How West Coast Rap Came to Dominate Radio Again
Dr. Dre's 1992 seminal solo debut The Chronic ushered in the G-Funk era, the first rise of West Coast rap on the radio.
By 1994, the Angeleno slang and trunk-rattling bounce was national. Below are the West Coast rap songs that ranked on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 in 1994:
20. "Fantastic Voyage" - Coolio
22. "Regulate" - Warren G and Nate Dogg
52. "Gin and Juice" - Snoop Dogg
59. "This D.J." - Warren G
61. "Keep Ya Head Up" - 2Pac
62. "Who Am I (What's My Name?)" - Snoop Dogg
99. "Bop Gun (One Nation)" - Ice Cube
The West Coast retained a strong radio presence throughout the '90s. However, apart from solid efforts from West Coast natives like Game, rappers from the East Coast (e.g. 50 Cent and Jay-Z), the Midwest (e.g. Kanye West and Eminem), and the South (e.g. Ludacris and T.I.) dominated rap radio in the early 2000s.
The mid-aughts saw the emergence of the Bay Area's short-lived hyphy movement, but that ended soon after E-40's "Tell Me When To Go." Southern California's jerkin' dance craze, which peaked in 2009, collapsed even more rapidly. Still, the jerkin' wave brought about the emergence Compton-bred rapper YG and his go-to producer DJ Mustard. Along with a burgeoning crop of West Coast rappers, they've played a major role in bringing West Coast rap back to national radio once again.
After moderate Internet success with jerkin' songs such as "Pussy Killa," YG saw wider recognition with the Ty Dolla $ign produced "Toot It and Boot It" and signed to Def Jam in 2009. In the four years that followed, YG released a series of well-received mixtapes. Each contained local hits, some of which made it into rotation on Power 106 (e.g. "Snitches Ain't... "), many bearing the mark of DJ Mustard's distinctive "ratchet" sound: minimal yet bouncing beats featuring heavy bass, twinkling keys, and sparse handclaps/snaps.
Here in L.A., no matter when you turn on rap radio, you're apt to hear several Mustard beats, as well as those from any number of Mustard imitators. While devotees waited for YG's Def Jam debut, Mustard exposed radio listeners to the ratchet sound, producing hits such as Tyga's (he's also from L.A.) "Rack City" and 2 Chainz's "I'm Different," both of which cracked the year-end Billboard Hot 100 in 2012 and 2013 respectively. More recently, he produced Ty Dolla $ign's "Paranoid" and Kid Ink's platinum single "Show Me" (featuring Chris Brown).
YG finally hit national airwaves with his Mustard produced single "My Nigga" (featuring Young Jeezy). Certified platinum, it's currently at 21 on Billboard's Hot 100. With 23 weeks on the charts, the song is featured on major radio station playlists in cities as far from L.A. as Boston (Jam'N 94.5) and Detroit (WJLB).
Rising with the ascendant YG and DJ Mustard is the equally large Top Dawg Entertainment. Kendrick Lamar's platinum Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope release good kid, m.A.A.d city spawned several Billboard charting hits (e.g. "Swimming Pools" and "Poetic Justice") in 2013. He also ranked #3 on Billboard's year-end "R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay Artists" that same year. With February's Oxymoron, fellow TDE labelmate Schoolboy Q followed suit. His singles "Collard Greens" and "Man of the Year" have both charted well this year, gracing rap radio playlists in L.A. and cities such New York (Hot 97 and Power 105) and Miami (The Beat 103.5).
Largely represented by Iamsu, Sage the Gemini, and their HBK crew, the Bay Area has also returned to the radio of late. Iamsu was featured on E-40's Billboard charting "Function" alongside YG and bubbling L.A. rapper Problem ("Like Whaaat") in 2012. Sage the Gemini's "Red Nose" and the IamSu-produced "Gas Pedal" have ranked highly on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop and Hot 100 charts. Both still regularly crack radio playlists.
YG and DJ Mustard; TDE; Iamsu, Sage the Gemini and HBK - the new West Coast guard has arrived and reclaimed the airtime their predecessors had 20 years ago.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.