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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Coolio Reigns in Rap Paradise

October 05, 1995|CHEO H. COKER

Coolio bounded onto the House of Blues stage Tuesday like a long-gone champion returned home from a fierce battle. Not only did the L.A. rap star have the best-selling single of the year, "Gangsta's Paradise," to be happy about, but there were also new songs from his upcoming album to show off. He didn't disappoint the responsive, multiracial crowd as he bounced, skated and low-rolled through a funky 45-minute set with very few lags.

Lined up across the stage, Coolio and his three sidemen came off like a South-Central version of the Four Tops, moving in tightly choreographed but relaxed dance routines while taking turns passing the microphone.

While the boss took charge during his multi-platinum hit "Fantastic Voyage" and the popular B-side "County Line," his crew helped maintain movement without detracting from his performance. Coolio shifted from gangsta attitude to congenial host, depending on the mood of the song.

For the closing "Gangsta's Paradise," Coolio and company returned to the stage in choir robes after leaving to the sounds of recorded gunfire. The rapper delivered a rhymed parable about life on the street while singer LV belted out the Stevie Wonder-influenced chorus, creating a genuine gospel feel and giving Coolio's words an emotion and poignancy that they don't really capture on the recorded version.

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