*Please note: LA in this article refers to the LA County area in general *
If there is one thing that we have all learned from this past summer, it is that the 90’s were a glorious time for Hip-Hop. Much of America spent this past summer cramped up in small theaters watching movies that brought us back to the 90’s: the hilarious and thought-provoking Dope had us all revisiting the style and sound of 90’s Hip-Hop culture (don’t act like you weren’t doing the Humpty Dance at the end of the movie), and Straight Outta Compton had us all dusting off those old N.W.A. records (or iTunes files) we forgot we even had. Hell, Straight Outta Compton even introduced a new generation of Hip-Hop listeners to 90’s LA Rap, earning N.W.A. their first Top 40 hit on the Billboard charts (Billboard). Hip-Hop heads everywhere spent the remainder of summer locked up in their rooms revisiting West Coast classics. Even for us millennials too young to even remember the 90’s, all it took was one listen of Tupac’s beautiful story-telling, Ice Cube’s vivid imagery, or Dr. Dre’s excellent production to make you feel as if you lived it.
Looking back, it’s almost impossible to fathom the impact that 90’s LA Rap had on Hip-Hop. Just think about it: the 90’s LA Rap Scene gave us Tupac, N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, Kurupt, and the list goes on. Within a decade, LA pumped out arguably some of the best rappers to ever grace the genre, gave us numerous acclaimed and genre-defining albums, and created an lasting influence that remains prevalent not only in Rap, but in all of pop culture. If it weren’t for the rapid growth of Rap within Los Angeles during the 90’s, Rap as it is known today would not exist. It is a beautiful period of time that will forever be cherished within the hearts, minds, and souls of all backpackers and rap fans. However, just as fast as the period came, the LA rap scene quickly ended. Within only a couple of years, N.W.A. quickly disbanded, the infamous East Coast/West Coast rap war left music powerhouse Death Row Records in shambles, and the beloved Tupac was murdered.
The death of the era was cemented with the release of Dr. Dre’s 2001, an acclaimed G-Funk collection of songs which reflected the beauty of 90’s LA rap and seemed as if it represented the first step forward into a new age of Rap. However, all rap momentum remaining in LA started to quickly fade away. Dr. Dre, the last remaining hope for 90’s Hip-Hop, left Rap almost as soon as he released 2001 to focus on building his label’s talent roster, while Ice Cube’s rap career began to fizzle off altogether. While West Coast legends such as Snoop Dogg continued to have fairly successful careers within the new millennium, it seemed as if there were no new voices coming from Los Angeles. Sure, LA Rap saw some brief surges of interest from the public throughout the 2000’s: The Game’s The Documentary album brought the public’s attention back to the LA, even if only temporarily. However, compared to output of Rap from the South and the East Coast, LA Rap had completely fallen off the radar of rap listeners.
During the late ‘00s/early 2010’s, the Internet had completely changed the face of the music industry. The ease of home recording and the affordability of music equipment made it possible for people anyone to produce and record their own music. No longer were record labels and recording studios necessary to create a hit song and build a following: all rappers needed were a laptop and a blog or soundcloud account. The rise of the DIY scene in rap created a highly competitive Mixtape/Free Album culture within Rap music, and just like that, the LA Rap scene began to flourish again. The new era of Internet rappers created a Rap renaissance in LA and saw a rise in more rappers and producers than ever before: Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, Blu, Pac Div, YG, DJ Mustard, Ty Dolla $ign, OFWGKTA, the Top Dawg Entertainment collective, etc. With the amount of mixtapes circulating on the Internet increasing, it became extremely difficult for a rapper’s music to stand out amongst the crowd. As a result, many rappers swiftly lost public relevance just as fast as they had gained it. What remained out of the pile of fallen hype rappers was an even stronger LA Rap Scene, one which would soon begin to take over mainstream pop culture.
One of the defining forces of the new LA Rap scene is Top Dawg Entertainment. Comprised at the time of Black Hippy members Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul, the Indie record label began to make waves within the Rap community with the release of Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80, Jay Rock’s Follow Me Home and SchoolBoy Q’s Habits & Contradictions. Kendrick Lamar’s poetic and vivid lyricism quickly became the voice guiding TDE and the new LA Rap scene with the release of his debut album good kid, mA.A.d city and Schoolboy Q’s debut album Oxymoron helped to further establish TDE as an LA Rap powerhouse. Kendrick’s follow up album To Pimp A Butterfly became one of Rap’s most ground-breaking projects and solidified Kendrick as the seminal artist of the new generation. Kendrick and TDE however weren’t the only voices coming out of the LA rap community.
Far removed on the other side of the Rap spectrum stood rap collective Odd Future (OFWGKTA). Comprised at the time of rappers Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Casey Veggies, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Mike G, and affiliate Vince Staples, Odd Future stood as the “weirdos” of rap, garnering acclaim due to their brash and extreme lyricism and imagery. As the careers of the individual members of Odd Future grew, the collective eventually disbanded, however, many of the former Odd Future members and affiliates became a definitive part of the LA rap community: Earl Sweatshirt’s second album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside solidified Earl as one of the best lyricists in Rap today, Tyler the Creator’s past two outings have garnered him a larger fan base, The Internet’s beautiful third album Ego Death featured some of Syd Tha Kid’s greatest songwriting to date, ex-OF member Casey Veggies has found a mainstream following with the release of his debut album Live & Grow, and OF affiliate Vince Staples’ debut album Summertime ’06 has been released to critical acclaim.
One of the biggest forces in the LA rap community and the music industry today has to be the collective work of Compton rapper YG, producer DJ Mustard, and singer/producer Ty Dolla $ign. YG & Ty Dolla Sign first came onto the scene with their club anthem “Toot It & Boot It,” both written and produced by Ty Dolla Sign. Following the success of the single, YG & Ty Dolla Sign continued to develop their artistic sound alongside the help of close friend and producer DJ Mustard. DJ Mustard began crafting his signature “ratchet” club sound, heavily influenced by the Bay Area Hyphy Movement, alongside YG & Ty Dolla Sign on YG’s Just Re’d Up mixtape series and Ty Dolla Sign’s Beach House series. The trio’s music and infectious production began to permeate with artists outside of LA and even Rap. Soon, Mustard’s production began taking over the airwaves: as he crafted hit singles for Tyga, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Jeremih, YG, Ty Dolla Sign, and the list goes on. The culmination of Mustard’s growth as a producer was displayed on YG’s debut album My Krazy Life. The album’s club-ready production and introspective lyricism made the album a critical success and established YG as one of LA’s most talented storytellers. Ty Dolla Sign will certainly reach the success of YG and DJ Mustard soon with the impending release of his debut album Free TC.
As LA Rap continues to dominate today’s Hip-Hop culture and radio airwaves, the city’s current impact will definitely not stop there. With all eyes being on LA’s latest talent exports, a new generation of young rappers has been developing within the LA rap community. Filled with distinct new voices and fresh new sounds, this new generation of LA rappers will soon be the ones to carry the LA rap community to great new heights. Highlighted below are four emerging LA rappers who will soon be up next:
No list of LA Rappers is complete without mention of Boogie, and for good reason. The Compton-native raps with such a strong hunger and such honesty on each and every track that it’s almost impossible not to get drawn into Boogie’s complex tales (even Boogie himself states this in the song “Oh My”). Each of Boogie’s songs take you on a haunting, introspective journey into his day-to-day life, taking you through graphic accounts of gang violence with his visceral, picturesque lyricism and wordplay. With only two projects to his name, the 25 year-old rappers has already begun making waves within the Hip-Hop world, recently signing on with Interscope Records and with legendary booking agent Cara Lewis at CAA. Just one listen to Thirst 48 & The Reach is all it takes to realize how bright of a future Boogie has in from of him.
Let’s face it: rappers are getting younger and younger these days. Don’t let Tre Capital’s age fool you though, what Capital may lack in age he definitely makes up for with pure, raw talent. At only 20 years old, Tre already has two projects underneath his belt: 2014’s Gundam Pt. 1 & 2015’s Gundam Pt. 2, bold flaunting some of beat aficionado WondaGirl’s hardest-hitting productions. Gritty, jolting and mesmerizing, Tre Cap raps with a bold bravado and confidence that ooze’s off of each of his bars. Tre Capital’s anime-influenced intensity, matched up with monster productions from close collaborators Eestbound and WondaGirl, creates a tumblr-fueled, 808 heavy sound that will cause millennials everywhere to go crazy just from one play.
Not much is known about Lashaun Ellis, other than the fact that he can definitely flow. Lashaun Ellis first came up on our radar with the release of his last project Never Home. The 19-track album is a lesson in minimalism: the LP features bare-boned production and almost no features. A risky move for most, but Lashaun makes it seem all too easy. Lashaun raps as if rhyming comes second nature to him, controlling the pace of each track completely through his delivery alone. With wordplay that could easily rival many of today’s best rappers and a presence that has “West Coast” written all over it, Lashaun has the ability to reach over to both hardcore-Hip-Hop fans and mainstream rap listeners. If his new tracks “Almost” and “30 Thousand” are of any indication, it is easy to tell that Lashaun is on his way to doing just that. We can’t wait to hear what Lashaun has in store for the rest of 2015.
Not a lot can be said about OXXFRD’s music, and that’s not a bad thing. Upon listening to OXXFRD, your first reaction is not to think about the music but feel it. OXXFRD is talented at not only creating a mood but an atmosphere, one that is melancholic and drug-soaked. OXXFRD’s lyrics transport you down the dark rabbit hole, with his slow and subtle delivery taking you on a slow-motion journey through gritty LA nightlife. With melancholic, eerie production from frequent collaborators such as Lani Christ, OXXFRD’s sound combines the best of both worlds of rap: capturing the energy-driven vibe of the likes of Travi$ Scott all with a lyrical presence that resembles Earl Sweatshirt. OXXFRD’s nonconforming delivery can have you obsessed with the feels at one point and can have a party completely lit the next.
Still relatively unknown to most of the rap world, Pharo is soon to be one of Compton’s brightest new stars. Along with the rest of his Leftovers collective, Pharo has been making waves on the local level with his powerful video releases. Raw, gritty, and in your face, Pharo’s music completely pulls you in with one listen, whether you like it or not. With a blunt, no fucks given delivery, Pharo brings to his music an unrelenting realness that is missing from many rappers coming up today. Backed up by surefire production from Leftovers affiliates such as Edubb and ANTDAWG, Pharo’s vivid lyricism is elevated to new heights, amplifying the raw feelings from his lyricism to the max. With the Rap world’s eyes planted on Boogie and the rest of Compton, it’s very clear that Pharo is up on deck.
If the future of LA Rap is in the hands of the rappers listed above, then we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Rap capital of the West Coast. What do you all think? Is there an upcoming LA rapper that is missing from the list that you think deserves a spot on the list? Let us know in the comment section below!