When the music video for Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” made its debut in ’94, there wasn’t anything like it —at least not in hip-hop. The opening scene saw the rapper, born Artis Ivey Jr., standing on his porch, all wide-eyed at a mysterious Pimp godfather who magically transforms his bicycle into a vintage Cadillac equipped with his neighborhood homies. The music video, about escapism, was fitting: this was the year the Northridge earthquake devastated Los Angeles, killing at least 54 people and causing billions in damages. A few months later, OJ Simpson’s murder case would finally go to trial. It was clear that people needed an alternative reality. With everyone from sous chefs, beach bunnies, bikini-clad vixens and suburban families poppin' out the track (blink and you’ll miss a white mom, holding her baby boy and dappin’ it up with a crew on the sidelines) “Fantastic Vogue” gave viewers a moment to tap into flights of fantasy, it was enough to launch the former crack addict into pop stardom.
Coolio, had a thing for fantasy. As a kid in Compton, he’d go to the library not far from his house “I lived in that library, man,” the rapper told Rolling Stone in a 1995 interview. “I read every kid’s book they had in there. I even read Judy Blume.” Contrary to popular perceptions about so-called ‘gangsters who rap’ they are quite introspective.
Following the release of his debut single, Coolio, who was part of the west coast hip-hop group WC and the Maad Circle, would become one of the west coast’s biggest champions. His inclusive approach is what attributed to this, “Ain't no bloodin', ain't no crippin'.” He rapped. “Ain't no punk ass niggas set trippin'. Everybody got a stack and it ain't no crack. And it really don't matter if you're white or black.” He offered everyone, from the hood to the suburbs a chance to come together to enjoy some feel-good music.
The beat, which features a heavy sample from the song, of the same name, by the Dayton, Ohio-based funk band, Lakeside, recalled an ‘80s nostalgia for older heads, ultimately widening the song’s appeal. The single went platinum, selling one million copies in the US and hitting the No. 3 spot on the Billboard 100, the only song from his debut album, It Takes a Thief, to become a megahit. “I thought I was losing touch with the street scene after ‘Fantastic Voyage’ blew up so quick,” Coolio told Rolling Stone. Leading him to release the gritter single “Mama I’m in Love With a Gangsta” soon after. But his destiny as a pop rapper was sealed. “Fantastic Voyage” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The music video was nominated for Best Rap Music Video by the MTV Video Music Awards. Sometimes, fantasies really do come true.