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Jeff Weiss Picks His Best L.A. Albums of 2014 So Far

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Warpaint
Ben Collen/ Rough Trade

[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]

In a recent New York radio interview, producer DJ Mustard offered simple advice to his East Coast brethren wondering how to regain relevance: All you need is a producer to develop a new sound.

The wisdom is easier uttered than enacted, but it helps explain why West Coast gangsta rap is enjoying its finest run since cassette tapes were sold at the Slauson swap meet. The ratchet formula bottled by Mustard and his assembly line of imitators has spawned anthems for hometown hitters Y.G., Kid Ink, Problem, TeeFlii, Ty Dolla Sign and Tyga.

One of the year's biggest smashes, Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," ought to tithe 10 percent of its royalties to the South Central - raised producer. Ratchet's roots trace to Louisiana, but when Lil Boosie came out of prison earlier this year, Mustard beats were one of his first orders.

While ratchet and medical marijuana might be the city's major cash crops, the label TDE continues to thrive - producing a No. 1 album from Schoolboy Q, whose sound alchemizes late-'90s gangsta rap, trap, Chromatics and the label's home-brewed promethazine funk. Its latest signee, Isaiah Rashad, has added his own sinister soul-jazz bounce to the mix.

Outstanding electronic and hip-hop artists releasing new music in the last six months include Low End Theory affiliates Baths, Open Mike Eagle, Red Ferguson, Liphemra, Toy Light, Teebs and Nocando. Dam-Funk's modern funk supplied fluorescent wings for his younger cousin, Turquoise Summers. And psychedelic guitar rock such as Morgan Delt and Warpaint will flourish as long as there is warm weather and functioning lighters.

With the year half elapsed, these are my picks for the top 10 albums of 2014 so far, in haiku form, give or take a syllable.

10. Red Ferguson, Ghost Town Sessions (self-released)
Acid trips in ghost towns
Inspire hallucinations
Atoms for Peace meet Dilla

9. Vince Staples, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 (Blacksmith/A.G)
Ex - Odd Future crony
Signs to Def Jam and No ID
Think if Common Cripped

8. Turquoise Summers, Shades (Omega Supreme)
Wounded Iraq vet
Returns home to a keyboard
Masters modern funk

7. Baths, Ocean Death (Anticon)
Chatsworth cherub mines
Emotional krill artfully
Baleful beach bonfires

6. Morgan Delt, Morgan Delt (Trouble in Mind)
Slaying chakra sharks
New Topanga Canyon king
Zaps hippies like Zappa
 

Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs
Photo by Peter Beste

5. Warpaint, Warpaint (Rough Trade)
Sometime models mix
Tribal jams, rap beats and sex
Make Pau Gasol swoon

4. YG, My Krazy Life (Def Jam)
Meet Bompton Flockers
Mustard picks locks and cracks safes
Y.G. spreads the spoils

3. Open Mike Eagle, Dark Comedy (Mello Music Group)
Fiscal neuroses
Meets sharp wit, creative riches
Rap's Louis C.K.

2. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Piñata (Madlib Invazion)
Smooth criminal slang
Hijacks psychedelic souls
Sirens sound success

1. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo (TDE)
From Hardee's to hailed
Chattanooga to Carson
Caged bird to stoned bard

Honorable mention:
Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron (TDE/Interscope); Teebs, e s t a r a (Brainfeeder); Step Brothers, Lord Steppington (Rhymesayers); RJ, O.M.M.I.O (Pushaz Ink); Nocando, Jimmy the Burnout (Hellfyre); Meg Myers, Make a Shadow (Atlantic); De Lux, Voyage (Innovative Leisure); Av LMKR, Compton (self-released), BEeFF, #BEeFF (self-released); Liphemra, Part 3 (self-released); Toy Light, Afterlife (self-released)

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