The Evolution Of West Coast Rap [1983 - 2019]

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Shared June 13, 2019

Evolution Of West Coast Hip-Hop, Most Popular Rap Songs.

West Coast hip hop is a hip hop music regional genre that encompasses any artists or music that originate in the West Coast region of the United States. The gangsta rap subgenre of West Coast hip hop began to dominate from a radio play and sales standpoint during the early 1990s with the birth of G-funk and the emergence of Suge Knight and Dr. Dre's D*ath Row Records.

As it was originally known, hip hop was a movement in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It revolved around four key areas: MCing (now known as rapping), DJing, graffiti art and b-boying (breakdancing).

While all four areas were important, the two that we will focus on are MCing and DJing, as they have the most relevance to both to audio and hip hop.

Hip hop’s roots come from a DJ scratching a record to create a looped beat while an MC raps along to the beat. While much has changed over the years, the essential idea of rapping to a looped beat is still the foundation for most hip hop songs. Many music producers still follow these old techniques, loading up an old soul record and creating a new track.

However, hip hop advanced beyond this in 1983 when Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force began using synthesizers and drum machines to create entirely new tracks.

While there is much that took place along with this, and many artists such as Run-DMC, LL Cool J and others helped to define the genre, let’s fast-forward to 1987.

In 1987, in Compton, CA, an important move was taking place. Where previously hip hop had been politically and socially motivated, a new sub-genre was forming: gangsta rap. A group known as N.W.A., consisting of Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Ice Cube and Eazy-E released an album titled “Straight Outta Compton.” Dr. Dre provided the production for the album, consisting almost entirely of rolling basslines and drums.

Straight Outta Compton was a big hit. While the group eventually disbanded over financial disputes, N.W.A.’s legacy would help shape the future.

Dr. Dre would later sign with Suge Knight’s D*ath Row Records, along with an up-and coming rapper named Tupac Shakur, ushering in the era of West Coast Gangsta Rap. Dre remains quite influential in the industry today, widely recognized as a pioneer in hip hop and music production.

Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, a similar movement was happening. Perhaps most notable was Sean “Puffy” Combs’ departure from Uptown Records, taking newly signed rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie) with him to found Bad Boy Records.
Bad Boy Records was competing with Suge Knight’s West Coast powerhouse D*ath Row Records.

This, while not immediately, would lead to the downfall of gangsta rap as a genre, and move hip hop into the popular music genre where it remains today.

Let’s end the history lesson here. There is much more that could be said, with artists along the way that I have overlooked, but this is just meant to be a brief outline to provide context.

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