Artis Leon Ivey Jr. spent 59 years on Earth. Many now say that was too short, but those years still add up to over 20,000 days. To you, and me, and millions of people around the world, only one of those days mattered, but it took Ivey all 20,000 of them for that one day to unfold. That day was August 1st, 1995 — the day Coolio released “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Nearly 30 years after its release, you’ll still recognize this tune in a Hollywood movie trailer. And another one. And another one. You’ll see video games making their footage look ten times cooler thanks to this song. You’ll find people making all kinds of remixes for events they’re excited about. And if an inspiring Elon Musk video ever knocks your socks off, chances are, it’s Gangsta’s Paradise playing in the background.
At over one billion video views, five million single-sales, and millions of listens around the world every month, Gangsta’s Paradise is the one and perhaps only artifact most of us will remember about Coolio. We won’t know his real name; we won’t know that he died from an accidental drug overdose; we won’t know that the song was basically a straight-up cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” — because none of those details matter.
Future generations will hear that familiar melody, bob their heads, and soak up the lyrics. They’ll get carried away by the tune, and they’ll listen again. And again. And again. Slowly but surely, it will take hold. It will carve out a tiny cavity in their lives, nest into it, and stay there forever. And that is enough.
Making art is the greatest game we play. It combines serious, important work with the fun of grabbing a baseball bat and hitting a few shots — and one home run can make a dent in the universe. Make more art. One spark is enough.