Coolio's Hit 'Gangsta's Paradise'
From the archives: Coolio's new collection of intelligent, positive, smoothly gliding, retro soul/R&B, hip-hop is impressively varied and wide-ranging
(This review, written by Carl E. Baugher, originally appeared in Issue 5/6, Winter 1995/96.)
If Coolio ain’t careful, he's gonna give gangsta rap a good name. ‘Course, he’d be the first to tell you he’s not a gangsta rapper anyway and, despite the album title, that’s a fact. This collection of intelligent, positive, smoothly gliding, retro soul/R&B, hip-hop is impressively varied and wide-ranging.
It all adds up to way more than one normally gets in garden-variety pop music. Coolio would probably flinch at having his record called “pop,” but with record sales in the millions, what else can you call it?
The album’s title track is a monster hit from the movie Dangerous Minds which features Michelle Pfeiffer. Its message, like much of Coolio’s music, is that education is the way out of the ghetto. A survivor of LA’s mean streets, Coolio raps about uplifting people, not the stereotypically hopeless rage of some gangstas. He’s also a serious aficionado of classic soul and R&B, even enlisting Kool & The Gang’s J.T. for a remake of “Too Hot.” Samples of classic 70s soul are everywhere, giving this album a smooth listenability not always associated with the genre. It’s not all hearts and flowers, however. There’s an edge to songs like “Kinda High Kinda Drunk,” “The Revolution” and “Geto Highlites” which show Coolio’s reality credentials in an unflinching light.
Sonics are bass-oriented but rather smoothed-out for a hip-hop album. There’s little of that jacked-up, high-end sizzle and thin mid-range so prevalent on rap records. Instead, much like the music, this record is eminently listenable. There’s a CD, of course, but vinyl vultures like me buy the LP for $7.29 at Lou’s Records in Leucadia and be happy. With new music still being released on vinyl, I see no reason to own a digital version unless it offers extra tracks. This one doesn’t.
This is a good record. If you liked “Fantastic Voyage” from Coolio’s debut album, you need to go get Gangsta’s Paradise. On vinyl.