The greatest hip hop song ever written for a movie
(Credit: YouTube)


The greatest hip hop song ever written for a movie

Few songs are as intrinsically linked to a movie as Coolio’s 1995 anthem ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds. For a while, in the mid-90s, it was sincerely impossible to walk down any street without hearing this song blasting out of a stereo. It became an anthem and is rightly considered the greatest hip hop track ever made for a film.

Originally, the song was eyed up by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for the title track of their upcoming action thriller Bad Boys but, clearly with his mind on his money, Coolio went for the highest bidder. It would make perfect sense for the Compton rapper. By giving the song to Dangerous Minds, he got himself a music video with the now-iconic Antoine Fuqua and got Michelle Pfeiffer to star in it.

As well as being a classic hip hop anthem, the film the song was attached to was also a huge hit. The school-based drama focused on Pfeiffer’s efforts to get through to her classroom full of troublemakers as their teacher. Through Bob Dyan and alternative teaching methods, she tries to help them fall in love with learning and achieve their high school graduation certificates.

The track is a reworking of Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘Pastime Paradise’ and sees Coolio drop some street knowledge on a sensational beat. “I wasn’t really familiar with ‘Pastime Paradise,’ as much of a Stevie Wonder fan as I was,” Coolio explained to Rolling Stone. “My very first album I ever bought was the one with ‘Superwoman’ on it. [1972’s Music of My Mind.] I got that for my 12th birthday, that one and Fight the Power by the Isley Brothers. Songs in the Key of Life, my mother had that album at the house, so it was kind of weird that I didn’t know the song.

Though Coolio had never been particularly interested in recording the cover, Larry Sanders sent the demo his way, and everything clicked. Coolio would later perform the song alongside Stevie Wonder at the 1995 Billboard awards.

The song would also give CooIio his first Grammy, taking home the prize for Best Rap Solo Performance. It flew to number one on both sides of the Atlantic and confirmed that Coolio’s career was about to skyrocket. It provided the perfect zenith of art imitating life as the Compton native penned a song about trying to break out of the hood through knowledge.

Coolio said of the writing process: “I sat down and I started writing. Hearing the bass line, the chorus line and the hook, it just opened up my mind. ‘As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I take a look at my life and I see there’s nothing left’ — I freestyled that; that came off the top of the dome, and I wrote that down.

“I thought about it for a minute,” he continued, “and then I wrote the whole rest of the song without stopping, from the first verse to the third verse. You know, I like to believe that it was divine intervention. ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ wanted to be born; it wanted to come to life, and it chose me as the vessel.

Listen to the greatest hip hop song ever written for a movie soundtrack below.