Coolio’s monumental mid-90’s hit ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ is this week’s ‘From The Vault’ pick.
Released exactly 20 years ago in 1995, ‘Paradise’ is one of modern music’s renowned efforts and undeniably rapper Coolio’s signature track
The song – which features singer L.V. – tells the tale of an African-American “gangster” and the reasons behind his deviant ways. With his choral background vocals and his infamous Bible-extracted opening line (“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”), it is heavily based on a sample from the mighty Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ from blueprint album ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’, reprising the melody of said track’s chorus to build its very own impressive one.
It served as the first single from Coolio’s sophomore effort, also titled ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ but most notably was included in the Michelle Pheiffer-led movie ‘Dangerous Minds.’ The song’s lyrical content fit perfectly with the film’s vision on African-American and Latinos youth in America.
A worldwide smash, ‘Paradise’ reached #1 in over 20 countries including the US, the UK, France and Australia. It is also the first ever rap single to sell over a million copies.
This song earned its banner act a Grammy Award as well as a Billboard Music Award.
Antoine Fuqua helmed the cut’s visual, which features Coolio in a dark room spitting his rhymes in front of an attentive Pheiffer (who reprised her ‘Dangerous Minds’ role). Footage from the movie is juxtaposed to great effect. Adding to the awards haul, the clip for ‘Paradise’ was rewarded with two MTV Video Music Awards.
Two decades on, ‘Paradise’ remains potent both musically and lyrically. And though Coolio has been absent from the charts this past decade, he will forever be a figure in Pop Culture thanks to this honest take on what it means to be young and discriminated-against in the 20th century.
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