As I have finally accepted that I no longer live in the California sunshine, there are two things that I have had to mentally overcome. First is obviously that I no longer have access to the best weed in the world and am instead expected to pay ridiculous prices for what Philly calls “fire” and second, that no one knows anything about some of the best hip-hop this country has to offer. When approached about Bay Area hip-hop, most people will point to the Hyphy movement that momentarily hit the mainstream a few years ago. And while I have great respect for the hyphy movement and the “we don’t give a fuck, let’s go dumb” aspect of it that so encompasses the Bay Area mindset; if you are one of those people whose word association for Bay Rap is Hyphy, consider this an education.
widely considered the best rapper in the Bay, I would go as far as to call him one of the best ever. The definition of cocaine raps, Nickatina finds the perfect balance between incredible lyrical ability, vivid story telling and just plane hardcore raps. With over 10 albums released since 1993, Dre Dog has never fallen off and continues to make some of the best music out. With production that helped define the bay area sound, Nickatina’s use of live music and buzzing keyboards match his raspy flow perfectly. As much as i suggest you listen to the other artists on this list, if you must choose one, make it Nickatina.
No, not the Tell Me When to Go or You and that Booty E-40, but the E-40 who allowed us to have Life After Death. While he has been given some mainstream credit due to hyphy, 40 has been killin’ it since the early 90’s. His bouncing flow and creative rhymes continue to make him one of the most respected and listenable rappers on the West Coast. A slang genius, 40 invented at least 60% of the slang in rap – it wasn’t Snoop, but 40 who started the whole “izzle” thing, yadidimean? While he is still making records, I myself prefer pre-2000 E-40, but still find time to blast Tell Me When to Go and go dumb every once and a while.
Comprised of Mr. Cee, Black C and Hitman – not the most creative names, I know – RBL Posse came out in ’92 with the still classic Don’t Give Me No Bammer, a well deserved tell-off to dealers trying to pass shit weed in the Sucka Free City. With hardcore gritty rhymes and incredible funk/soul samples, RBL was one of the most respected groups in the Bay, and deservedly so. Sadly, both Mr. Cee and Hitman were murdered in San Francisco’s notorious Hunter’s Point neighborhood and the group disbanded after only 3 studio albums.
Last but certainly not least is the godfather of hyphy and thizz, Mac Dre. Not known for deep or thought provoking lyracism, the leader of the Nation of Thizzlam is instead known as the best entertainer in the history of the area. Through his outlandish songs, dances and drug use – thizz is a Bay term for ecstacy – make it nearly impossible to dislike Dre. While not all fluff, Mac Dre does have some impressive rhymes if one isn’t too busy doing the Thizzle Dance to listen to the lyrics. If there is ever a time when you just need music that makes you feel good, Mac Dre is your choice.