West Coast hip hop
|West Coast hip hop|
|Stylistic origins||Hip hop, R&B, soul, funk|
|Cultural origins||Early 1980s, Western United States|
|Typical instruments||Prominent bass, drum machine, rapping, sampler synthesizer|
West Coast hip hop is a hip hop music subgenre that encompasses any artists or music that originates in the Western United States region of the United States, as opposed to East Coast hip hop, based originally in New York alone. The gangsta rap subgenre of West Coast hip hop began to dominate from a radio play and sales standpoint during the early 1990s with the birth of G-funk and the emergence of Suge Knight's Death Row Records.
Some believe that the five elements of hip-hop culture, which include B-boying, beatboxing, DJing, graffiti art, and MCing, existed on the East and West Coasts of the United States simultaneously during the mid-seventies. This theory runs in opposition to the more generally accepted belief that the fundamental elements of hip hop were born and cultivated exclusively on the East Coast, in New York City in particular, in the most early stages of the culture. Although it is agreed that hip hop was given its name in New York, some say a culture that closely mirrored the East Coast hip-hop culture had emerged in the West, existing from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area during the same period. The culture is widely believed to have been a mutual creation which evolved from interaction between people who identified with elements from their respective coasts.
A number of events laid the foundations for West Coast hip hop, long before the emergence of West Coast rappers such as the Rappers Rapp Group, Eazy E, Ice T, and Too Short. According to geniusrap.com, "a cataclysmic event helped give rise to it out West: the Watts Riots of 1965." In 1967, Bud Schulberg founded a creative space entitled Watts Writers Workshop, intended to help the people of the Watts neighborhood and provide a place for them to express themselves freely. Out of this background the Watts Prophets formed, its members having moved to the West Coast from southern states such as Texas and Louisiana. Inspired by the New York group The Last Poets, they released their debut album, The Black Voices: On the Streets in Watts, in 1969 and became forerunners of West Coast rap.
The West Coast hip-hop scene started in earnest in 1978 with the founding of Unique Entertainment, a group influenced by Prince, East Coast hip hop, Kraftwerk, Parliament-Funkadelic and others. By 1980, the group were known as the best party promoters in Los Angeles; in 1983 its leader Roger Clayton, influenced by the Funkadelic album Uncle Jam Wants You changes the group's name to Uncle Jamm's Army. In 1984, Uncle Jamm's Army released their first single, "Dial-a-Freak", and in the same year Egyptian Lover released his On the Nile album, which includes the popular 12" single "Egypt Egypt".
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. Its first act was the duo of Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp, whose debut single was "Gigolo Rapp" or "Gigolo Groove". Later, in 1983, Captain Rapp would create the classic West Coast song "Bad Times (I Can't Stand It)". 1981 also brought the Rappers Rapp Group, a West Coast version of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, comprising King MC, Lovin C, MC Fosty, DJ Flash, Macker Moe and Mr. Ice. The group split up a year later, with MC Fosty and Lovin C launching a separate career and DJ Flash and King MC becoming The Future MC's.
In the mid-1980s, Mixmaster Spade defined an early form of gangsta rap with his Compton Posse. From this group, Spade mentored future rap stars of the West Coast, including Toddy Tee, who recorded the South Central LA anthem "The Batteram" in 1985.
In the same period, the Compton-based former locking dancer Alonzo Williams formed World Class Wreckin' Cru, which included future N.W.A members Dr. Dre and DJ Yella. Williams also founded Kru-Cut Records and established a recording studio in the back of his nightclub Eve's After Dark. The club was where local drug dealer Eazy-E and Jerry Heller decided to start Ruthless Records and where Dr. Dre and DJ Yella met the group CIA, which included future N.W.A member and Ice Cube, Laylaw, Dr. Dre's cousin Sir Jinx, and K-Dee.
During this period, one of the greatest factors in the spread of West Coast hip-hop was the radio station 1580 KDAY and DJ Greg "Mack Attack" Mack.
Late 1980s and 1990s
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2012)|
In 1988, N.W.A's landmark album Straight Outta Compton. 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 - in particular Dr. Dre and Ice Cube - went on to have highly successful careers. 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, poverty and police brutality. Shakur's music and philosophy was rooted in various philosophies and approaches, including the Black Panther Party, Black nationalism, egalitarianism, and liberty. Also in 1991, Suge Knight founded Death Row Records using money he had extorted from the pop-rapper Vanilla Ice - the West Coast saw the debut of arguably its most influential and popular rapper. 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 Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other Death Row releases such as Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle (1993) and 2Pac's All Eyez on Me (1996) became huge sellers and were also critically acclaimed.
The popularity of hip hop was undoubtedly assisted by the ensuing feud between Death Row Records and the East Coast's Bad Boy Records, fronted by Puff Daddy and The Notorious B.I.G. The East-West feud gained particular traction when Shakur was shot on November 30, 1994 outside Quad Recording Studios in New York: coincidentally where Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy had been recording that day, which led Shakur to accuse them of setting him up. Tensions rose were at their highest at the Source Awards in 1995, with artists from both sides making indirect comments about the other.
The drive-by shooting murder of Shakur on September 13, 1996 was a major turning point for hip-hop as a whole. Shakur had been the West Coast's most popular rapper and amongst the most critically acclaimed. After his death and Suge Knight's incarceration, Death Row Records - once home to the majority of the West Coast's mainstream rappers - fell into obscurity. The death of the East Coast rapper and former Tupac adversary, The Notorious B.I.G., concluded the West-East feud that had riddled hip hop throughout the 1990s. The West Coast scene slowly started to fade from the mainstream in the early 2000s, as fans drifted more towards the East Coast scene, with new artists such as 50 Cent coming to the fore alongside veterans such as Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan. In addition, Southern hip hop reached the mainstream in the early 2000s and, arguably, Atlanta's rap scene became the most popular in the country with the rise of crunk in 2003-2004.
2000s and 2010s
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 album. However, the tide soon changed. In a departure from the gangsta rap template, the West Coast sound became more designed for nightclubs with the rise of the Bay Area's hyphy scene, featuring flamboyant raps and explicit lyrical 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.
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 of 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, Dr. Dre produced album, The Documentary.
More recently in the late 2000s into 2010s, the West Coast has seen a resurgence with artists from crews such as Black Hippy and Odd Future entering the mainstream and releasing a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, among other solo acts such as Tyga, YG, Kid Ink, Nipsey Hussle, Iamsu!, Open Mike Eagle and Problem. Black Hippy's Kendrick Lamar's 2012 album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, was rated by many as an instant classic and featured at the top of many critics' end-of-year lists.
Alternative and underground scene
In the early 1990s, many of Los Angeles' alternative and underground MCs would attend the Good Life Cafe to hone their skills and develop their craft. Artists such as Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Abstract Rude, Spinz, Ahmad, Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, the Pharcyde, Skee-Lo, and many others performed at the Good Life's open mic Thursday nights from the late-80s through the mid-90s. In the 2008 documentary This Is the Life, L.A. hip-hop artist and Good Life regular 2Mex likened the Good Life movement to that of the New York punk rock and Seattle music scenes.
- Culture of California
- List of West Coast hip hop artists
- List of West Coast hip hop record labels
- Music of California
- East Coast vs. West Coast feud
- "The Secret History of West Coast Hip-Hop". Retrieved 2009-08-18.
- Caesar, Syd. "Westside Story: The History of West Coast Hip Hop". Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- http://www.allmusic.com/subgenre/west-coast-rap-ma0000002932. Missing or empty
|title=(help)"set the stage for a more identifiable West Coast style"
- 2Mex, P.E.A.C.E (2008). This Is the Life (DVD). Forward Movement. Retrieved on 2009-06-28.
- Mullen, Brendan. "Los Angeles Music - Down for the Good Life - page 2". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2009-06-28.