West Coast Hip Hop
While Hip-Hop was born on the East Coast in New York City, West Coast rappers introduced the world to gangster rap and brought more reality to rap music. Beginning with the likes of King Tee and Ice-T, West Coast hip hop would come to true form with rise of NWA and later Death Row Records, while not to leave out Bay Area legends Too $hort and E-40. From the late 1980s to the 1990s to the early 2000s, West Coast hip hop artists released numerous hits, dropped numerous classic albums, and helped create the careers of numerous legends in the rap game.
Top 40 West Coast Rappers
Arguably the Michael Jordan of hip-hop, 2Pac will always be considered as the greatest rapper to ever lived. Through his passion and heartfelt lyrics, 2Pac’s impact on society and many music lovers will forever live on. While growing up on the East Coast, 2Pac’s most notable moments occurred through his presence as an artist on the West Coast, from beginning with Oakland’s Digital Underground to linking with Death Row.
2. Snoop Dogg
The universal face of hip-hop music and hip-hop culture, there has been no artist in the history of rap music that has reached the levels of popularity as the Long Beach native. Beginning as an up-and-coming rapper featured on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Snoop Dogg would later make his debut with one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time, Doggystyle. Now, Snoop Dogg has become a true icon in pop culture, with a reach well beyond rap and hip-hop fans.
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3. Ice Cube
One of, if not the, greatest storytellers of hip-hop, Ice Cube’s story is quite known, beginning with NWA, before launching his solo career. While now, Ice Cube has long switched lanes and has become a mogul, an acclaimed actor, and a Hollywood producer, but for the longest Ice Cube was untouchable as a MC, releasing numerous classics since the start of the 1990s.
4. Dr. Dre
Despite the ghostwriters, Dr. Dre has been often viewed as the Quincy Jones of hip-hop, a true hitmaker credited for production of many all-time classics. While making hits for a number of artists and being the brains behind Death Row and NWA, Dr. Dre released two hip-hop masterpieces The Chronic and 2001.
The man behind some of West Coast hip hop’s first big hits, Eazy-E went from being one of the leading artists of NWA, to having a successful career as an executive and solo artist. In all, Eazy-E helped give birth to three of the greatest rap groups of all-time, NWA, Above The Law, and Bone Thugs N Harmony, while being known for West Coast hits like “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s”, “Boyz N The Hood”, and “Eazy Duz It”.
The man that kickstarted much of hip-hop’s lingo and slang, the legend and the veteran E-40 has remained the longest active artist, with longevity ranging from 1993’s Federal to 2019’s Practice Makes Paper, along with numerous collaborations, mixtapes, and EPs. While making his debut in 1991 with Mr. Flamboyant, E-40’s classic In a Major Way truly began the career of one of the all-time great West Coast rappers.
7. Too Short
Originally from Los Angeles, before making his way to Oakland, Too $hort is another legend that has spent years in the game. For over four decades, Too $hort has been pioneering West Coast hip hop and a style and genre of rap that he easily established. Beginning during the early 1980s and taking off following Born to Mack and Life Is…Too Short of the late 1980s, with years in, Too $hort has become one of the most iconic rap artists of all-time, especially with his iconic phrases and raunchy lyrics.
8. Ice T
One of the true pioneers of West Coast hip-hop, the now renowned actor was once the biggest rapper on the West Coast. Debuting during the 1980s, Ice-T would have a few years of success with hit records like “Colors,” “6 N The Mornin’,” “New Jack Hustler,” “I’m Your Pusher,” and many more through the late 1980s and early 1990s, before becoming television’s top cop.
9. King Tee
One of the very first faces of West Coast hip hop, King Tee helped build the foundation for the West Coast rap scene during the 1980s. While not reaching the success as Ice-T or NWA, King Tee has often been viewed as one of the pioneers that opened the door for numerous West Coast rappers.
10. Warren G
Long Beach native, and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre affiliate, Warren G will always be remembered for one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all-time, “Regulate.” Despite being the brother of Dr. Dre and starting his career with Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, Warren G did not sign with Death Row, but was once the top West Coast artist on Def Jam during the 1990s, while also being one of the few mainstream G Funk artists.
11. Mack 10
The first rapper to put Inglewood on the map, Mack 10 made his first appearances collaborating and featuring with Ice Cube. Mack 10 made his solo debut with the 1995 hit “Foe Life”. Since, Mack 10 has found success releasing numerous projects, linking with Ice Cube and WC to form Westside Connection, and has remained one of the most respect West Coast rappers.
12. DJ Quik
Compton native, rapper and producer, DJ Quik mastered and crafted a specific sound and style of rap. During the heart of the G-Funk era, DJ Quik was at the forefront. Making a name for himself through the 1990s, beginning with Quik Is the Name and ending the decade with Rhythm-al-ism, DJ Quik was arguably one of the most underrated artists of his time.
13. Mac Dre
Bay Area and Vallejo legend, Mac Dre was the Bay’s number one artist. Debuting during the early 1990s, Mac Dre’s presence reigned throughout the entire Northern California region, and expanding as far as the Midwest. During his time, Mac Dre helped pioneered the hyphy movement and helped start the careers of numerous rappers.
14. Digital Underground
Led by the legendary Shock G, the Oakland group of Digital Underground introduced the world to Tupac Shakur. In the era of gangster rap, Digital Underground brought their lively style to West Coast hip hop, showcasing a more fun and loving lifestyle of the West Coast, showcased through songs like “The Humpty Dance” and “Same Song”.
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Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Kurupt made his way to the streets of Los Angeles during his teenage years. Beginning his career as a member of Death Row Records, recording as a featured artist and part of the Tha Dogg Pound with Daz Dillinger. Eventually, in 1998, Kurupt would make his solo debut with the Kuruption!, beginning to build on the argument as one of the best lyricist to represent West Coast hip hop.
16. Daz Dilinger
Producer and rapper Dat N**ga Daz, aka Daz Dillinger, played an implicate role in the rise and dominance of Death Records for West Coast hip hop, especially with the release one of the all-time classics of Dogg Food, a longtime collaboration with Kurupt in Tha Dogg Pound.
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Another West Coast artist to create one of hip-hop’s all-time classics, Coolio’s “Gangstas Paradise,” which reached the masses and became a staple of 1990s pop culture. Becoming a mainstay following “Fantastic Voyage,” Coolio would continue release a few chart topping tracks, before transitioning into a career of acting.
Originally from New Mexico, Xzibit made himself into one of the top West Coast rappers during the early 2000s. While beginning during the 1990s, Xzibit’s career most shining moments were collaborating with Dr. Dre and the release of Restless and Man vs. Machine, all before transitioning into acting and becoming a television personality.
19. Spice One
One of the most gangster of all gangster rappers, Spice One solidified his stance in West Coast hip hop during the early 1990s with songs like “187 Proof”, “Welcome To The Ghetto”, “Strap On The Side”, and and the classic album of AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare.
Known for being part of the trio Westside Connection and for his famous C-Walk, WC emerged into legendary status after years of grinding. Beginning during the late 1980s and early 1990s as member of groups like Low Profile and Maad Circle, WC would later make his solo start with The Shadiest One and Ghetto Heisman.
Following Snoop Dogg’s much success, he linked with fellow Long Beach artists to represent for the city’s East Side, Tray Dee and Goldie Loc. Despite having only two projects, Snoop Dogg presents ThaEastsidaz and Duces N Trayz, the impact the trio had on the West Coast during the early 2000s was something that carried hip hop on the West Coast following the ending to Death Row.
22. Suga Free
Growing up outside of Los Angeles in the city of Pomona, Suga Free was a player on the microphone. Going from pimping on the track, to pimping on wax, Suga Free was one of a kind, lacing much knowledge and wisdom about the game in his raps.
23. Sir Mix-a-Lot
Seattle native and the only artist not from California on the list, Sir Mix-a-Lot made some of the biggest club and radio hits of the late 1980s and early 1990s, “Posse on Broadway” and of course “Baby Got Back,” two songs that stood the test of time.
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24. Rappin’ 4 Tay
One of the earliest Bay Area rappers, the San Francisco legend began his career during the late 1980s, featuring on Too $hort’s Life Is…Too $hort. Debuting his solo career during the early 1990s with Rappin’ 4-Tay Is Back, but the songs “Playaz Club” and “I’ll Be Around,” along with his sophomore album Don’t Fight the Feelin’, solidified the legacy of the Fillmore native.
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25. Brotha Lynch Hung
Sacramento’s all-time great and one of the first artists to represent California’s capital city in hip-hop, Brotha Lynch Hung was not the typical gangster rapper. Reaching the extremes, the Sacramento native became one of the West Coast’s most vivid rappers, illustrating a gruesome picture through his unique wordplay, combining gangster rap with horrorcore.
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26. Richie Rich
One of Oakland’s first rap artists that truly represented “The Town.” Starting with the legendary Oakland group 415, known for the hit song “Side Show” and the classic album of 41Fivin, Richie Rich kicked off his solo career during 1990 with his debut album Don’t Do It. Being one of the first West Coast artists on Def Jam, Richie Rich released the classic Seasoned Veteran. Reaching success, Richie Rich became one of the most influential rappers of the West Coast.
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27. Jayo Felony
Possibly San Diego’s most known and most successful West Coast rapper, Jayo Felony’s reach was well beyond San Diego and California, as he landed into the ears of many East Coast listeners. With the help of being originally signed with Jam Master Jay and Def Jam, while often collaborating with top East Coast rappers, but still holding on to his West Coast roots, Jayo Felony gained fans nationwide.
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28. Above the Law
One of the top groups to be signed under Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, Pomona natives Cold 187um, KMG the Illustrator, Go Mack, and DJ Total K-Oss became well known for hits like “Black Superman,” “Murder Rap,” and much more, while artist like Cold 187um would eventually have a solo presence in West Coast hip hop.
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29. RBL Posse
Possibly one of the very first major rappers to come from San Francisco, Hunters Point native’s Black C, Hitman, and Mr. Cee made history, during the most street active times in “The City” history. RBL Posse produced numerous Bay Area hits throughout the 1990s, with most notable being albums A Lesson to Be Learned and Ruthless by Law.
30. MC Eiht and Compton’s Most Wanted
While his debut album of 1994, We Come Strapped, was a West Coast all-time great, MC Eiht’s highest moments were featuring in the Menace II Society film and featuring on Kendrick Lamar’s “MAAD City,” not to leave out an extensive catalog of West Coast hip hop’s most popular songs. Before the solo artist of MC Eiht and the classic song “Streiht Up Menace,” he led the legendary group Compton’s Most Wanted, which became known for “Hood Took Me Under” and the release of three albums during the 1990s.
31. Kid Frost
The man the opened the door for Mexican and Latino rappers, Kid Frost inspired numerous, becoming one of the very first Hispanic artists of hip-hop. Beginning and kicking off his career during the 1980s, Kid Frost came into the rap game representing for his culture and his heritage, bringing in the rap game with the hit “La Raza.”
32. Tone Loc
Known for the classic album Loc-ed After Dark, Tone Loc had a brief career during the late 1980s and 1990s, before getting involved in acting and other endeavors. In all, Tone Loc’ musical career would produce hits like “Wild Things” and “Funky Cold Medina.”
The duo behind one of the greatest hip-hop tracks ever made, West Coast rappers Yukmouth and Numskull dropped an all-time classic, “I Got 5 on It.” With releasing one of the greatest rap records of the 1990s, Luniz’s career would be overshadowed by the success of “I Got 5 On It”, but maintained a steady career into the early 2000s, while Yukmouth would gain success as a solo artist.
34. Keak Da Sneak
While Mac Dre was the face of the hyphy movement, Keak Da Sneak was one of the main pioneers that built the foundation and helped expand the movement from the streets of Oakland to the Bay Area to across the nation. Beginning his rap career with the group 3X Krazy, Keak Da Sneak’s solo career led him to become the top rapper in Oakland during his time.
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35. Dru Down
Known for his flamboyant and pimpish style, Oakland native Dru Down began his journey in West Coast hip hop during the early 1990s. The year of 1994 was the year that Dru Down reached the surface of notoriety in the rap game, becoming a staple of Oakland hip-hop music with the album Explicit Game and the top songs like “Pimp of the Year” and “Rescue 911,” which was followed by another classic, Can You Feel Me.
Another Sacramento legend and one of the few artists that pioneered hip-hop in the city, X-Raided was originally a voice for the brutal streets of Sacramento, during the most rawest time in the city. Despite following his start he was sentenced to over 30 years in prison, X-Raided ambitious attitude led him to record several albums while incarcerated, becoming even more popular.
37. Mac Mall
Though a small town, the city of Vallejo produced a number of big named West Coast hip-hop artists, with one being Mac Mall. Connect with numerous West Coast legends, Mac Mall, E-40, and 2Pac, Mac Mall came onto the scene with the classic album Illegal Business, bringing reality rap to the Bay Area.
38. Celly Cel
Known for the hit song “It’s Goin Down” and the classic album Heat 4 Yo Azz, Celly Cel has been putting work in the rap game since the mid-1990s, if not before. Hailing from Vallejo and known for his connection with Bay Area legends like E-40, while also making a name for himself outside of Bay Area’s hip-hop scene, Celly Cel built a solid career.
39. Mitchy Slick
One of San Diego’s all-time greatest rap artists, Mitchy Slick made his presence known in West Coast hip hop during the early 2000s with Triggeration Station. Since debuting, Mitchy Slick has remained active in the rap game, while also becoming one of the few OGs of San Diego hip-hop that has had a strong presence in the music industry.
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40. San Quinn
One of the few Bay Area rap legends still active in the rap game, the longevity of San Francisco’s own has San Quinn’s career spanning over almost 30 years. Debuting in 1993 with Don’t Cross Me, San Quinn has become one of the hardest working West Coast rappers, releasing over 50 projects, albums, collaborations, mixtapes, and compilations.
List to be continued…Top 50
West Coast Hip Hop Related Topics
*No Order. Artists placement is a combination of a number of hits, longevity, impact, legacy, and current streams and views.