WORDS + ILLUSTRATIONS: Alex Rhek Usow
With complete disregard for the underground scene and hip-hop producers.
The fathers of gangsta rap and one of the most influential music groups ever. While remembered mostly for fucking the police and bringing the West Coast sound to the world, Cube, Ren, Dre, Yella, Eazy and the DOC could rap, write, produce, and perform with the best of them.
The legacy of Compton rap comes full circle with Kendrick Lamar, hands down the best living rapper on the planet. Music critics, frat boys, hipsters, gangbangers and even Taylor Swift recognize real – that boy good.
You can’t spell Latino without LA, so it would be wrong to not include Cypress Hill. These boys had a huge global impact; skateboarders liked ‘em, New Yorkers liked ‘em, and they really, really liked weed.
You can’t talk about Los Angeles rap without Snoop, but if you know his music then you know it sucks. His only truly exceptional work was Doggystyle (entirely written by the DOC), but who cares, his flow is smooth and swagger unrivaled. He’s a legit superstar and everyone's favorite uncle. Wiz Khalifa is basically his son.
While Los Angeles’ sound is primarily gangsta rap, we also birthed the Pharcyde. They blessed the scene with humor and East Coast style beats that showed the diversity of our city. And Fatlip is the actual best.
Yes, yes, I know – he’s not from LA, but he is undeniably the greatest rapper on this list and synonymous with West Coast rap. So fuck you. He started his rap career as a dancer for Digital Underground and ended it by literally dying for the West Coast.
Vince is carrying the torch for LA underground rap. He’s so progressive and rooted in the underbelly of Los Angeles gang culture that we literally have no idea what he’s talking about, but we know it’s good. Plus, we’d rather list him than Odd Future.
100% not a rapper. But Nate Dogg paved the way as a melodic male voice in a genre that never before had one. I mean, how many singers can make “I got hoes in different area codes” sound beautiful?
Instead of listing people like Freestyle Fellowship, Ras Kass, or Murs, we’ll go with Anderson .Paak so that this isn’t a list of washed up old rappers. Anderson is holding it down for LA’s illustrious lineage of weirdo art funk and rapping along the way.
Perhaps more influential as a producer than a rapper, but a legend nonetheless. This spot could have gone to a number of rappers outside our top 10, but Quik has more luxurious hair than all of them.