producer explains why working on music behind the scenes with an artist is her "happy place," and discusses the song she produced that made history at country radio.
Songwriter and producer Alex Kline is one of the most in-demand collaborators in Nashville's country music industry today — but she says her career actually started when she fell in love with a Red Hot Chili Peppers hit.
"I picked up the guitar when I was 13 because I heard "Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and something about that guitar intro made me wanna learn how to play guitar," Kline explains in the newest interview of Behind the Board.
Those early interests ultimately led her to Nashville, where she began to work with country legends like Ronnie Dunn and Reba McEntire as well as the younger generation of country stars, such as Mitchell Tenpenny, Cassadee Pope and Meghan Patrick. Her work with Tenille Arts, on Arts' single "Somebody Like That," even led her to a historic No. 1 hit on the Mediabase Country Music charts.
"We actually made history as the first all-female team to have a No. 1," Kline continues. "I was the first solo female producer in country music to have a No. 1. Which is kinda crazy, that it took until 2021 to have a female do that."
Kline says she loves the collaborative work that goes into producing an artist's music. "That's really my happy place — developing with an artist and creating the sound, going from the ground all the way up," she explains, adding that she's even learned to embrace compromise over the course of her career.
"I'll usually have an idea of something, and I'll think that a certain song sounds perfect, and then the artist will say, 'Oh, I want...' something that's maybe 10 percent different than what I would hear. And I sometimes don't necessarily at first think that they're right, but then I always usually come around," Kline continues.
"I think it's just good to be open and flexible," she adds with a laugh, "and as a producer, remember that it's the artist's name on the project, and not my name in big letters with my picture on it. So they have to be in love with it."
Press play on the video above to learn more about Kline's journey towards being a Nashville songwriter and producer, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Behind the Board.
Photo: C Flanigan / Contributor
Everything We Know About Paramore’s New Album, 'This Is Why'
Five years after the release of their last studio album, Paramore will embark on an intimate North American tour before dropping their highly anticipated new album, 'This Is Why.' Here’s everything to know about the new album, out on Feb. 10, 2023.
Paramore fans are used to waiting a while between records, but the five-year break following After Laughter is the longest hiatus the band has taken since its inception.
Luckily, the wait for new music from their faves was coming to an end.
When the group’s website and social media profile photos were updated in early September, fans went hunting for clues about new music — and they weren’t disappointed. Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro had planted a few online Easter eggs to tease the release of "This Is Why" — the title track for their forthcoming album.
Then on Sept. 28, the group surprised fans by announcing the release date for their new album and dropping the single concurrently with a new music video. "It was the very last song we wrote for the album. To be honest, I was so tired of writing lyrics, but Taylor convinced Zac and I both that we should work on this last idea. What came out of it was the title track for the whole album," Williams said in a statement. "It summarizes the plethora of ridiculous emotions, the rollercoaster of being alive in 2022, having survived even just the last three or four years."
Ahead of their upcoming tour — which begins Oct. 2 in California and ends Nov. 19 in Mexico — here are four things to know about Paramore’s forthcoming album, This Is Why, out on Feb. 10, 2023.
The Band Has Been Teasing A Comeback For A While
In an interview with NME in May 2020, Williams hinted at the band’s next era. "We’ve thought about [the next Paramore album]," she said. "Taylor’s mentioned things like: ‘Oh, God – I miss guitars. We’ve found ourselves listening to a lot of older music that we grew up being inspired by. T and I liked stuff that was a bit more ratty sounding: The Rapture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. All three of us loved Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf."
In a July 2022 interview with Music Connection, GRAMMY-winning mixing engineer Manny Marroquin revealed that Paramore’s new album, also called P6 by fans, had been completed.The news spread through social media like wildfire.
Two months later, the group kicked off the promo cycle by posting a range of cryptic dates on their website, causing fans to channel their inner Sherlock to decipher the clues — 9.1 discord, 9.7 blank, 9.9 wr0ng, 9.12 LA, 9.16 - pre-save t.i.w., 9.19 - NY and 9.28. Each clue represented a mini-milestone for the band’s new era, including the launch of a new Discord, the wiping of their social media pages to signal a new era, fall concert dates, a preview of the new single, and updated profile pics on social media.
The Trio Will Return To Their Guitar-Driven Roots
This Is Why will be a return to Paramore's rock roots — but not the emo-pop-rock sound first heard on their 2005 debut, All We Know Is Falling. (On a recent episode of her new podcast "Everything Is Emo," Williams revealed that the indie rock band Bloc Party played an integral role in helping Paramore figure out the energy of their music.)
With Williams’ signature belt and a riffy, rocking chorus, "This Is Why" is a bit of a departure from the band’s synth-pop and new-wave-infused 2017 effort, After Laughter. The track bears a bit of a resemblance to some of the ‘80s pop heard on Williams’ solo album, Petals for Armor," leaving fans to speculate about whether or not the group will ever return to the rock sound that brought them initial success. However, Paramore has gone on record about their intentions to get back to guitar-driven music, so other songs on P6 may lean further into their rock roots than the title track.
But change can be good, and experimenting with new sounds can yield magic — as was the case with After Laughter, which itself was a sonic departure from their eclectic 2013 self-titled album. According to Williams, experimentation is essential because it keeps things fresh. The singer told Rolling Stone that the band was pleasantly surprised by the album’s production process and had no plans to make a carbon copy of their previous material.
"The music we were first excited by wasn’t exactly the kind of music we went on to make," Williams said. "Our output has always been all over the place, and with this project, it’s not that different. We’re still in the thick of it, but some things have remained consistent from the start. 1) More emphasis back on the guitar, and 2) Zac should go as Animal as he wants with drum takes."
The Group Collaborated With Their Longtime Producer And The Mixing Engineer Behind Rihanna’s "Work"
For P6, Paramore reunited with longtime collaborator Carlos De la Garza, who previously produced the band’s self-titled album, After Laughter, and Williams’ solo projects Petals for Armor and Flowers For Vases/descansos. (Fun fact: De la Garza is the father of two members of the LA-based punk band the Linda Lindas — guitarist Lucia and drummer Mila — who count Paramore among their music heroes.)
To ensure a cohesive sonic experience for This Is Why, the trio recruited 11-time GRAMMY-winning mixer Manny Marroquin, who has mixed tracks for Kanye West, Lizzo, Rihanna, Megan Thee Stallion, and Selena Gomez, among others.
The Group May Play New Music On Their Fall Concert Tour
In October, the trio is hitting the road for a limited fall tour through North America, and there’s a possibility that they’ll preview some new music for fans in attendance. This time around, the GRAMMY-winning rockers are skipping the arenas in favor of cozier venues to provide fans with a more intimate experience — and they’re taking a few up-and-coming bands along for the ride, including Young the Giant and Japanese Breakfast.
Photo: Edward Cooke
Craig David Is Still Born To Do It, 22 Years Later: "I Was Thrown Into This Magical World Of Pure Imagination"
GRAMMY-nominated U.K. garage and R&B superstar Craig David discusses his eighth studio album, '22,' his new book 'What's Your Vibe?,' and how both returned him to a child-like state of wonder.
At 19, Craig David went from a music obsessive just trying to pull some money together to buy more vinyl and gear, to a chart-topping global sensation with his GRAMMY-nominated debut single "Fill Me In." The success and fame continued with his massively successful first album, Born to Do It. A lot has happened since that 2000 album, and the British star feels blessed to still be doing what he loves.
In a deeply engaging and personal manner, David details his rapid rise, the challenges of fame, and learning to trust his intuition in his new book, What's Your Vibe?: Tuning into your best life, available in the U.K. Oct. 6. (Its U.S. release will be announced at a later date.)
On Sept. 30, he'll drop his eighth studio album, 22 — a celebration of the 22 years since Born to Do It, and a return to that more innocent creative space, when he was just a teenager writing songs while looking out his bedroom window in Southampton. David also finds deep connection to the meaning of 22 in numerology, which is known as the "master builder" number and is about turning dreams into reality that serve the greater good.
Across its 17 inviting tracks, 22 reflects what David loves and thrives at: singing beautifully about love and life, atop danceable garage rhythms and sexy R&B bops, and collaborating with singer/songwriters and producers. Opener "Teardrops" delivers that classic, smooth garage sound David brought to the world with his early singles, while "Who You Are" featuring 27-year-old U.K. singer/songwriter, producer and remixer MNEK is a perfect marriage of voices. There's also upbeat classic house on "My Heart's Been Waiting For You" with London producer Duvall (of trio Disciples), and anthemic EDM on "DNA" with Swedish DJ/production duo Galantis.
In a deep dive with GRAMMY.com, Craig David discusses his new album, book, and the journey to get here.
22 opens with your classic, smooth garage sound on "Teardrops." Was that an intentional choice, to set the tone for the album?
The whole album ended up coming about throughout lockdown. It kind of hit a certain point where we recognized that we have to surrender to this, it's happening. In that surrender, we had to look at different things that fill our soul with a little bit of joy. And for me, that was being in my studio at home.
And that felt very similar to when I made my first album, Born to Do It. I felt like all of my childhood and joy was made leading up to that [first] album and it was just life. It was going into the studio, it was seeing my friends. It was "I'm gonna write a chorus today and come back to it tomorrow and maybe write a verse."
Working on "Teardrops," gave me the feel of when I was making "Rewind" [in 1999] with the Artful Dodger, and I thought "What a nice way to open the whole thing." It's got the nostalgia of the ehhh, ehhh, yeahhh, and it's got this whole riff from "They Don't Know," the  Jon B. song, which has actually been my alarm clock for the last three or four years.
"Teardrops" wasn't that at first. We'd written it and I started singing it in the morning, over that riff of my alarm clock. I called up the producer Mike Brainchild, and sang him the melody over it. He was getting his hair cut and he told the guy, "It's cool, you don't have to do the fade all crazy. I'll come back." Literally that day, he took that guitar, flipped it on it, revocaled it, and there you have "Teardrops." It's one of my favorites on the album, to be honest. I always feel you got to start on the right foot.
What do you think was the magic sauce that put you back into your 19-year-old self?
The title of Born to Do It came from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, my all-time favorite movie. There's a part at the beginning where the kid runs into the candy shop and he says, "Candy Man, how did you do it?" And the Candy Man says, "Well my dear boy, do you ask a fish how it swims? Do you ask a bird how it flies?" The boy says, "No, sir." "You don't because they were born to do it." I feel it's an intrinsic feeling of almost getting out of the way of the thing that you know that you love and enjoy.
This period of time was reflective. It also made me recognize how grateful and how blessed I am to be in the position that I've been in for 22 years and be at the stage where I've been able to, I hope, bring lots of joy to many people through my music. I'm more conscious about everything I'm saying now, because I'm in a position where it has an effect.
We get some more garage on "Who You Are."What was it like working with MNEK and how did that track come together?
I mean, it was a long time waiting to actually have his vocals on one of my songs. We've had this beautiful kind of weaving as songwriters working together. MNEK was involved with my song called "Change My Love" [from 2016's Following My Intuition] and, more recently [in 2020], one with KSI called "Really Love."
When I'm working with someone, the conversation we have at the start sets the tone for what we're actually gonna sing and talk about. He was talking about just had a huge hit with Joel Corry, "Head & Heart." And he was saying, "You know what, I like my anonymity and a lot of people are pulling at me right now. For my mental health, I'm trying to find balance in all of that." I said to him, "I love how you're wearing your heart on your sleeve. Look how beautiful it is that you can just be you and not feel like you have to act in any way within society. I think we're in a really beautiful, liberating time."
"Who you are" and "wearing your heart on sleeve" became the topic to hopefully be the empowerment song for someone who wants to be able to express who they are. I felt like it really touched a lot of people's hearts. He was the perfect person [to sing it with me].
What was your intention going into working on your eighth studio album? Did that evolve as it started coming together?
I just wanted to have fun, like I did making my first music, not even necessarily the first album. Those [first] songs were me just enjoying being a child and going through being a teenager and looking out my window and aspiring to do this. It was this very magical, whimsical [space]. As an adult, it's important to still find that balance with the inner child that's inside of you, that's always crying out to just have some fun. It's like, "Wow, when did it all become so crazy serious around here?"
The beauty of being so free is that you have these very powerful moments that happen and it creates an album. I could have never told you that my first album was going to go on and sell 7 million copies and have No.1s around the world. I was just like, "I like this song. It feels good, it's giving me vibes. My friends are telling me it's good." I would have been happy with just that. And that was very similar with this [album], I had time to enjoy [it]. I hope it really brings joy to other people. I just want to be of service in that sense.
I love that you open the book checking in with the reader, asking how they're feeling. How do you stay present and grounded in your daily life, especially when things are moving really fast?
On one hand, there's the spiritual practices or rituals — if I start to feel a bit ungrounded or if there's a lot going on in my head, I'll step outside and get some fresh air. Or if there's nowhere to get fresh air, then I just take some deep breaths, and put my hand on my heart and it really does calm everything down. Talking about what we've experienced today, this has got me very much at the moment. The whole book is really "How do you feel?" Not how you're thinking.
We'd like life to be so very organized and in place, but it's messy. It's messy, but in a good way. It's the ice cream melting all over the cone and all over your hand and your nice new outfit. But we had fun, right? That's the premise of the whole thing: Let's get into our bodies, into how we're feeling, and then take it from there. It doesn't mean that life won't present things that can be a bit hard on us. But let's get back to the kid inside of us because that will always find a sweet spot somewhere.
I love that. When you were working on the book, what did it feel like looking back at your life, especially given the timing of being 22 years from Born to Do It?
Yeah, I feel like you can kind of see why things played out the way that they did when you have a little bit of hindsight. In the midst of something, you're trying to process and work out what's happening around you. When everything first blew up for me, it felt like zero to 100. One moment I'd been working at McDonalds, and selling double-glazed windows on the phone, cold-calling people. Ultimately, I was just wanting to put together some money so I could buy some more vinyl or that hi-fi equipment I wanted. I see now that all of those parts got me to this point in my life. That doesn't mean that I've actually now arrived somewhere, because my life is still continuing on.
I wanted to be able to write something that people could relate to… and hopefully find their own story within what I was saying. And maybe what I did to get through something or how I felt about something might be something someone else is experiencing and they can use some of those tools I used. Same for the album. If I can give you a little something with the book and if my music can lift you out of whatever's going on in your world for three and a half minutes of a song, then my work is done.
And the number 22, funnily enough, has a very deep symbolic, spiritual meaning. It's about recognizing that what you may have thought was the thing you were doing is actually setting you up for the real work. So the music thing was like, "We got to try and get the No. 1, we got to sell records." Now, it's about creating vibrational, energetic moments that connect me on stage when I sing and there's that euphoric moment and life is good.
I'm happy that I realized that this is actually what it is about. It's not about getting number ones or how Spotify plays you got today or how many interviews did you do today? I'd like to say, how many people did you actually connect with today when you did interviews?
What did that success of "Fill Me In" feel like to you at that time? I can't imagine being 19, putting out your first solo single and everyone is listening to it.
It really was euphoric. It's funny because yesterday I actually watched about seven of those [early music] videos, including "Fill Me In." That shot where it starts off in the barber's getting my hair done, it would have only been weeks before that I was at my barber's having those conversations, it was so real. It would then jump from zero to 100, from walking up the high street in Southampton where I grew up, to people running up and asking for my autograph.
It was the start of a new beginning and the end of sort of the innocence and the child phase for me. I had to process this fame and rise. And I'm seeing the whole world, traveling to countries and places I've never been before.
"Fill Me In" was released the same week as Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" in the U.K.— I had Destiny's Child posters on my wall. I got the call saying I was No. 1and I could not get my head around it. It wasn't so much the number, I was just like, "No way Destiny's Child can be No. 2." It felt so surreal. It's like Charlie getting the golden ticket and walking into the chocolate factory. That was pretty much the first few years, I was thrown into this magical world of pure imagination. At the same time, it was a lot of process.
Now I look back, as I talk about in the book, I had moments of imposter syndrome.I I started to feel the pull of I'm still a local guy in Southampton, but you're not, your album just sold 7 million copies and you're performing on "The Letterman Show." You're not that anymore, but you are. That was a strange moment.
How did your beginnings as a radio and club DJ, as well as making mixtapes in your bedroom, influence your sound and your approach to music?
I loved it. With the mixtapes, you had to have a very good read of who you were selling them to. The choice of songs was important, which goes back to album—that was setting me up to figure out where do the songs fit. When I was supposed to be college studying in the library, I was in there using the printer to make mixtape CDs covers. I had a little laminating machine, the whole thing.
All of those things set me up for more than 22 years where I can jump on and create covers and send them to the design team. And the mixtape period was a really good time. Those are the moments behind the scenes that set you up for when you are doing the thing.
If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self advice or guidance, what would you tell him?
Go out there, do exactly as you're about to do. Because every single thing you're going to do is going to land you in the places that you need to be.
And even though this might sound a little far-fetched for you right now — because you're only 19 and you're a little bit excited because you've just released your first album and it's all going beautifully — but there will be some moments that will be quite hard. Have the faith that there'll be light at the end of the tunnel. Do the right thing. Follow your intuition. That's what will get you through this whole thing. I'll see you when you're my age and you'll see what I mean.
What is your response to seeing artists like Beyoncé and Drake tap into house music and bring it into pop?
I'm all for people being creative and expressive, and showing whatever they're feeling at any point in time in their life. I can only see the positives in putting out music that you love. And if it shines light on a genre of music because of the position that you're in, the more the merrier. All I know is, "Break My Soul," sheeesh, that tune hit.
I have a song called "Heartline," and I do a version where I play that instrumental and then drop the acapella of "Break My Soul" over the top. Ohh, the vibe! "Heartline" is kind of an Afrobeat tune, the tempo sits so nicely — but what Beyoncé is saying! "New foundation, got that motivation, I'm on a new vibration." I'm all for it. Go out there and just do what you want to express, because that’s the inner child in you.
Photo: Rob Verhorst / Contributor
Remembering Coolio: 5 Standout Tracks From The Late Rapper’s Discography
With a career spanning three decades, Coolio will be remembered for his upbeat ‘90s jams, sense of humor, and lyricism. While the road to the top was rocky, and Coolio developed a unique sensibility and canon of hits.
GRAMMY-winning rapper Coolio passed away on Sept. 28, at the age of 59. The rapper is best known for his 1995 smash hit "Gangsta’s Paradise," which became the top-selling single of the year thanks to its melodic sample, energetic flow and catchy hook. He is survived by his six children.
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., Coolio spent his early years in Monessen, Pennsylvania before relocating with his family to Compton, California — the birthplace of West Coast rap. Coolio's parents introduced him to classic R&B hits from their youth, and those songs became inspiration for his future sound. "My mom and stepfather was listening to Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, the Dramatics, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield," Coolio told Rolling Stone in 1995. "Back in those days, people didn’t have big album collections, at least not in the ghetto, but we did."
Before making a full-time commitment to music, the "Fantastic Voyage" rapper worked a range of jobs, including airport security; he credited his work as a volunteer firefighter with helping him kick an addiction to crack cocaine. "I wasn’t looking for a career; I was looking for a way to clean up a way to escape the drug thing," he told the LA Times in 1994. "It was going to kill me and I knew I had to stop. In firefighting, training was [the] discipline I needed. We ran every day. I wasn’t drinking or smoking or doing the stuff I usually did."
With his life back on track, the rapper was free to focus on his music and never looked back. After the release of his debut album, It Takes A Thief, in 1994, Coolio enjoyed immense success on global music charts, and wins at the GRAMMYs, American Music Awards and MTV Music Awards before his career began to simmer down in the 2000s.
But Coolio did not stop. In 2008, he created a cooking reality show called "Cookin’ With Coolio" and became a spokesperson for Environmental Justice and Climate Change, helping to start a dialogue with students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) about global warming.
As news of his passing made the rounds on social media, fans and peers alike paid tribute to the late rapper, including fellow West Coast rap legend Ice Cube. "This is sad news," he tweeted. "I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace, @Coolio."
Dangerous Minds actor Michelle Pfeiffer took to Instagram to pay her respects. "I remember him being nothing but gracious. 30 years later I still get chills when I hear ["Gangsta’s Paradise"] Sending love and light to his family. Rest in Power, Artis Leon Ivey Jr. ❤️."
In celebration of his life and career, listen to and learn about five standout tracks from the late GRAMMY-winning rapper, who has become a part of pop culture history.
Coolio co-wrote this classic hip-hop track for the soundtrack of the 1995 high school drama, Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Featuring a Stevie Wonder sample ("Pastime Paradise") and a haunting yet catchy chorus sung to perfection by Larry "LV" Sanders, the cinematic theme song erupted on the charts, making Coolio a household name across the globe. (According to the New York Times, Wonder approved the use of the sample with a major stipulation: The song had to be profanity-free. This simple caveat may have inadvertently set the song up for more widespread success.)
"Gangsta's Paradise" set Coolio up for his first nomination at the 38th GRAMMY Awards. The track was only the second rap song to get nominated for Record Of The Year, and won Coolio his first golden gramophone. The rapper was nominated a total of six times.
Sanders played a pivotal role in the song’s success, according to Rolling Stones’ oral history of the classic track. The singer received the song before Coolio was involved and changed the name from "Pastime Paradise" to "Gangsta’s Paradise." Sanders recorded the singing portion of the track and chose to bring Coolio in to write and perform the rap verses. In March of 1996, Weird Al Yankovic released a parody of the song called "Amish Paradise," without Coolio’s permission (artist approval is not legally required for a parody song ). Coolio dissed Yankovic and spoke out against the song, though the pair eventually reconciled and Coolio admitted that his ego led to his outburst.
Yesterday, music writer Dan Ozzi posted an excerpt from an interview with the rapper, in which he addressed the beef and his growth since the incident. "Let me say this: I apologized to Weird Al a long time ago and I was wrong," Coolio said. "Y'all remember that, everybody out there who reads this s—. Real men and real people should be able to admit when they're wrong and I was wrong."
Released on his debut studio album, It Takes a Thief, the song features a pulsating beat and an ever-catchy chorus "Come along and ride on a fantastic voyage" pulled from the heavily sampled 1980 R&B-funk song of the same name by the group Lakeside.
The song was a hit and the album was well-received by hip-hop fans and a sign of good things to come for Coolio’s career.
"Ooh La La"
Like many ‘90s rappers, Coolio utilized samples from artists of the ‘70s and ‘80s but he infused these memorable sounds with his own flavor. "Ooh La La" — the second single from the rapper’s third album, 1997's My Soul — features a sample of "Pull Up to The Bumper" by Grace Jones. The result is a sonic delight designed for cruising or a throwback party jam.
While the single did not achieve the same success as his other smash hits, the lesser-known summertime bop holds its own and showcases the rapper's breezier side.
"Aw, Here It Goes"
In the ‘90s, at the height of his fame, Coolio brought his signature swagger and flow to the theme for "Kenan and Kel," a beloved Nickelodeon sitcom starring "SNL’s" Kenan Thompson and Good Burger’s Kel Mitchell. The duo paid tribute to the late rapper on their Instagram pages: Thompson offered his condolences with a few slides on his Instagram story, while Mitchell shared a heartfelt message and memory.
"Rest in Heaven @coolio ! We recently spoke a few months ago laughing and having such a good time. So many great memories with you, bro!," Mitchell wrote. "That time first meeting you on 'All That' cracking up in a Good Burger Sketch then you bringing me on stage after your performance to freestyle. Then later creating the legendary 'Kenan and Kel' theme song for @kenanthompson and I. You did an interview the day of filming the intro on Big Boys Neighborhood and all of Los Angeles was at Universal Studios city walk it was a party!!"
"1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)"
Coolio had major skills on the mic and beyond, but he also had a great ear for danceable tracks that could jumpstart any dancefloor. The upbeat 1996 single, "Sumpin’ New" featured three different samples — "Thighs High (Grip Your Hips and Move)" by jazz trumpeter Tom Browne; a vocal sample from "Wikka Wrap" by the Evasions, and its main riff comes from "Good Times" by Chic.