California back: 4 artists leading the West Coast rap renaissance
Back in the early 90s, Dr. Dre, Ice Cub, Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, and Nate Dogg changed hip-hop with their aggressive G-Funk sound, bringing the art form out West in earnest for the first time.
It took awhile for rap listeners to catch on, but by the mid-90s, when Tupac Shakur was one of the biggest stars in the world, West Coast hip-hop was officially a force. Then everything went relatively quiet.
As revolutionary and different as N.W.A and Snoop were in 1992, by the late 90s, West Coast hip-hop suffered a serious drought until Dr. Dre and Eminem’s new artist, The Game, came out of nowhere with The Documentary in 2005, a seminal project of modern rap.
Game proudly proclaimed on The Documentary‘s title track “I’ll take all the credit for putting the west back on the map,” and no could really argue with the facts.
Then in the late 2000s, out of the Thizz-filled haze of the Bay Area’s hyphy movement came The Pack, a quartet of rappers including Lil B that brought a whole new sound and style, much closer to dance music than the gangsta rap of their southern counterparts in LA.
The Pack were a wild combination of Bay Area hyphy rap and the emerging backpack rap of The Cool Kids and Kid Cudi. The impact of The Pack can’t really be quantified, but it’s not a stretch to watch the “Vans” video and see much of the sounds and aesthetic of modern “Soundcloud Rap.”
So during the aughts, you had The Game and The Pack, offering completely different takes on rap in every possible way, but the combination of Game bringing back LA’s gangsta rap and The Pack’s goofy, 808-filled hyphy rap has led to the current landscape of new West Coast hip-hop.
The West Coast no longer finds itself in a drought of hip-hop talent. Top Dawg Entertainment, with its star-studded roster of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, SZA, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, et al. is probably the most powerful independent label in music. YG and Nipsey Hussle are both bonafide stars (with an apparent collab album on the way).
But those artists are all in the mainstream to various extents (not to mention Kendrick Lamar is the most important artist out right now). Let’s take a look at some of the lesser known West Coast artists on the come up leading the renaissance.
Sacramento native Mozzy has been rapping since 2011, but didn’t officially blow up until 2015 with his album Bladadah.
Since then, Mozzy has become one of the most followed rappers in the West Coast underground, his gravely voice, deadpan flow, and penchant for a good story have made Mozzy an incredibly intriguing artist.
Mozzy is also one of Kendrick Lamar’s favorite rappers, for whatever that’s worth. When Kendrick won best rap album of the year at the Grammys his first words were, ““Like my guy Mozzy say, ‘God up top all the time.'”
Mozzy also grabbed a slot on the Black Panther soundtrack with “Seasons”.
The Sacramento native is one of the most influential dudes in the underground, with young artists from thousands of miles away from California, like YBN Nahmir, naming him as a main inspiration.
Mozzy is a little rough around the edges, but listening to him reveals where rap, in California and beyond, is headed.
SOB X RBE
The Vallejo, California four-piece group SOB X RBE is one of the most exciting up-and-coming rap acts out right now.
After gaining massive momentum from their smash single “Anti” in 2016, dropping the fire self-titled album in 2017, SOB X RBE got the Black Panther placement, and dropped their most recent album Gangin last week.
There’s such a wild energy in SOB X RBE’s music. The gritty bars of Slimmy B, Lul G, and DaBoii contrast with the smoother, melodic sing-rapping of Yhung T.O. to perfection.
After linking up only a couple years ago, SOB X RBE is already well on their way to stardom. Gangin is a truly impressive project, give these kids a listen if you haven’t yet.
Drakeo The Ruler
I’ve written about Drakeo The Ruler a couple times. There’s no hiding the fact that I’m incredibly excited about this dude. His style is so bizarre, so far from normal rapping, it’s more just like stream of consciousness shit talking.
Drakeo’s unbothered, imprecise, improvisational delivery has gotten him comparisons to Gucci Mane. And while he’s had some legal problems that have made that comparison all the more appropriate, Drakeo is home and ready to take over.
For all those decreeing homogenous nature of hip-hop right now (you’re not looking hard enough) Drakeo the Ruler is for you.
Greedo, a collaborator of Drakeo the Ruler’s (a rumored joint project is on the way from the duo), is an equally bizarre artist technically.
He doesn’t really sing, it’s not quite rapping, but Greedo’s delivery falls somewhere in between the two, it’s a fun and exhilarating sound that has critics labeling him LA’s most exciting rapper and the future of West Coast rap.
Greedo is raw, unbridled, and real. His music is equally aggressive and pensive, familiar and abstract at the same time. There’s something compelling about an artist who seems so self-possessed with their art, like they could care less whether you listen or not.