1995, Music

Gangsta’s Paradise (1995) by Coolio

Coolio’s debut pleasantly surprise me if only because all I knew of him were the hits from this album, and I was surprised by sense of humour and his self-awareness, things that I didn’t know he had. But that very thing that I found really endearing on his debut – which I otherwise found too slick – seems to be nearly entirely missing from this record.

It’s easy to view this record in retrospect as some kind of bid for stardom – so many of the songs on this record rely on samples/interpolations of preexisting songs. I don’t remember how true that was of his debut but here it feels like there’s an avalanche of them. And the production is otherwise very slick.

Coolio now appears to be taking himself very seriously most of the time. (There are exceptions.) Nowhere is this more true than on the acclaimed title track. It’s one of those things where you feel like the critics acclaiming the song aren’t really connected to the music – a little like 50 year old men claiming some new Hollywood movie about Kids Today really captures something. I hated the song at the time because it was everywhere and because I thought Dangerous Minds was stupid (it’s only the 18th version of that movie). It’s a really catchy song but its earnestness is very much the kind of thing that appeals to old white people. And that feels a bit like that’s how his target market might be on this record.

But who am I? Well, I’m just a white guy who is getting older. And I really have no idea if this is actually as mediocre as it sounds to me. But whatever I enjoyed about his debut appears to be missing. Instead I get this very messagey, slick G Funk record, where samples/interpolations are doing a lot of work. I feel like the rating is a little harsh, but a lot of other people don’t seem to like this either.


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