West Coast hip hop

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West Coast hip hop is a hip hop music subgenre that encompasses any artists or music that originate in the West Coast region of the United States. 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 and Dr. Dre's Death Row Records.


Early years[edit]

It is known that the five elements of hip-hop culture, B-boying, beatboxing, DJing, graffiti art, and MCing, existed on the East and West Coasts of the United States simultaneously during the mid-seventies.[1] 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 also emerged in the West, existing from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area during the same period.[1]

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 & DJ Flash, Eazy E, Ice T, and Too Short. According to geniusrap.com,[2] "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.[citation needed] By 1980, the group were known[who?] as the best party promoters in Los Angeles.[citation needed] In 1983 its leader Roger Clayton, influenced by the Funkadelic album Uncle Jam Wants You changed 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 included the popular 12" single "Egypt Egypt".

Another early landmark occurred in 1981, when Duffy Hooks III 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 1981 debut single was "Gigolo Rapp" bw "Gigolo Groove". The labels second act was The Rappers Rapp Group a six-member group that included DJ Flash, King MC, MC Fosty and Lovin C who's infectious 1984 hit single Radio Activity Rapp packed the dance floors for L.A. to the Bay. also in 1983, Captain Rapp created the classic West Coast song "Bad Times (I Can't Stand It)".[citation needed]

In the mid-1980s, Mixmaster Spade defined an early form of gangsta rap with his Compton Posse.[citation needed] 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. Dr. Dre along with Eazy E and NWA made an impact on Rap and how its portrayed by people forever. They have forever changed the rap game, and what it stands for. They stood up against racism and created riots in the streets of L.A. They were one of the first rap groups to give off such a different atmosphere and excel in their specific music industry. They had the theme of "Not caring" and doing what they wanted. Eventually the group split up and went separate ways but will always be remembered for what they accomplished.

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.[citation needed][dubious ]


Late 1980s and 1990s[edit]

Dr. Dre, producer, solo artist and former member of N.W.A

In 1988, N.W.A's landmark album Straight Outta Compton was released.[4] 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, this was where Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy had been recording that day, which led Shakur to accuse them of setting him up. Tensions were at their highest at the Source Awards in 1995, with artists from both sides making indirect comments about the others. In February 1995, Eazy-E would announce he was diagnosed with AIDS, and would die a little over a month later after making amends with his former N.W.A group members.

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.

Alternative and underground scene[edit]

In the early 1990s, many of Los Angeles' alternative and underground MCs[who?][clarification needed] attended the Good Life Cafe to hone their skills and develop their craft.[5] Artists such as Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Abstract Rude, Spinz, Ahmad, Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, the Pharcyde, and Skee-Lo performed at the Good Life's open mic Thursday nights from the late 80s through the mid-90s.[6] 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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Secret History of West Coast Hip-Hop". Archived from the original on March 30, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  2. ^ Caesar, Syd. "Westside Story: The History of West Coast Hip Hop". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Esther Iverem Washington Post,Staff Writer. "East Vs. West: 'Gangsta' Rap's War of Words." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Mar 10 1997. ProQuest. Web. 4 Oct. 2015
  4. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/subgenre/west-coast-rap-ma0000002932.  Missing or empty |title= (help)"set the stage for a more identifiable West Coast style"
  5. ^ a b 2Mex, P.E.A.C.E. (2008). This Is the Life (DVD). Forward Movement.  Retrieved on 2009-06-28.
  6. ^ Mullen, Brendan. "Los Angeles Music - Down for the Good Life - page 2". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2009-06-28.