Coolio began rapping at a young age and performed in many local Los Angeles rap contests as a youth. He recorded two singles in the late ‘80s, titled "Watcha Gonna Do" and "You're Gonna Miss Me," and ended up joining the group WC and the Maad Circle in 1991. Three years later Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and released his debut solo album, It Takes a Thief. The album contained the single "Fantastic Voyage," which became Coolio's breakout song. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the biggest rap singles of the year. The album also contained a few minor hits in "County Line" and "I Remember." Overall, the album was very successful, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 200 and being certified Platinum.
After the success of his debut, Coolio became a legitimate rap star. In 1995 he recorded a song for the movie Dangerous Minds, "Gangsta's Paradise." "Gangsta's Paradise," which featured R&B singer L.V., would become one of the most successful rap songs of all time, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for three weeks. The album Gangsta's Paradise was released in 1995 and was certified 2X Platinum by the RIAA. The album also contained two other major hits in "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" and "Too Hot." In 1996 Coolio had another Top 40 hit with the song "It's All the Way Live (Now)" from the Eddie soundtrack. He was also featured on the song "Hit 'em High" from the soundtrack to the movie Space Jam with B-Real, Method Man, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes. Coolio performed the theme song for the 1996 television show Kenan & Kel, entitled "Aw Here It Goes." Coolio also appeared in a one-time role as the host of a pleasure palace in Space: Above and Beyond. He was also featured in an episode of The Bill, as well as staring in episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Nanny, where he played the grandson of Ray Charles' character, Sammy.
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