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West Coast Hip-Hop is a regional variation of Hip-Hop originating from Los Angeles, California. The genre itself is said to be created by local DJs such as Alonzo Williams. It eventually gained Nationwide attention due to the likes of artist such as Ice-T and N.W.A/ What helped it be unique from East Coast Hip Hop had to due with the fact that it was more focused on beats and bassline. Since the late 1980s, the genre has heavily focused on issues in low-income, minority neighborhoods throughout California, most notably gang lifestyle, drugs, and street violence.

History and Background[]

Orgins and early years[]

During the late 1970s, two DJs from Southern Califonia by the names of Alonzo Williams and Robert Clayton formed a partnership. The deal was that Williams would be hired to DJ at events for Clayton's company, Unique Dreams. The two eventually went their separate paths. Williams created his own group called the World Class Wreckin' Cru and became the house DJs at a local nightclub called Eve's After Dark while Clayton founded a mobile DJ crew in by the name of Uncle Jamm's Army. Uncle Jamm's became one of the most successful DJ Crews in the area and many smaller crews formed to gain popularity as well. West . Breakdancing, popping and locking gave the Los Angeles music scene some of its earliest credibility outside the region. West Coast Hip Hop also started to gain more attention due to popular East Coast groups such as Whodini and Run-DMC being invited to parties by Uncle Jamm's Army.

in 1981, Rappers Rapp Records was founded by Duffy Hooks and was the first West Coast record label. The Label's first act was the duo of Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp, whose debut single was "The Gigolo Rapp" in 1981. The single was somewhat successful to a minor degree, but had very little radio play. This often happened to many other Hip-Hop artist and groups from California, as well. Captain Rapp then created a song released in 1983 by the name of "Bad Times (I Can't Stand It)", which is a politically conscious response to Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" arranged by the legendary production duo of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Rich Cason. Uncle Jamm's Army released their first single, "Dial-a-Freak", and in 1984 Egyptian Lover released his On the Nile album, which includes the popular 12" single "Egypt Egypt". Members of Uncle Jamm's Army and the World Class Wreckin' Cru such as Dr. Dre, The Unknown DJ, Egyptian Lover, Ice-T and Kid Frost would later go on to help define the early West Coast hip hop sound throughout the 1980s.

Around the same time period during the mid 1980s, Williams created his group called the World Class Wreckin Cru', which included Dr Dre and DJ Yella, who would later become members of N.W.A. He also formed Kru-Cut Records and established a recording studio in the back of his nightclub, Eve's After Dark, which was founded in 1979. 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 C.IA, .which included future N.W.A member 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, which was the first radio station in the U.S. to play rap and Hip-Hop 24 hours a day.

Success and rise to mainstream[]

One of the most notable pioneers of West Coast Hip Hop and gangsta rap is Ice T, with songs such as "6 in the Mornin," released in 1986, demonstrating the unique style of the west coast. In 1988, Ice-T released the R&B hit "I'm Your Pusher", and Too Short released album "Life is ・・Too short". N.W.A's then released Straight Outta Compton in 1988, the band's most popular and successful album. The album heavily focused on the problems and troubles of life in the ghettos of SoCal, specifically in Compton and South Central Los Angeles. It was released by group member Eazy-E's record label Ruthless Records. The albulm helped form a basis for the popularity of gangsta rap and increased interest in the West Coast Hip Hop scene . In particular, the controversial song "Fuck tha Police" and the ensuing censorship attracted substantial media coverage and public attention. However, the group broke up due to disagreements and most of the members started their own solo careers, starting with Ice Cube's departure in 1989. Ice Cube formed his own record label by the name of Lenchmob Records and released some of the West Coast's most critically acclaimed albums, such as 1991's Death Certificate and 1992's The Predator, as well as playing roles in movies and TV such as in John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood in 1991.

The early 1990s saw great success and strength for the West Coast Hip Hop scene. Tupac Shakur's debut album 2Pacalypse Now was released in 1991, demonstrating a social awareness, with attacks on social injustice such as racism, police brutality, poverty, crime, drug and teenage pregnancy. This album featured 3 singles: "Brenda's Got a Baby", "Trapped" and "If My Homie Calls". 2Pacalypse Now was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on April 19, 1995. Shakur's music and philosophy was rooted in various philosophies and approaches, including the Black Panther Party, Black nationalism, egalitarianism and liberty. Tupac sold over 75 million records, being regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time and a pioneer of West Coast rap.

Also in 1991, Suge Knight founded Death Row Records. In 1992, former N.W.A member Dr Dre released his debut album, The Chronic. This resulted in the Birth of the G-Funk sound that dominated the West Coast in the 90s, with the album's lead single "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" peaking at #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Other Death Row releases such as Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle (1993), Tha Dogg Pound's Dogg Food (1995), and 2Pac's All Eyez on Me (1996) became best sellers and were also critically acclaimed. 2 Pac gained hit singles such as "California Love" and "Live and Die in LA".

The battle between Death Row Records and the East Coast's Bad Boy Records, fronted by Puff Daddy and The Notorious B.I.G, heavily assisted the popularity of West Coast Hip Hop. The east–west feud gained widespread attention 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 to their highest at the Source Awards in 1995, with artists from both sides making indirect comments about the other.

Tupac Shakur was shot in Los Angeles on September 7, 1996, which led to his death almost a week later due to wounds on September 13. This event caused a massive impact on Hip-Hop as a whole. Shakur had been the West Coast's most popular rapper and among 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 massive decline in 1997. The death of the East Coast Rapper and former Tupac adversary, The Notorious B.I.G, ended the intense west–east feud of the 1990s. The West Coast scene slowly started to fade from the mainstream, and rap fans moved towards the East Coast and Southern scene.


Though previous rappers and groups from the 1990s such as Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg still managed to produce popular albums during the 2000s, they didn't garner nearly as much success compared to those from the previous decade. However, many newer West Coast artist started to rise in the Hip-Hop scene and released albums that led to major success. Notable artist that gained popularity during the 2000s include Xzibit, the Game, and E-40. Eventually, this lead to a resurgence in the West Coast Hip Hop scene during the late 2000s and early 2010s.

During the early 2010s, the genre started to transition into a more uptempo and club-oriented sound. DJ Mustard played a major role in re-introducing West Coast Hip Hop into the mainstream. He gained popularity for producing singles for for popular artist. in 2012, Kendrick Lamar released his album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. It was met with rave reviews and was featured on many critics' end-of-year lists. The album was nominated Album of the Year at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, marking the first time any West Coast hip hop was nominated for award. In 2014, Schoolboy Q debuted at no.1 on the Billboard 200 with 139,000 copies sold. YG's My Krazy Life debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 with 61,000 copies sold.

Influences and style[]

The sound of West Coast Hip Hop was heavily influenced by Funk and Electronic music of the 1970s and early 1980s. Notable funk artist and groups that influenced the genre include George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic, Roger Troutman's Zapp, and Charlie Wilson's Gap Band. Unlike its East Coast counterpart, West Coast Hip Hop put heavy emphasis on sound, rhythm, and beats. It as well featured many electronic sounds and notes. This likely has to do with the fact that the genre was originally revolved around DJ-ing rather than lyrics. In addition, West Coast Hip Hop is well known for its strong baselines. Despite this, the sound of the genre has evolved and changed since the 1980s and 1990s.


The Cholo style that was created and worn by the Latino community of Southern California heavily influenced the fashion of West Coast Hip Hop of the late 1980s to mid 2000s.

Baggy khakis or jeans, oversized t-shirts, flannels, and sweatshirts were very common clothing with gang members and rappers in the West Coast. Sneakers were very common as well, with some notable ones being the Nike Cortez, Air Jordan 1, and classic Chuck Taylors. Hairstyles that were popular during the time included cornrow braids, box braids, jheri curls, and high top fades, though many would just have bald heads as well. In addition, merchandise of the LA Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Lakers, and Raiders were very common.

Notable artist and groups[]

  • Eazy E
  • Ice Cube
  • Dr Dre
  • N.W.A
  • Snoop Dogg
  • 2Pac
  • Nate Dogg
  • The D.O.C
  • Kurrupt
  • Dezzy Hollow
  • Daz Dillinger
  • Tha Dogg Pound
  • DJ Quik
  • Too Short
  • Cypress Hill
  • OhGeesy
  • Mike Sherm
  • Coolio
  • Kid Frost
  • Zoe Osama
  • Too $hort
  • The Eastsidaz
  • Hi-C
  • Westside Connection
  • Xzibit
  • The Game
  • Lil Rob
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • DJ Mustard
  • Roddy Rich