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West Coast hip hop

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West Coast hip hop

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West Coast hip hop
Stylistic origins: Form of hip hop music that combines the elements of Dancehall toasting with the rhythms of R&B, Reggae, disco, and funk.
Cultural origins: Early-1980s, California, United States
Typical instruments: Prominent Bass - rapping - drum machine - Sampler - synthesizer
Mainstream popularity: Popular throughout the early-to-mid 1990s, declined during the remainder of the decade up to the 2000s with varying degrees of mainstream exposure
Alternative hip hop - electro hop - G-Funk - Hyphy - Latin rap - Mobb Music
Regional scenes
Los Angeles - Long Beach - San Francisco (Bay Area) - Oakland - Seattle
Other topics
Gangsta Rap

West Coast hip hop, also known as California hip hop or West Coast rap, is a style of hip hop music that originated in California in the 1980s. It has since grown into a subgenre of hip hop and has developed several creative centers, most of which are in California.

These centers of West Coast hip hop is: The Los Angeles area, but can also include the greater San Francisco area (also known as the The Bay (Area) ), Oakland/Berkeley, Vallejo, and Seattle.


Origins and Early Success

The West Coast scene got its start during the early 1980s as hip hop music first gained national appeal, and established itself in California in general (and in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in particular). Early hardcore/gangsta rap performers included Too $hort, who put out three independent albums during the 1980's before his 1988 major-label debut, "Born to Mack," went gold. His next four albums all went platinum. In Los Angeles during the same period, artists like King Tee and Ice-T gained prominence, while World Class Wreckin' Cru, Egyptian Lover and the Arabian Prince innovated a style called electro hop (or simply electro), essentially a hybrid of dance music and rap - following the lead of Afrika Bambaataa, who had originally created hip hop by mixing together reggae, funk, and German techno. However, hip hop purists refused to accept electro hop, and it had all but disappeared by the mid-1990s.

N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton album cover, 1988 N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton album cover, 1988

The so-called "gangsta rap" movement also originated in California in the 1980's, serving as a sharp contrast to electro hop and other lighter forms of hip hop. Gangsta rap achieved a huge success until the mid of the 1990s. Ice-T's "6'n da Mornin" (1986) received some national exposure. Ice-T's seminal 1987 recording Rhyme Pays was a landmark for the genre, and N.W.A.'s N.W.A. and the Posse came out shortly thereafter, making waves among hip hop listeners nationwide.

In 1988, the now-legendary West Coast group N.W.A. released their blockbuster, Straight Outta Compton, and put the West Coast on the hip hop map. Their sound was influenced by hardcore, metal-tinged rap performers like Ice-T, Latino music commonly found in the ghettos of East L.A., and 70's soul music and p-funk. Straight Outta Compton united these sounds with minimalistic beats and blunt, hard-hitting lyrics filled with references to (and, often, promotions of) violence, hedonism, and the criminal lifestyle.

It has been suggested that the West Coast movement gained early recognition in Los Angeles partly due to the city's affiliation with the entertainment industry where most of the major record companies and labels reside.

West Coast hip hop also received vital early contributions from groups based in the Bay Area, and Oakland in particular. Too Short, for instance, was and is a giant in the genre, and MC Hammer was one of the first "pop-rap" national superstars. Both artists began their rap careers on the streets of Oakland, and the radically different paths their careers have taken are indicative of the fracturing of hip hop culture into multiple sub-genres over the last twenty years.

Seattle, Washington has also had an active scene from very early on, though their only major commercial success thus far has been Sir Mix-a-lot of "Baby got back!" fame.

The First Great Divide: East vs. West

Dr. Dre "The Chronic" album cover 1992 Dr. Dre "The Chronic" album cover 1992

With the nationwide success of N.W.A., the West Coast had finally established a style that matched the intensity and grit of the hip hop that was coming from the East Coast at the time. In gangsta rap, the West Coast scene had a voice that could compete with Public Enemy, KRS-One, and other East Coast powerhouses. Although N.W.A. would eventually crumble and its ranks diminish, its remaining members continued to build on the foundation the group had laid.

Two of N.W.A.'s most prominent members, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, both launched successful solo careers after the group's dissolution. Ice Cube's style was often more militant, angry, racially charged, and political than Dr. Dre's, and his lyrics and delivery earned him two platinum albums and a score of copycat artists. Dr. Dre's style, dubbed "g-funk" or "Gangsta Funk," was slower and more melodical, with heavy basslines topped by flutes and p-funk samples, and finished with a slurring, often whimsical lyrical delivery. Dr. Dre's debut album, The Chronic (1992), is widely considered to be a seminal work in the genre and not only established the sound of West Coast hip hop (then primarily gangsta rap) for years to come, but also launched the careers of several key West Coast hip hop artists, including Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dat Nigga Daz, Kurupt, Nate Dogg and Warren G.

While the beginnings of the rivalry between coastlines can be traced back to N.W.A., it took a personal beef between two of gangsta rap's greatest prodigies to fully capture the nation's attention. Tupac Shakur (2Pac), previously a dancer and second-string rapper with Digital Underground, delivered his debut album "2Pacalypse Now" in 1991 to surprising acclaim. While he was working on "Me Against the World" (1994), he was shot by muggers in the lobby of a New York City recording studio that The Notorious BIG and Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs were also allegedly at. While serving prison time for sexual assault, 2Pac accused The Notorious BIG and Sean Combs, amongst others, of orchestrating the shooting. This series of events sparked an intercoastal war between Bad Boy Entertainment (owned by Combs) and Death Row Records (owned by Suge Knight, who had arranged for 2Pac's parole and posted a $1.4M bail to sign the rapper).

2Pac "All Eyez on Me" album cover 1996 2Pac "All Eyez on Me" album cover 1996

The tension between Death Row and Bad Boy increased as both labels released a series of scathing tracks blatantly filled with insults, threats, and accusations targeted at the opposing labels. One of the most famous diss tracks that came out of the conflict was 2Pac's "Hit 'Em Up," in which he claims to have slept with The Notorious B.I.G.'s wife Faith Evans and attacks the famed rapper's street credibility. During this period of time, almost every incident in both rappers' personal lives was linked to the other, as the feud snowballed into hip hop's biggest story. The rivalry ended when 2Pac was fatally shot in 1996, a slaying that, not surprisingly, The Notorious BIG was widely suspected to be responsible for. In an incident that may or may not be connected to the rivalry, The Notorious BIG was also fatally shot in a similar fashion to Shakur, exactly six months after the fatal shooting of his West Coast rival.

Knight was eventually arrested on various unrelated charges, Death Row Records crumbled as Dr. Dre departed to form Aftermath Entertainment, and Snoop Dogg left to join No Limit Records. Gangsta rap disappeared from the national spotlight and the resulting void was filled by east-coast pop-rap acts such as Puff Daddy, Ma$e, and actor/musician Will Smith. By 1997, West Coast hip hop had gone underground.

The Second Great Divide: Commercial vs. Underground

Blackalicious “Nia” album cover 2000 Blackalicious “Nia” album cover 2000

Emcee Lynx "The UnAmerican LP" album cover 2004 Emcee Lynx "The UnAmerican LP" album cover 2004

An oft-cited reason for the decline of the West Coast scene in the late 1990's was that by that time it had been split into two almost totally unconnected factions. While Gangsta Rap artists like E-40 and Snoop Dogg - along with all of their countless imitators - continued to fight for access to the mainstream, the so-called Conscious Hip Hop scene on the West Coast adopted a more do-it-yourself ethos, disdaining commercial success. The aftereffects of the West Coast scene's "great divide" of the late 1990's can still be felt today: as a result of the split, major West Coast cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are now home to not one but multiple hip hop scenes, which are differentiated from each other as much by their politics as by their music.

In the late 1990's, the West Coast's Underground Hip Hop scene began to gain national and international prominence as artists like Spearhead, Blackalicious, Zion i, Aceyalone, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Hieroglyphics, Of Mexican Descent, Jurassic 5, The Coup, Dilated Peoples, Ozomatli, and many others (most of whom self-identify as "conscious" artists, and all of whom include overtly political messages in their music) gained worldwide fame without ever being signed to major labels.

Other West Coast artists, such as San Francisco's Emcee Lynx, took the political aspect of their music a step further and became active participants in - and de-facto spokespeople for - various social movements, something that has not happened to any significant degree in any of the U.S.'s other regional rap scenes.

Despite the emergence of the Underground movement as a major competitor at the turn of the century, West Coast Gangsta rap is still alive and well, although the sound and feel of the music has changed remarkably since the G-Funk era. Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre continue to be major players in the national mainstream, but local gangsta rap artists like E-40, The Frontline, Andre Nickatina continue to struggle for name recognition, having enjoyed less commercial success then their more politically-minded counterparts.

The Third Generation of the West Coast

The Game “The Documentary” album cover 2005 The Game “The Documentary” album cover 2005

West Coast rap seems to be on going a third generation of artists. The Game's album “The Documentary” along with a well publicized beef with 50 Cent has received more attention to the west coast. Some hip hop writers believed that the genre was on the brink of another intercoastal rivalry, between the artists of G-Unit Records (East Coast) and The Black Wall Street Records (West Coast). The Game, owner of The Black Wall Street Records, is currently "beefing" with 50 Cent, owner of G-Unit Records, over his dismissal from the G-Unit roster and 50 Cent's subsequent slander of The Game on New York public radio. Since that initial incident, artists from both labels have released underground recordings rife with insults and threats targeted at the opposing labels. In any case, the beef between The Game and 50 Cent is not likely to have an impact any where near as deep as that created by the split between 2Pac and B.I.G, because neither 50 nor The Game command anywhere near the loyalty or respect enjoyed by either Pac or Biggie, and their beef seems to have died down. The Game's success has promted knew interest in the west coast (although to what extent is heavly disputed). Since The Game released the Documentry, artist like G-Malone, Bishop Lamont, JT The Bigga Figga, Eastwood, and Ya Boy have all received much buzz over there signings/music. The Bay area also seems to be picking up steam with there brand of Hyphy music, promted by long time veteran E-40.

A sign of the west coast's unity. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Daz, Daddy V, Kurupt, DJ Quik, Fredwreck, Dilated Peoples, Xzibit, Tyrese, Too Short, Warren G, Strong Arm Steady, Yo Yo, JT The Bigga Figga, B Real, WC, MC Eiht, Bishop Lamont, Glasses Malone, J Wells and Jelly Roll during a photoshoot for The Dogg Pound's new single Cali is Active, featuring cameo appearances by said artists. A sign of the west coast's unity. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Daz, Daddy V, Kurupt, DJ Quik, Fredwreck, Dilated Peoples, Xzibit, Tyrese, Too Short, Warren G, Strong Arm Steady, Yo Yo, JT The Bigga Figga, B Real, WC, MC Eiht, Bishop Lamont, Glasses Malone, J Wells and Jelly Roll during a photoshoot for The Dogg Pound's new single Cali is Active, featuring cameo appearances by said artists.

After the success of his latest album R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta) The Masterpiece Snoop Dogg convoke the elder long-famed west side artist including the Bay Area into a meeting called the Western Conference on July 4th, 2005. They agreed to join forces again and and to end long standing beefs between each other in hopes of helping west coast music back to its once reigning place. It served as occasion for several members to announce cease-fire in their beefs including the reconciliation of Tha Dogg Pound, Jayo Felony and Snoop, The Game and JT the Bigga Figga. The headcount was about 60-70 people during the event. Snoop Dogg offered his label Doggystyle Records to be "engine" of the movement, and that he will promote it with his name.

On 22 April, 2006 the west side showed cohesion by appearing in the video shoot for the Dogg Pound single Cali Iz Active in the Elysian Park, Los Angeles.

External links West Coast News Network West Coast News Network West Coast News Network
90's Gangsta Rap

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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