collaboration | 

Rapper Coolio had plans in the pipeline to record with Aslan

Coolio, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 59, had also worked with Dublin rappers Versatile

Rapper Coolio has died of a suspected cardiac arrest at the age of 59

Rapper Coolio has died of a suspected cardiac arrest at the age of 59. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Coolio with Versatile’s Casey Walsh and Alex Sheehan and Jonathan Smith, owner of Ernesto’s coffee shop (second from right)

Coolio with Versatile’s Casey Walsh and Alex Sheehan

Coolio with Versatile’s Casey Walsh and Alex Sheehan and Jonathan Smith, owner of Ernesto’s coffee shop (second from right)

Melanie Finn and David

Last June, an agent for Coolio quietly approached singer Christy Dignam at an Aslan gig to ask if he would be interested in collaborating with the rapper on some new material.

Having discussed it with his agent Denise McCormack, they decided they would be open to a collaboration if the right material came along. So keen was Coolio to start work on the project with Dignam that he even spoke about it in an interview last July.

But sadly, the collaboration never came to pass, given the star’s sudden death following a suspected cardiac arrest on Wednesday night.

Ms McCormack, Aslan’s manager, told the Irish Independent how Dignam had hoped to work with the star (59) at some stage.

The Dublin singer has had to pull back from all work commitments recently, given a recent bout of ill-health arising from his treatment for amyloidosis, a rare blood cancer, forcing them to cancel a sold-out show in the 3Arena this month.

But Dignam’s work had come to the attention of the Gangsta’s Paradise star during his time in Dublin last summer when he worked on a new album with Irish producer Evan Kennedy. Kennedy also works with Dublin rappers Versatile, with whom Coolio had struck up a firm friendship.

“Christy was supposed to record something with Coolio,” Ms McCormack said. “But we were waiting for more information. Then Coolio did an interview, saying they were working on it. But at that time, Christy wasn’t well and obviously we were scheduling and postponing gigs so nothing ever came of it.

“People are ringing asking, ‘Is it going to be released now?’ But there is no track.”

The two stars had no previous connections but Coolio had heard some of Aslan’s music and was instantly intrigued.

“He was doing some gig in the middle of nowhere and someone was playing Aslan in the background and he said, ‘Oh God, who are they?’” explained Ms McCormack.

“And that’s how the interest was sparked for him. When we saw the news about his death, we all thought it was very sad and goes to show how valuable life is.”

Coolio, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr, and who had six children, was a frequent visitor to Ireland in recent months as he worked on his new album, collaborating with a lot of Irish talent. He made himself quite at home, shopping in Brown Thomas Dublin and even performing a surprise rendition of his monster hit Gangsta’s Paradise at Conor McGregor’s pub, Black Forge Inn.

Rathmines coffee shop owner Jonathan Smith also met the rapper and shared a video of him teaching him Dublin expressions like, “scarlet for your ma”.

He met him through Mr Kennedy, a friend of his son.

“They were making a video with Coolio down at Ringsend at the time,” Mr Smith told the Irish Independent.

“Evan showed him this skit we do about Dublinese words and the way it almost is a different dialect.

“Coolio thought it was funny and he wanted to meet up, so later on that evening, we were cooking a bit of food together and I asked him would he be interested in making a bit of a Dublinese contribution, and he said he would be delighted.

“That wasn’t the last time I saw him; he was up at my house for dinner in July of this year.

“I got to know him a bit: he was a really nice guy. He was with a producer from LA – DJ Wino.

“I saw him a few times after that at some gigs he invited us along to.”

Mr Smith said he remembered him as a “very decent man” who was very kind.

Coolio had said in a recent interview how he usually stayed in the city centre while in Ireland and he loved the atmosphere of Dublin.

“It’s an experience being in the centre,” the Grammy winner told the Sunday World.

“Not only do you run into a lot of Irish people, but you run into all other kinds of people from all walks of life and all kind of different countries. That helps me to write about all kinds of different subjects.

“I enjoy mingling with people. I’m not afraid. I’m not looking for a bunch of new friends or anything, but I definitely like associating with people. I’m one of those cats that doesn’t like to be alone.

“I get bored with myself. I don’t take myself that seriously.”

He collaborated with Dublin rappers Versatile on their 2019 release Escape Wagon which included a video featuring the Ringsend flats, in which he called the area “the Compton of Europe”.

He said Versatile’s Casey Walsh and Alex Sheehan were like his little brothers. “They were the first kids I heard from Ireland that were embracing their accent and I respected that. Later on I had a show at the Irish horse racing track (Leopardstown) and they came backstage, and the rest is history, man. We hit it off instantly.”

Versatile, who performed with Coolio in the 3Arena in 2019, paid tribute to the star and said last night that, following his sudden death, “our hearts are completely broken”.

Sharing an excerpt from his 2006 hit One More Night, they posted a picture and a clip with Coolio on their Instagram with the message: “Fly high brother.”

One video showed them sharing a toast with Coolio as he said “Sláinte, brother”, adding it had been “non-stop laughs when we were with you”.

“Thanks for all the messages everyone, I’ll get back as soon as I process all of this,” said Casey Walsh.

Marty Whelan also shared his own tribute to the star, who made an unlikely appearance on RTÉ’s afternoon show Open House.

Archive footage went viral on Twitter yesterday. It featured some of the programme’s crew being drafted in as backing dancers. Whelan said he remembered Coolio “with great fondness”.

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