Not since Ice Cube could the West Coast lay claim to the best rapper on the planet. Nobody was touching Ice Cube when Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate were causing pants-soiling fear across suburban America. Nobody was safe during Ice Cube’s prime: not the police, government, former friends from N.W.A, or the activator section at Walgreen’s.
The East Coast, fiercely protective of its baby, rolled out a Murderer’s Row of Redman, Nas, Biggie, and Jay-Z to bring the crown back to the Mecca, and the West Coast never recovered. The Westside Connection experiment was California’s defiant dying breath as the balance of power shifted back east in the late 1990s. Tupac was dead, Ice Cube was getting deeper into film, Snoop’s albums fell off, and E-40 wasn’t a commodity outside of the Bay Area.
The saviors of the West Coast came and went: The Game, Crooked I, Bishop Lamont, Nipsey Hussle to name a few. The Game has had the most success, benefiting from the blessings and assistance of the Old West as he took their sounds and formulas and interpreted them for a new generation. The Game kept the West Coast relevant, but at no point in time has he been mistaken for the best rapper on the planet.
While California’s indie scene is immensely talented, you won’t see those artists at the BET Awards or their videos on MTV Jams. I’ve been treated to a parade of average California rappers who can’t freestyle a lick who try to re-create the Death Row Records sound because it represents the high point of West Coast hip-hop. If the Ohio Players successfully collected from every California rap album that sampled “Funky Worm”, they’d rake in more royalties than Elvis and Michael Jackson combined. After 20 years of Dr. Dre retreads, you’d think California artists would get it by now: where’s the originality?
Every day, Rap Internet and its kingmakers and gatekeepers trot out the next hot thing, the next Chosen One who will create an album that will be mentioned in the same breath as the sacred texts of the 1990s. We wait for the one who will brazenly carve their face onto Rap Rushmore alongside the godfathers and G.O.A.T.s. Invariably, this figure is from a New York cypher circle or Detroit’s assembly line of lyrical miracles, or someone from down South who raps like they’re from New York. But the new champion hails from the Jerusalem of the West Coast’s Holy Land: Compton.
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