“Gangsta’s Paradise” was released in August 1995 as the lead single from the Dangerous Minds soundtrack and the song’s success led Coolio to name his second studio album Gangsta’s Paradise, which was released in November 1995. The song was an international multi-platinum hit as it peaked at the top of the pop charts in multiple countries, including the US Billboard Hot 100, where the song spent 12 weeks alternating between the top 2 spots. In 1996, “Gangsta’s Paradise” won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance and was nominated for Record of the Year, while the music video—featuring Michelle Pfieffer in her Dangerous Minds role—won the award for Best Rap Video and Best Video From a Film at the MTV Video Music Awards.
The song interpolates the melody and chorus from Stevie Wonder’s 1976 track “Pastime Paradise.” Wonder initially refused to let Coolio sample his song due to the profanity used in the original version but Coolio cleaned it up and got the sample cleared; however, he relinquished a hefty percentage of the song’s publishing. Coolio and L.V. performed the song live alongside Wonder at the Billboard Awards 1995. “Weird” Al Yankovic famously parodied the song and its music video with his “Amish Paradise,” which Coolio was initially upset about but he changed his stance over time.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” has been consistently ranked as one of the best Hip-Hop songs of the 1990s and all time in numerous publications, including a rank at #38 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop and the UK’s Mojo magazine ranked it at #70 on their list of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time. The single was the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 1995 and #89 on the Hot 100’s 60th anniversary all-time chart.
Rolling Stone magazine produced an oral history piece in 2015 featuring all of the song’s major players to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Gangsta’s Paradise.”