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