Most of Coolio's hit debut It Takes a Thief was fairly upbeat material, but the appearance of the stark single "Gangsta's Paradise" in the summer of 1995 signaled a change in the rapper's music. Driven by an ominously deep bassline and slashing strings, the creeping, threatening funk of "Gangsta's Paradise" was the most chilling thing Coolio had recorded to date, but the menace didn't come at the expense of his considerable talent for immediate, catchy hooks. Consequently, the single shot to the top of the charts and hovered in the Top Ten for many weeks. The album followed shortly afterwards, and it didn't fail to deliver on the promise of the single. Not only did Coolio expand his sound, but his songwriting skills improved, as Gangsta's Paradise has very few weak moments. Alternating between slow, funky grooves and elastic, party-ready anthems, Gangsta's Paradise is proof that Coolio is one of the most exciting and interesting hip-hop artists of the mid-'90s.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: 40 Thevz