West Coast hip hop

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

West Coast hip hop is a regional genre of hip hop music that encompasses any artists or music that originated in the West Coast of the United States. West Coast hip hop began to dominate from a radio play and sales standpoint during the early to-mid 1990s with the birth of G-funk and the emergence of record labels such as Suge Knight and Dr. Dre's Death Row Records, Ice Cube's Lench Mob Records, the continued success of Eazy-E's Ruthless Records, Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, and others.


African American and Hispanic communities of the Bay Area and southern California emerged as new bases of hip hop culture in the 1980s.[1] Hispanics in the Los Angeles area have played a significant role in West Coast hip hop culture.[2]

Bay Area Hip-Hop[edit]

The Bay Area has vastly contributed to the hip-hop genre seen in today's modern music industry. While its significance may be lesser known to the general public, since the establishment of hip-hop, the Bay solidified itself as an instrumental building block in the genre’s development. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, political and social justice movements put in place a potential blueprint of what local artists could rap about, and showcased how the counter-hegemonic culture of hip-hop was already embedded into the roots of the Bay Area.[3] Coming out of the Bay was a unique style of break dancing that was exhibited at local shows, and a representation of graffiti sprayed along city streets and buildings, similar to what was expressed in The Bronx on subway cars and abandoned structures. From the inspiration of funk music, to the political and social movements that were energized by the Black Panther Party, Hip-Hop in the Bay was a newfound outlet, and proved to be ingrained in the region's identity. Founded in Oakland in 1966, the Black Panthers surge for change and alterations of the systemic racism entangled in society resonated with the residents of the blue collar city. Many of the organization’s ideologies became well represented in the area’s rap scene, and triggered an explosion of black identity and frustration with the SFPD.

Despite artists like E-40 claiming that the Bay rap scene doesn’t receive the respect it deserves, this hasn’t prevented its artists and style from influencing hip-hop’s sound and dance.[4] Laid out in the 1960s and 70s through activism and the hybridity of funk music, the Bay Area was able to gain serious traction from the 1980s to mid 90s, which saw local artists popularize Pimp rap. Artists across the region began harnessing the sound of the Bay and slowly saw their rhythmic funky beats slowed down and reused in later hits that would intersect genres.[5] Freestyle samples of electro funky beats provided listeners with a sound that they didn’t know the genre needed. The Bay Area isn’t often viewed as one of the prominent hip-hop hubs in the U.S., but its rich history and extensive range of diverse artists prove that many of the original characteristics of early hip-hop can be traced back to the major metropolitan areas and cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.[6]

Early years[edit]

Several events laid the foundations for West Coast hip hop, long before the emergence of West Coast rappers such as Mellow Man Ace, Too Short, Kid Frost, Ice-T and Eazy-E—or even before the emergence of rap itself. According to Syd Caesar, "a cataclysmic event helped give rise to it out West: the Watts riots of 1965."[7] In 1967, Budd Schulberg founded a creative space in Los Angeles entitled Watts Writers Workshop, intended to help the people of the Watts neighborhood and provide a place for them to express themselves freely; one group to emerge from the workshop was the proto-rap group Watts Prophets.[8]

In the late 1970s in Los Angeles, Alonzo Williams, a young disc jockey from Compton, California formed a partnership with another DJ named Rodger Clayton from Los Angeles, California who created a promotion company called Unique Dreams that would hire Williams to DJ at local events.[9] The two eventually went their separate ways: Williams started a group called the World Class Wreckin' Cru and became the house DJs at a local nightclub called Eve's After Dark while Clayton launched what would perhaps be the foremost successful mobile DJ crew in the region by the name of Uncle Jamm's Army that would host parties by top DJs for thousands of people at large venues.[9][10] Other smaller DJ and party crews emerged around this time, hoping to establish themselves in the area.[10] Unlike their East Coast counterparts, the Hip-Hop sound emerging from Southern California was more fast-paced and influenced by electronic music.[11] This could be largely credited to the fact that the local West Coast hip-hop scene revolved more around DJing than rapping.[11] A localized dance sub-culture later came out of this party scene, which was highlighted on a national scale on such motion pictures as Breakin'.[8] Breakdancing, popping and locking gave the Los Angeles music scene some of its earliest credibility outside the region.[8] Further attention came to the West Coast as Uncle Jamm's Army began inviting such well-known East Coast Hip-Hop acts such as Whodini and Run-DMC to their functions.[8]

Another early landmark occurred in 1981, when Duffy Hooks launched the first West Coast rap label, Rappers Rapp Records, inspired by Sugar Hill Records in New York.[8] Its first act was the duo of Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp, whose debut single was "The Gigolo Rapp" which was also released in 1981. The song became a minor success but failed to gain much radio play. Many other Hip-Hop songs recorded in California were released during the early 1980s, but many of them received little or no radio play.[8] Captain Rapp created the classic West Coast song released in 1983 called, "Bad Times (I Can't Stand It)", which is a politically conscious response to Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" arranged by the legendary production duo of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Rich Cason.[12] Clayton's group, Uncle Jamm's Army, released their first single, "Dial-a-Freak", and in 1984 Egyptian Lover released his On the Nile album, which includes the popular 12" single "Egypt Egypt". Members of Uncle Jamm's Army and the World Class Wreckin' Cru, including Dr. Dre, The Unknown DJ, Egyptian Lover, Ice-T and Kid Frost would later go on to help define the early West Coast hip hop sound throughout the 1980s.

Bay Area rapper Too Short

During this period, one of the most significant factors in the spread of West Coast hip-hop was the radio station 1580 KDAY AM, which was the first radio station in the world to play rap/hip-hop music 24 hours a day because of Assistant Program Director/Music Director and Radio Personality Greg "Mack Attack" Mack.[13][14]

Late 1980s and 1990s[edit]

Ice-T is known as one of the pioneers of West Coast Hip Hop and gangsta rap, with songs such as "6 in the Mornin", released in 1986, demonstrating the unique style of the west coast.[15] In 1988, Ice-T released the R&B hit "I'm Your Pusher", and Too Short released album "Life is ・・Too short".[16][17] In 1988, N.W.A's landmark album Straight Outta Compton was released.[18] Focusing on life and adversities in Compton, California, a notoriously rough area which had gained a reputation for gang violence, it was released by group member Eazy-E's record label Ruthless Records. As well as establishing a basis for the popularity of gangsta rap, the album drew much attention to West Coast hip hop, especially the Los Angeles scene. In particular, the controversial "Fuck tha Police" and the ensuing censorship attracted substantial media coverage and public attention. Following the dissolution of N.W.A due to in-fighting, the group's members Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and MC Ren would later become platinum-selling solo artists in the 1990s. Ice Cube released some of the West Coast's most critically acclaimed albums, such as 1990's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and 1991's Death Certificate, as well as making film and television appearances such as in John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood in 1991.

The early 1990s was a period in which Hip-Hop went from strength to strength. Tupac Shakur's debut album 2Pacalypse Now was released in 1991, demonstrating a social awareness, with attacks on social injustice such as racism, police brutality, poverty, crime, drug and teenage pregnancy. This album featured 3 singles: "Brenda's Got a Baby", "Trapped" and "If My Homie Calls". 2Pacalypse Now was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on April 19, 1995.[19] Shakur's music and philosophy was rooted in various philosophies and approaches, including the Black Panther Party, Black nationalism, egalitarianism and liberty. Tupac sold over 75 million records, being regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time and a pioneer of West Coast rap.[20]

Compton rapper and producer Dr. Dre

Also in 1991, Suge Knight founded Death Row Records which became a record label powerhouse throughout the 1990s. In 1992, Dr. Dre released his solo debut, The Chronic; this marked the birth of the G-funk sound that became a hallmark of the West Coast sound in the 1990s, with the album's lead single "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" peaking at #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

The city of Long Beach arrived to the hip-hop scene in the early 1990s with artists such as Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound, both signed to Death Row, with releases such as Doggystyle (1993) and Dogg Food (1995). Both albums becoming huge sellers and being critically acclaimed and helped make a mark in establishing Long Beach in the hip hop scene.[21] Another artist who helped establish Long Beach was Warren G with his release Regulate... G Funk Era (1994). He founded his record label G-Funk Entertainment in 1995 and helped promote artists also from Long Beach such as the Twinz and The Dove Shack.[21]

As for Death Row, success kept coming throughout the 1990s with 2Pac's All Eyez on Me (1996) also becoming a huge seller and becoming critically acclaimed. 2Pac gained hits California Love" and "Live and Die in LA". Also in the early-to-mid 1990s, the group Cypress Hill made a big impact on the scene with their albums such as their debut studio album of the same name and Black Sunday. They are considered to be among the main progenitors of West Coast rap and hip-hop. Other popular artists and groups from this period include The Pharcyde (known for their albums Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and Labcabincalifornia), Souls of Mischief (known for their album 93 'til Infinity), Ahmad (known for his song Back in the Day), Xzibit (known for his album At the Speed of Life) and Ras Kass (known for his album Soul on Ice).

2000s and 2010s[edit]

Berkeley rapper Lil B
Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar

West Coast hip hop's position in the mainstream dwindled greatly in the late 1990s and 2000s, with a few notable exceptions such as Dr. Dre's 2001, Xzibit's Restless, Snoop Dogg's No Limit Top Dogg and Tha Last Meal albums. However, the trend soon changed. Although gangsta rap was still popular on the West Coast in the 2000s, the West Coast sound became more designed for nightclubs with the rise of the Bay Area's hyphy scene, featuring flamboyant raps and explicit references to sex and drugs. A key artist in the genre was E-40, who found a substantial audience with his 1995 album In a Major Way; he found even greater success with the song "Tell Me When to Go" in 2006, featuring Oakland rapper Keak da Sneak.[22]

Bay area rapper Too Short, already well known for his collaborations with artists such as Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G, found a new lease on life with the hyphy scene, his 16th studio album Blow the Whistle in 2006 debuting at number 14 on the Billboard 200. The Game also brought attention back to the West Coast with his double platinum album, The Documentary, as did Xzibit's platinum certified Restless album, and gold certified albums Man vs. Machine and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Artists from the 1990s such as Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube and groups such as the Tha Dogg Pound and Westside Connection continued to release albums throughout the 2000s and had success but did not garner the same level of fame as they had experienced in the 1990s. Throughout the 2000s, a number of peripheral West Coast hip hop artists such as Ya Boy, Glasses Malone, Juice, SKG (Suge Knight Girl) Helecia Choyce, Crooked I, 40 Glocc, Slim the Mobster, Bishop Lamont and Mistah F.A.B. collaborated with big-name artists such as Dr. Dre, Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, The Game, E-40 and Snoop Dogg.

In the early to mid-2010s, the West Coast had also seen a resurgence with hyphy as well as a transition to an uptempo and club-oriented type of Pop Rap.[23]

Producer DJ Mustard had pioneered the "ratchet" music movement, a production style that has snowballed into the mainstream.[24][25][26][27] DJ Mustard played a role in bringing West Coast hip hop back to national attention through the 2010s. He gained huge popularity throughout 2011 to 2014, producing a number of popular artists' singles, including Tyga's "Rack City", 2 Chainz's "I'm Different", Young Jeezy's "R.I.P.", B.o.B's "HeadBand", YG's "My Nigga" and "Who Do You Love?", Ty Dolla Sign's "Paranoid", Kid Ink's "Show Me" and Trey Songz's "Na Na". Mustard also released his debut mixtape, Ketchup, in 2013, further solidifying his ratchet sound, which follows its G-funk and hyphy predecessors.[28][29]

Other more peripheral acts that achieved moderate, cult following success in the mainstream include Lil B, who built a strong fan base via social media outlets such as Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace, and has recorded both solo and with The Pack.[30]

That same year, Black Hippy's own Kendrick Lamar 2012 release, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, was met with rave reviews and was featured on many critics' end-of-year lists.[31] The album was nominated Album of the Year at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, marking the first time any West Coast hip hop was nominated for award.[32] In 2014, Schoolboy Q debuted at no.1 on the Billboard 200 with 139,000 copies sold. YG's My Krazy Life debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 with 61,000 copies sold.

In 2017 and 2018, Long Beach's Vince Staples released Big Fish Theory and FM! with both albums being critically acclaimed.[33][34]


Hyphy style[edit]

E-40: Bay Area rapper that contributed to Hyphy style of rap

Hyphy, a revolutionary subgenre deeply embedded in the vibrant tapestry of Bay Area rap, emerged during the early 2000s as a cultural force that redefined the sound and ethos of Northern California's hip-hop scene. This energetic movement, characterized by its pulsating beats, infectious energy, and distinctive sonic elements, reflects the exuberance and unapologetic spirit of the Bay Area's youth.[35] Rooted in a fusion of influences, hyphy incorporates elements of funk, West Coast hip-hop, and electronic music, creating a genre that stands as a testament to the region's musical innovation.[36] Notable Bay Area rap artists who have contributed to this style include E-40, Keak da Sneak, Mac Dre, and Too Short. According to music critic Chris Macias, Hyphy "represents the Bay Area's energy, diversity, and irrepressible spirit."[37]

The musical signatures of hyphy are unmistakable — characterized by thunderous basslines, synthesizer-driven melodies, and frenetic drum patterns that contribute to its high-tempo and danceable nature.[38] This unique sound found its champions in influential artists such as E-40 and Keak da Sneak. E-40's album "My Ghetto Report Card," released in 2006, is a seminal work that not only exemplifies hyphy's sonic innovations but also showcases its integration into mainstream hip-hop.[38] Keak da Sneak's "Super Hyphy," released in 2005, became an anthem for the movement, amplifying the genre's reach and impact beyond regional boundaries.[36]

Beyond its sonic innovations, hyphy became a cultural movement, influencing not only music but also dance and fashion. The movement birthed the "Thizzle Dance," a frenetic and expressive dance style that became synonymous with hyphy and added a visual dimension to the genre's cultural impact.[35] Additionally, hyphy fashion, characterized by flamboyant and attention-grabbing styles, contributed to the visual identity of the movement, solidifying its place as a holistic cultural phenomenon.[36]

Hyphy's rise was facilitated by the Bay Area's unique ecosystem of independent labels, self-produced mixtapes, and a thriving local music scene. The genre gained further traction through social media platforms, which provided a platform for local artists to reach a global audience and contributed to the democratization of hip-hop in the digital age.[38] The hyphy movement, thus, represents not only a musical genre but a cultural phenomenon that captured the essence of the Bay Area's urban experience.

In the years following its emergence, hyphy has had a lasting impact on hip-hop, influencing subsequent generations of artists and contributing to the genre's ongoing evolution. It remains an enduring symbol of the Bay Area's ability to shape and redefine the landscape of contemporary music.

Mobb music[edit]

Mobb music, an influential subgenre within the diverse soundscape of Bay Area rap, emerged as a visceral and unapologetic sonic expression, encapsulating the realities of urban life in Northern California. Originating in the mid-1990s, this distinctive style gained prominence for its gritty narratives, hard-hitting beats, and a raw authenticity that spoke directly to the struggles and experiences of the streets.[39] Anchored in the rap tradition of storytelling, Mobb Music became a powerful vehicle for artists to articulate the challenges, triumphs, and complexities of life in the Bay Area, particularly in neighborhoods marked by social and economic adversity.[39]

The sonic characteristics of Mobb Music are marked by ominous, bass-heavy beats, often accompanied by haunting melodies and evocative samples that contribute to the genre's cinematic quality.[40] Artists like C-Bo, with albums like "Gas Chamber" released in 1993, and Brotha Lynch Hung, known for his album "Season of da Siccness" in 1995, played instrumental roles in shaping the Mobb Music style, creating a blueprint for subsequent generations of Bay Area rap artists.[41] These artists delved into themes of street life, crime, and the harsh realities of survival, creating a musical landscape that provided an unfiltered glimpse into the struggles faced by many in the Bay Area's urban communities.

Mobb Music's impact extended beyond the confines of the local rap scene, influencing artists nationwide and contributing to the evolution of gangsta rap. The genre's emphasis on authenticity and storytelling resonated with listeners who sought narratives that reflected their own experiences, leading to its recognition as a cornerstone of West Coast hip-hop.[40] Mobb Music's storytelling prowess, coupled with its evocative production, distinguishes it as a powerful and enduring force within the broader hip-hop narrative.

This subgenre also played a significant role in highlighting social issues such as systemic injustice, police brutality, and economic inequality. The lyrics of Mobb Music often served as a social commentary, shedding light on the harsh realities faced by marginalized communities and providing a platform for artists to voice their perspectives on these pressing issues.[39] This fusion of storytelling and social consciousness solidified Mobb Music as not only a musical style but also a form of cultural expression and resistance.

In the evolving landscape of Bay Area rap, Mobb Music remains a testament to the genre's ability to serve as a mirror reflecting the diverse facets of urban life. Its enduring legacy continues to influence artists who navigate the complexities of their environments, ensuring that the raw and authentic narratives embedded in Mobb Music persist in the ongoing conversation of hip-hop evolution.


West Coast hip-hop has made its mark in the music industry as well as society by shaping cultural, social and political landscapes. Through aspects such as musical innovation, social commentary, economic empowerment and regional identity, West Coast hip-hop has a prevalent influence in hip-hop music today.

Through the unmistakable sounds of Hyphy, Mobb and Thizz Music, West Coast hip hop carried a unique range of sounds incorporating everything from conscious rap to laid back samples from older records.[42] These sounds distinguished the West Coast and paved the way to what West Coast hip-hop is today. Samples of this can be seen in the trademark ‘bounce' of DJ Mustard and lyricism of Mozzy.[43]

Hip-hop music has been an outlet for black struggles for decades now originating from the societal, mental and economic struggles Black American’s face living in the US.[44] The West Coast became a powerful vehicle for social commentary addressing numerous issues such as racism, gang violence and police brutality, all of which are still talked about today. Artists such as N.W.A and their hit 1988 record “F*** Tha Police”[45] to a modern-day Kendrick Lamar and his hit 2015 record “Alright”, West Coast rappers have been painting story lines of the issues that affect the communities they rose from.

The music industry has always been a gateway to countless opportunities for those who were dedicated to their craft. With numerous artists such as Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube who rose to fame with their individual touches in g-funk and gangsta rap respectively,[46] they both went on to achieve commercial success and entrepreneurship. This sampled the economic empowerment potential within the hip-hop industry.

Establishing an unmistakable regional identity is an important factor for a rapper’s success. West Coast rappers have been able to successfully execute this, creating a closer relationship with their fans. Being able to relate to icons in the industry is a big factor to creating loyal fans. Many big artists such as 2Pac and Too Short celebrate their west coast origins [47] through not only their music but their language and fashion as well.

See also[edit]


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