Coolio Once Said Music 'Saved' His Life: 'If I Wasn't Doing Hip-Hop, I'd Be Dead, in Jail or on Drugs'

Coolio once credited his music career with keeping him alive and healthy.

The "Gangsta's Paradise" rapper, who died on Wednesday at age 59, opened up to PEOPLE in 2005 for a wide-ranging interview that touched on his career, his personal life and his aspirations.

During the revealing chat, Coolio reflected on a severe bout with writer's block, which he said found him questioning his intentions in creating music.

The Grammy Award-winning rapper said he felt as though his record label was "controlling," and in a moment of frustration, decided to quit the industry.

"I started selling records and I got caught up in the business," he said. "It became a business and I wasn't liking it anymore."

Despite his grievances, Coolio (real name Artis Levon Ivey Jr.) said his time off only lasted six months, as a moment of clarity helped him realize that he should be making the music he wanted to be making for himself and no one else.

RELATED: Coolio Reflected on Fragility of Life in 2005 Interview: 'When It's Your Time to Go, You Go'


SGranitz/WireImage Coolio

"I was rapping for me. If I'm rapping for money or not rapping for money, what f—ing difference does it make if I like what I'm doing?" he said. "I disagree with people doing something like this just for money. If you want money, go be a lawyer. If you want money, go play the stock market. You'll make money faster than you do in hip-hop."

Coolio said he felt as though many of his peers were in the industry only to make money — and for him, the goal couldn't be more different, as music was his way of life.

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"This s— is my life… If I wasn't doing hip-hop, I'd be dead, in jail or on drugs right now," he said. "It saved my life, it's taken care of my family, it's made me mean something to people and allowed me to have a voice. It's allowed me to travel the world, and it's opened my mind and I respect it."

He continued: "I'm a whole different person than I would've been because of what I've done and what I've seen and the kind of people I got to meet. Call me a hater or whatever, but if you don't [respect hip-hop] then I don't respect you."

The late star was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania in 1963, and later moved to Compton, California, where he attended Compton Community College before becoming a rapper.


Daniel Boczarski/Getty Coolio

He released the hit single "Gangsta's Paradise," featuring singer L.V., in 1995. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and won the Grammy Award for best rap solo performance at the 1996 Grammys.

Coolio released eight albums throughout his career, the most recent being From the Bottom 2 the Top in 2009.

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His manager Jarez Posey confirmed to PEOPLE that the star died Wednesday in Los Angeles. His cause of death has not been shared publicly.