Before his biggest hit came in 1995, Coolio wasn’t even aware of the song that gave him his hook.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” was a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 single “Pastime Paradise”. The rapper died Wednesday at the age of 59, the same day that Wonder’s song and Grammy-winning album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” was released 46 years ago.
Coolio explained how their collaboration came about in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone.
“I didn’t know about ‘Pastime Paradise’ as much as I was a fan of Stevie Wonder. My first record I bought was ‘Superwoman,'” he said in the post.[1972’s ‘Music of My Mind.’] For my 12th birthday, I got that and ‘Fight the Power’ by the Isley Brothers. ‘Songs in the Key of Life’, my mother had that album at home, so it was strange not to know the song”.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” was part of the soundtrack for the film “Dangerous Minds” starring Michelle Pfeiffer. It topped the charts and won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.
The song’s producer Doug Rasheed explained to Rolling Stone how the song Wonder ended up being the basis for the song.
“One day, I pulled out the Stevie Wonder album, ‘Songs in the Key of Life,’ because it’s one of my favorite albums,” Rasheed said. “I pulled that sample from ‘Pastime Paradise’ and Paul was like, ‘Wow, that’s tight!'” So I decided to give it a try and make a beat with it. LV [who sang on the Coolio hit] At the time I was trying to get a deal, ‘Let’s do it at LV!’”
Coolio said Wonder was initially willing to let him use his song.
“When Stevie heard it, he said, ‘No, no way. I’m not going to let my song be used on some gangster song,'” Coolio said. “So that was a problem.”
He was crushed by Coolio’s wife, who knew Wonder’s brother. The superstar singer asked to change the lyrics that contained mischief.
“Unbeknownst to me, the other condition was that he wanted 95 percent of the publication!” Coolio said. “If I had known that, I’m not sure I would have gone through with it, but I don’t know, maybe I would have. [laughs”]
CNN has reached out to Stevie Wonder for comment.