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Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio) (black)

Here's the most successful rap song of all time, from 1995, featuring in the movie "Dangerous Minds". The music is a remake of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" and uses the same tune, though a different orchestration of the same backing music. Coolio changed the lyrics to be more relevant to life on the streets.

This is black American English, so get ready for a different pronunciation sometimes, a lot of differences in grammar, vocabulary and expressions, with many colloquialism and plenty of slang, so read the explanations below carefully (and also under the Meaning tab).

- You wanna tell me what this is all about?

As I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
I take a look at my life,
And realize there’s nothing left,
‘Cause I’ve been blasting and laughing so long
That even my momma thinks that my mind has gone.
But I ain’t never crossed a man that didn’t deserve it.
Me be treated like a punk, you know that’s unheard of,
You better watch how you’re talking, and where you’re walking,
Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk,
I really hate to trip, but I gotta, loc,
As they croak I see myself in the pistol smoke,
Fool, I’m the kinda G the little homies wanna be like,
On my knees in the night
Saying prayers in the street light.

We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.

Look at the situation, they got me facing,
I can’t live a normal life, I was raised by the streets.
So I gotta be down with the 'hood team',
Too much television watching, got me chasing dreams.
I’m an educated fool with money on my mind
Got my ten in my hand and a gleam in my eye.
I’m a lok’d out gangsta, set tripping banger
And my homies are down so don’t arouse my anger.
Fool, death ain’t nothing but a heart beat away,
I’m living life do or die, what can I say?
I’m twenty-three now, but will I live to see twenty-four?
The way things is going, I don’t know.

Tell me why are we so blind to see
That the ones we hurt are you and me?
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.

Power and the money, money and the power,
Minute after minute, hour after hour,
Everybody’s running, but half of them ain’t looking
It’s going on in the kitchen
But I don’t know what’s cooking.
They say I gotta learn
But nobody’s here to teach me.
If they can’t understand it, how can they reach me?
I guess they can’t,
I guess they won’t,
I guess they front,
That’s why I know my life is out of luck, fool!

We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a gangsta’s paradise.
Tell me why are we so blind to see
That the ones we hurt are you and me?
Tell me why are we so blind to see
That the ones we hurt are you and me?

AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH= As I live in this dangerous and sad place (this metaphor was composed by King David 3000 years ago. Read under the MEANING tab to learn more about this)

BLASTING= (slang) To blast is to have a wild time, partying and all that.

MOMMA= (AmE) BrE mamma, mum.

MY MIND HAS GONE= I am crazy, insane.

AIN’T= (slang) The negative form of the verb to be or have in the present:
- I ain’t bin to London never = I have never been to London.
- You ain’t no better than me = You aren’t better than me

I AIN’T NEVER CROSSED A MAN= I have never met/known a man.

ME= (black AmE) I.
ME BE TREATED= I am treated (they treat me)

A PUNK= Someone who is worthless, not important.

YOU BETTER= (coll.) You’d better = You had better = You should.

HOMIES= (slang, originally “homeboy/homegirl”) Close friends.

LINED IN CHALK= (slang) Killed.
When someone is killed, the police draws a white line around the corps with chalk to mark the exact place and position of the body before removing it.

TRIP= to consume drugs to get a hallucinatory experience.

I GOTTA= I’ve got to = I must.

LOC= (slang) man, buddy, mate (a way of addressing your friends from the band)
- Wassup*, loc?  (= How are you, man?)
- Not much, man. (= I’m ok)

CROAK= Die.

THE KINDA G= (coll.) The kind of gangster.

THE LITTLE HOMIES= buddies, friends (here “little” is not about size, but about feelings, so this means something like “dear friends”)

WANNA BE LIKE= (coll.) Want to imitate.

ON MY KNEES= Kneeling down.

GANGSTA= (black AmE) Gangster = A member of a mafia or a criminal association; a hooligan.
In fact, this spelling is only a way of reflecting black American pronunciation. In standard American English, people pronounce the letter R everywhere (for example in “rose” and in “car”) in black American English (same as in British English), the R is only pronounced when followed by a vowel (so they pronounce it in “rose” but not in “car”). So in “gangster” they don’t pronounce the final R, so it sounds like “gangsta”, and this spelling is trying to reflect that pronunciation.

A GANGSTA’S PARADISE= A gangster’s haven, a place perfect for gangsters.

I WAS RAISED BY THE STREETS= If your parents raise you, they take care of you and educate you. If the streets raise you, you learn everything from criminals, hooligans and bad people.

THE HOOD TEAM= I suppose he refers to “people wearing hoods”. A hoody (a sweater with a hood) is the typical thing street gangsters or hooligans wear.

CHASING DREAMS= Trying to make your wishes come true.

WITH MONEY ON MY MIND= Who wants to get rich.

MY TEN= A 10 is a perfect woman (physically perfect, that is), but here it is a slang word for a ten millimetre automatic pistol.

GLEAM= Jewellery, gold. “I have a gleam in my eye” means “I can see jewellery” (so I have it, or my perfect girl has it on). It could also refer to that spark of light you get in your eyes when you are excited about something or have a brilliant (or evil) idea.

LOK’D OUT= (slang) Crazy.

NOTHING BUT A HEART BEAT AWAY= Only a moment away (= you can die any moment)

DO OR DIE= (coll.) If you do something “do or die”, you are desperate.

THINGS IS GOING= (black AmE) Things are going.
In black AmE the present tense of the verb to be can use the forms is, are or be for any person (but “am” can only be used for “I”)
- She be a ten, bro! = She’s so hot, man!
- Yep, you is loco = Yeah, you are crazy.
- I be livin’ wit’ them bros = I am living with those people.

GOING ON= Happening.

IN THE KITCHEN= (slang) A mental place where your brain is running at its highest level of power. If you have something “in the kitchen”, you are thinking very hard about it. To continue with the kitchen metaphor, he then says “but I don’t know what’s cooking”. So he means that there is something very intense happening in his brain, like an idea trying to get shape, but he doesn’t know exactly what it is yet.

I GUESS= (coll.) I suppose.

THEY FRONT= (slang) They are hypocrites, they pretend to be what they are not.

The song starts with a verse from the Bible:

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, which is from Psalm 23 in the Bible, composed by King David (2nd king of Israel) in 1000BC. David here refers to life as a dangerous place (full of physical and spiritual dangers). The original Bible verse says:

though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art (= you are) with me

The psalm begins “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (= I will have everything I need), so David is talking about how God is protecting him in the middle of all his dangers.

 Coolio changed this to say “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left”. So where David sees hope, Coolio sees hopelessness and despair. And that marks the tone for the rest of the song. He is a gangster, a criminal, and for him life is a very dangerous place, and though he wishes he could change his life, he can’t, because he doesn’t know how to and nobody is going to help him.

The chorus says:

Tell me why are we so blind to see / That the ones we hurt are you and me

So he knows the life of a gangster is destructive, and though a gangster causes pain to other people, he is also causing pain to himself, destroying himself.

The moral of the song is: beware, a gangster’s life may look cool and successful (lots of money, lots of beautiful girls, lots of power), but in fact, deep inside, that life is destroying you, it’s all a façade.

-----------------------------------
PSALM 23 (complete)

(King James Version)
1 The LORD is my shepherd ; I shall not want . 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies : thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever .

(New Revised Standard)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

4:15            
 
 
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