Editor's note: For our music issue, out on Thursday, Ian Cohen, Rebecca Haithcoat, Jeff Weiss and Ben Westhoff run down the top 20 L.A. rap albums of all time. We're unveiling the list all this week on West Coast Sound.
The party waits for no man. So while we watched the tubes for Detox, Los Angeles quietly won the West, for the first time in a quarter-century. This has happened through the efforts of experimentalists like Odd Future and the purveyors of Low End Theory, now cultural arbiters to the country writ large. Surprisingly, it occurred largely without the efforts of Dr. Dre, the Asklepios of local rap, whose fingerprints fall upon nearly half the albums in our Top 20. After all, no music issue could be complete without dialing his beeper number.
In our infamously splintered city, all-inclusiveness is impossible. So everyone from Xzibit to Above the Law is absent. You could argue all day. But L.A. is both the army of Uncle Jamm and Chronic at picnics. It's bong-ripping backpackers, gangsta rap and granola. It's a place where the Golden Age always glimmered in blood red and marine blue. So let's just dedicate this to those down since day one. You'd really better ask somebody. -Jeff Weiss
Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to Dilla
This isn't Madlib at his most psychedelic. That's his mushroom-motored Quasimoto character. Nor is Otis Jackson at his jazziest on Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6. See Yesterday's New Quintet. His most influential record might have been the Jansport-igniting Soundpieces: Da Antidote, and you can't ignore the mossy dank of Madvillain. But Vol. 5-6 finds Madlib at his most powerful, alchemizing elegiac teardrop soul from Swisher Sweets and molten wax. It's officially a tribute to the just-fallen producer J Dilla, but it also beautifully distills the Stones Throw aesthetic. Those who forget the past are doomed to not listen to anything this good. -Jeff Weiss
19. Blu & Exile
Below the Heavens
Producer Exile once said he wanted to make classic albums for the West Coast; with Below the Heavens, his 2007 collaboration with Blu, he did just that. His shimmering, soulful samples reach back for decades, and his soundscapes often recall a '40s speakeasy. For his part, Blu demonstrates why he's one of the city's most slept-on underground MCs. With a gentle, smoky voice that massages words instead of assaulting them, he delivers layered, honest rhymes that buck typical rap braggadocio. In the end, it's a shining example of how thematically and structurally sound an album can be when only one producer touches it. -Rebecca Haithcoat
18. Kool Keith
It all depends on how you define an L.A. rap album, no? Kool Keith isn't actually from here, but Sex Style couldn't have come from anywhere else. It's too libertine for New York, too smutty for Miami, too fun for Detroit. For the record that simultaneously created and perfected pornocore, Keith had the good sense to take his DreamWorks advance and, um, perfect his craft in a vast array of strip clubs, shitty motels and back alleys all up and down Sunset and La Brea, leading to self-explanatory and eternal life lessons such as "Don't Crush It" and "In Your Face." -Ian Cohen
Eazy-Duz-It, released a little more than a month after Straight Outta Compton, features Dr. Dre and DJ Yella's funked-up, cruise-friendly production. But it gets its comically lewd edge from the writing team of Ice Cube, MC Ren and D.O.C. While the day-in-the-life lyrics and spare beat of "Boyz n the Hood" (custom-made for cars with booming systems) make it Eazy's musical legacy, "No More ?s" says that, although he might have been the group's worst rapper, he had mojo and chutzpah to spare. -Rebecca Haithcoat