In 1995, it seemed like you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. I know this because I was working at a Top 40 radio station at the time and nine out of every ten phone calls I answered were a request for this song. (The other one was for “anything by Boyz II Men”.)
“Gangsta’s Paradise” went on to become the best-selling song of the year. It received MTV Video Music Awards, Billboard Awards and a Grammy. (It possibly would have won an Oscar, as well – for Dangerous Minds – had it not been disqualified due to it’s sampling of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise”.)
Heck, it was even parodied by Weird Al Yankovic. (“Amish Paradise”)
It’s now been 20 years and Scott Bradlee and his group, Postmodern Jukebox, bring us a whole new take on “Gangsta’s Paradise”. With the lyrics in the hands – or vocal chords – of PMJ regular Robyn Adele Anderson, one can almost imagine a smoke-filled jazz club in the 1920s, packed with “Original Gangsters” in pinstripes and fedoras, swigging illegal alcohol, bragging about their latest hit. (Admittedly, I may watch too many mob films.)
And while the vernacular may have changed from 1925 to 1995 – I can’t imagine Capone using the word “homie” – the message is the same: “Been spending most their lives, living in the gangster’s paradise.”
Check out more from Postmodern Jukebox at their website.