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Top 20 L.A. Rap Albums

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Rap Albums Of All Time: 10-6

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Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 5:04 AM

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See also:

*Top 20 Greatest L.A. Rap Albums of All Time: 20-16

*Top 20 Greatest L.A. Rap Albums Of All Time: 15-11

*Top 20 Greatest L.A. Rap Albums Of All Time: 5-1

Editor's note: For our music issue, out tomorrow, 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.

10. Freestyle Fellowship

Inner City Griots

Reimagining the West African storyteller tradition as jazzy juking bullies of the block, no quartet ever rapped this well. Freestyle Fellowship's lone 4th and B'way release Inner City Griots blazed a third way for West Coast hip-hop. It reinvented lyricism as more than just a vehicle for guns and grams or freak fests with everlasting bass. Suddenly, Leimert Park percolated with park bench poems about homelessness, stab-happy Vincent Price horror plays and surrealist flights to Fantasy Island -- "zorked and zany as a Zulu zombie." Backed by the syncopated swing of live band the Underground Railroad, Griots pairs the delirious cool of Central Avenue jazz with Artesian boom-bap. The L.A. subterranean tradition starts here. --Jeff Weiss

9. D.O.C.

No One Can Do It Better

Though raised in Dallas, D.O.C. became one of the most vital stylists of Los Angeles gangsta rap, helping shape the personalities of West Coast hip-hop's most memorable characters. (His ghostwritten verses for Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Snoop Dogg are all over this list.) But it was on his debut masterpiece, 1989's No One Can Do It Better, that his dexterous, authoritative flow finally got the spotlight. The platinum work's Dre-produced tracks like "D.O.C. and the Doctor" and "The Formula" are perfectly paced, supremely pleasurable brags, and less hard-edged than those D.O.C. composed for others. -Ben Westhoff

8. Cypress Hill

Cypress Hill

Though you might not be a fan of Cypress Hill's later work, their self-titled debut is the kind of record that doesn't feel like a classic until you realize that damn near every song on it is a total fucking classic. Sure, we can talk about the influence of DJ Muggs' production on both RZA and Dr. Dre, but this will remain in our hearts as long as it's still fun to sing along with "How I Can Just Kill a Man" and "Hand on the Pump." In other words, forever. -Ian Cohen

7. Ice Cube

Death Certificate

Briefly, being hard and being political were synonymous in rap. Though Straight Outta Compton was a street-level manifesto, Ice Cube's solo work attempted to spread his influence more broadly, and nowhere was he more successful than on 1991's Death Certificate. Unlike the conscious rappers of today, on the work he eschews platitudes in favor of hard lines on divisive subject matter. His statements on interracial sex and Korean-owned shops are abrasive, but the fact that the man had actual principles makes the work come alive. Plus, it fucking bangs. -Ben Westhoff

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