Gangsta's Paradise

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"Gangsta's Paradise"
Gangsta's paradise.jpg
Single by Coolio featuring L.V.
from the album Gangsta's Paradise, I Am L.V. and Dangerous Minds soundtrack
Released August 8, 1995
Format CD single, cassette, 12" single
Recorded 1994-1995
Genre Horrorcore, gangsta rap, hip hop soul
Length 4:00
Label Tommy Boy
Producer(s) Doug Rasheed
Coolio singles chronology
"Mama I'm in Love wit a Gangsta"
"Gangsta's Paradise"
"Too Hot"
"Mama I'm in Love wit a Gangsta"
"Gangsta's Paradise"
"Too Hot"
Audio sample
Coolio feat. L.V – "Gangsta's Paradise"

"Gangsta's Paradise" is a song by American rapper Coolio, featuring singer L.V. The song was released on Coolio's album of the same name, as well as the soundtrack for the 1995 film Dangerous Minds. It samples the chorus and instrumentation of Stevie Wonder's 1976 song "Pastime Paradise[1]".

The song was listed at number 85 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of All-Time[2] and number one biggest selling single of 1995 on U.S. Billboard.[3] In 2008, it was ranked number 38 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.[4] Coolio was awarded a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, two MTV Video Music Award's for Best Rap Video and for Best Video from a Film and a Billboard Music Award for the song/album. The song was voted as the best single of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.

The song has sold over 5 million copies in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany alone,[5][6][7] and at least 5.7 million worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. Coolio has performed this song live at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards with L.V. and Wonder, at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards with L.V., and also with Dutch singer Trijntje Oosterhuis.

Background and writing[edit]

The artists co-wrote the song with its producer Doug Rasheed, with Stevie Wonder receiving writing credits for the sampling of his song "Pastime Paradise" from his album Songs in the Key of Life.

The Stevie Wonder sample is the reason why this is one of few Coolio tracks without profanity, as Wonder would not allow it. Coolio said, "I had a few vulgarities...and he wasn't with that. So I changed it. Once he heard it, he thought it was incredible."[8]

The song begins with a line from Psalm 23:4: "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death", but then diverges with: "I take a look at my life and realize there's nothin' left." Adding to some of the religious overtones are choral vocals in the background.[9]


Coolio begins by reflecting on his life in a Biblical fashion: that his partaking in hoodlum activities has drained him of hope, and his damaged relationship with his mother. However, the narrative turns at this point with Coolio threatening rival gangs with certain death in the event that they take verbal liberties or transgress into his territory. He subsequently educates the listener on the history behind his current position in society; explaining the way in which his upbringing has entrapped him by creating his lust for power, money and murder. However it is at this point that he acknowledges the uncertainty of his survival on the street. Coolio therefore begins to lament the cyclical nature of the violence in which he partakes, as well as elucidating the collective chaos created by individual greed, selfishness and a lack of education or role models. He ends his personal journey on a hopeless admission: that his situation and surroundings will never improve.

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song was directed by Antoine Fuqua, and featured Michelle Pfeiffer reprising her earlier role in Dangerous Minds.[10]

When Coolio won the Best Rap Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996, he said in a press conference that Bone Thugs-n-Harmony deserved the award for "Tha Crossroads".

Chart performance[edit]

The single reached number one in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand, making it Coolio's most successful single. In Australia, the song stayed at No. 1 for 14 weeks, a record that would be broken 22 years later by Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You".[11] Following Coolio's appearance on Celebrity Big Brother 6, it re-entered the UK singles chart peaking at No. 31. In the United Kingdom, "Gangsta's Paradise" is the first rap single to sell over a million copies.

In the United States, the single spent twelve weeks in the top two of the Billboard Hot 100, of which three were spent at No. 1 and nine at No. 2, putting "Gangsta's Paradise" in joint fourth place for the most weeks spent at No. 2 by a single in the chart's history. The song was certified triple platinum by the RIAA on February 23, 1996 indicating 3 million copies sold.[12] It has sold a further 1.8 million downloads in the US in the digital era as of September 2017.[13]

Parodies and covers[edit]

There are several parodies of the song, including "Amish Paradise" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, which was released the following year, reaching number 53 on the U.S. chart. Coolio claimed that he did not give permission for the parody, which led to disagreements between the two. Yankovic claimed that he had been told Coolio had given the go-ahead through his record label, and apologized. Because of this incident, Yankovic now seeks approval for song parodies through receiving permission from the artists themselves, rather than communicating through intermediaries. Photos from the XM Satellite Radio booth at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show suggest Yankovic and Coolio may have made amends.[14][unreliable source] Coolio himself said in a 2011 interview that he had since "apologized to him (Yankovic)".[15]

L.V. released a solo version of the single in 1996 on his debut album, I Am L.V. This version did not feature Coolio, and featured additional lyrics written by L.V. himself, rap lyrics written by Scarface and Dani Blooms.

In 1996, the song was covered by Battery for the electro-industrial various artists compilation Operation Beatbox.[16] American post-hardcore band In Fear And Faith covered the song in 2008. Austrian melodic death metal band Artas covered the song in 2008 on the album "The Healing". American industrial band Battery covered the song on their 1996 album, "Distance". In 2015 Postmodern Jukebox produced a version in a 1920s jazz style.


Track listings[edit]

CD single
No. Title Length
1. "Gangsta's Paradise" 4:00
2. "Gangsta's Paradise" (instrumental) 3:49
CD single bonus tracks
No. Title Length
1. "Gangsta's Paradise" 4:02
2. "Fantastic Voyage" (original version) 4:05
3. "Mama I'm In Love Wit A Gangsta" (clean radio mix) 4:09
4. "Gangsta's Paradise" (instrumental) 3:50
CD maxi
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Gangsta's Paradise"   4:00
2. "Gangsta's Paradise" (instrumental)   3:49
3. "Fantastic Voyage" (album version) Coolio 4:04



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[50] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[51] Platinum 50,000*
Germany (BVMI)[52] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
Italy (FIMI)[53] Gold 25,000double-dagger
Netherlands (NVPI)[54] Platinum 75,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[55] 4× Platinum 40,000*
Sweden (GLF)[56] Gold 25,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[57] 2× Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[58] 2× Platinum 1,543,000[6]
United States (RIAA)[12] 3× Platinum 3,000,000[59]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Coolio feat. L.V.'s 'Gangsta's Paradise' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2017-12-11. 
  2. ^ "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Singles : Page 1". 
  3. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1995/Top 100 Songs of 1995". 
  4. ^ "The 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Ever - VH1 Blog Reality TV News and Gossip". VH1 Blog Reality TV News and Gossip. 
  5. ^ "Gangsta's Paradise" certifications RIAA – Gold and Platinum Searchable Database
  6. ^ a b Myers, Justin (October 24, 2015). "Quiz: Who sold more?". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 24, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. To access, user must enter song title under Titel, select Singles under Formate and click SUCHEN. 
  8. ^ "Hot 100 55th Anniversary: The All-Time Top 100 Songs". Billboard. 
  9. ^ "Adventures in Missing the Point: 'Gangsta's Paradise'". RETUNED. Archived from the original on 2015-02-24. 
  10. ^ "The Oral History of Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise'". 
  11. ^ Brandle, Lars (24 April 2017). "Ed Sheeran's 'Shape Of You' Breaks 22-Year-Old Chart Record Down Under". Billboard. 
  12. ^ a b "American single certifications – Coolio – Gangsta's Paradise". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  13. ^ "Nielsen SoundScan charts – Digital Songs – Week Ending: 09/14/2017" (PDF). Nielsen SoundScan. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 19, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Weird and COOLIO?!?!? - Yank Blog". 
  15. ^ Johnson, Billy (1 August 2013). "Coolio Did Not Want Weird Al to Spoof 'Gangsta's Paradise'". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  16. ^ Christian, Chris (August 1996). "Various Artists: Operation Beatbox". Sonic Boom. 4 (7). Retrieved November 17, 2016. 
  17. ^ " – Coolio – Gangsta's Paradise". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  18. ^ " – Coolio – Gangsta's Paradise" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. ^ " – Coolio – Gangsta's Paradise" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  20. ^ " – Coolio – Gangsta's Paradise" (in French). Ultratop 50.
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  22. ^ Billboard January 20, 1996. Billboard. 1996-01-20. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
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  25. ^ " – Coolio Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  26. ^ Irish Single Chart Archived 2009-06-03 at WebCite (Retrieved February 21, 2008)
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  34. ^ "Coolio: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  35. ^ a b c d Billboard (Retrieved August 4, 2008)
  36. ^ 1995 Australian Singles Chart Archived August 3, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. (Retrieved April 20, 2008)
  37. ^ 1995 Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chart Archived March 30, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. (Retrieved April 20, 2008)
  38. ^ 1995 Belgian (Wallonia) Singles Chart Archived April 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. (Retrieved April 20, 2008)
  39. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 
  40. ^ "Single top 100 over 1995" (pdf) (in Dutch). Top40. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  41. ^ 1995 French Singles Chart Archived March 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. (Retrieved January 30, 2009)
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  44. ^ 1996 Austrian Singles Chart (Retrieved April 20, 2008)
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  46. ^ 1996 Belgian (Wallonia) Singles Chart Archived October 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. (Retrieved April 20, 2008)
  47. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts - Offizielle Deutsche Charts". 
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  49. ^ Geoff Mayfield (December 25, 1999). 1999 The Year in Music Totally '90s: Diary of a Decade – The listing of Top Pop Albums of the '90s & Hot 100 Singles of the '90s. Billboard. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
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External links[edit]

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Billboard Hot 100 number one single
September 9, 1995 – September 23, 1995 (3 weeks)
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Australian ARIA number one single
October 22, 1995 – January 14, 1996 (13 weeks)
Succeeded by
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Preceded by
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January 14, 1996 (1 week)
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December 17, 1995 (1 week)
January 21, 1996 – February 11, 1996 (4 weeks)
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Eurochart Hot 100 Eurochart number one single
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January 27, 1996 - February 17, 1996 (4 weeks)
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Belgian (Wallonia) number one single
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