In addition to his own catalog of songs spanning his eight albums and numerous collaborations, Coolio also wrote a number of songs for film and television, offering up “Rolling with My Homies” to the Clueless soundtrack in 1995, the same year he released his hip hop opus, the Dangerous Minds mega-hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which earned him the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Videos by American Songwriter
In 1995, Coolio—credited by his real name Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. as a songwriter—even showed off his acting chops, appearing on the Martin Lawrence sitcom Martin, along with Outkast, Isaac Hayes, Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), and Pam Grier as part of a ’70s-era contest. He even gave advice to Melissa Joan Hart in an alleyway on an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and later played Irwin a nerdy gift wrapper who becomes a star rapper on the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny in 1998.
Among dozens of other on-screen appearances as himself, characters and even a voice actor—reprising his role as Kwanzaa-bot for the revival of Futurama weeks before his death on Sept. 28, 2022 at the age of 59—Coolio also spread his lyrics in TV and movies, writing the theme song for the Nickelodeon buddy comedy Kenan & Kel in the mid-‘90s and even appearing in the opening segment of the show.
Here are five songs the rapper wrote for (and with) other artists, and for television and film.
1. “Rollin’ with My Homies” Clueless Soundtrack (1995)
Written by Coolio
Coolio already had a hip-hop party song ready to go when he was asked to contribute a song to the teen comedy Clueless in 1995. “Rolling with My Homies” actually featured the original lyrics to another anthem “Fantastic Voyage.”
“That’s what I was going to put out for ‘Fantastic Voyage’ in the beginning but a guy who worked for Tommy Boy [Records] heard the [original version of] ‘Fantastic Voyage’ and told me, ‘If you change your lyrics a little bit and make it more universal, I think this song could do good,'” said Coolio in a 2013 interview. “So I took off the original lyrics and re-wrote the whole song. And the rest is history.”
In the film, the song plays as Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone, and her friends are at a party in the Valley. When her socially awkward friend Tai, played by the late Brittany Murphy, gets knocked unconscious by a flying clog while dancing to the Coolio song, she eventually wakes up to her love interest Elton (Jeremy Sisto) and sings rolling with the homies before heading back on the dance floor.
Saturday morning, take the train for a ride
The sun is up, I got my homies by my side
Rollin’ down the street with my sixteen speakers
On the beach, daddy dippin’
I hang a light at the right, ready to have fun
Then I bust a left for the 121
Pull it into park and lay it on the grass
I roll back the ride, so I can see some ass
2. “Aw Here It Goes,” Kenan & Kel Theme Song (1996)
Written by Coolio
Coolio created the theme song for the 1990s Nickelodeon teen sitcom Kenan & Kel, starring a younger Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell—both also starred in the 1997 comedy Good Burger. Co-produced with Victor Concepcion and written and performed by Coolio, the rapper even appears singing the song with Thompson and Mitchell in the opening segment of the show, which aired from 1996 through 2000.
Everybody out there, go run and tell
Your homeboys and homegirls it’s time for Kenan and Kel
To keep you laughing in the afternoon
So don’t touch that dial or leave the room
‘Cause they’re always into something
Or fronting and you don’t wanna miss it
It’s double K like, two to get greatness
Kenan and Kel, or should I say Kel and Kenan
And you gotta watch Kenan
‘Cause Kenan be scheming
With a plan or a plot
To make it to the top
Mitchell and Thompson also starred in the Saturday Nickelodeon sketch comedy All That, which featured Coolio in a Good Burger sketch.
3. “(I’m in Love with) Mary Jane,” Half Baked Soundtrack (1998)
Written by Coolio, John King, Mike Simpson, Rick James
Co-written by and starring comedian Dave Chappelle (Thurgood), the 1998 stoner comedy, Half Baked, follows the story of four friends who still live (and smoke weed) together. When Kenny, played by Harland Williams, is out on a munchie run, he accidentally kills a diabetic New York City Police horse by feeding it junk food and is placed in the slammer. His friends do the only logical thing they can to raise his $1 million bail: sell medical marijuana.
Coolio’s “(I’m in Love With) Mary Jane” references marijuana (“mary jane”) and Thurgood’s love interest in the film… a girl named Mary Jane.
She’s my inspiration
My part time occupation
The catalyst and my consummation
In my quest for education
No one could ever take her place and
No assimilation, so save you false accusations
I accept no imitations
So that’s the situation without further hesitation
Let me continue my demonstration
For the congregation
To break it down for all y’all simple and plain
I got a love for a girl named Mary Jane
4. “No Exit,” Blondie, featuring Coolio (1999)
Written by Coolio, Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri, Roxy Ashby
Taking a cue from their 1980 Autoamerican rap song, “Rapture,” when Blondie was working on their seventh album, No Exit, the band pulled in Coolio, who added some rhymes to the title track. Partly a darker processional, opening on an interpolation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” along with Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” mixed in, the harder rock song is cut with raps by Deborah Harry, who also sings through the choruses, and Coolio’s contribution:
Standing on the verge of the edge of the ledge, waiting for me to fall, but then I got a call.
It said “Wait, hold up homie!
You must be trippin!
You can’t be putting that simping and whimping up in your pippin!
You better stand tall, fool you was born to ball.
Took a little fall and now you wanna end it all!
You’ve been chasing dreams like a hound dog on the hunt.
Take your place in the front.
Put your hand on the pump.
And it’s right in your grasp, man.
I know they’re laughing, but you’ll be laughing later cuz time’s are gonna get greater.
You’s a player, and when I say player I mean player cuz your daddy and your uncle was a player.
5. “Escape Wagon,” Versatile, featuring Coolio (2019)
Written by Coolio and Versatile’s Casper Walsh and Alex Sheehan (Eskimo Supreme)
Coolio contributed some words to Irish duo Versatile’s 2019 single “Escape Wagon.” A follow-up to their previous hit “Prefontaine,” Versatile—made up of Casper Walsh and Alex Sheehan— called on their friend Coolio to add some raps to their single, including the outro, where he compares his hometown of Compton, California to Ringsend, a southside suburb of Dublin, Ireland, calling it the “Compton of Europe.”
Ringsend and Compton
You always knew it was gonna happen
Ringsend, the Compton of Europe
The rapper was also featured on the track “Coolio Interlude,” off the duo’s 2021 album, Fuck Versatile.
(Photo by JM Enternational/Getty Images)