[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
During the last decade, Los Angeles was fractured between backpack hip-hop and gangsta rap. Both sides were always closer than they appeared, which became clear when Top Dawg Entertainment became a superpower by bonding Bloods (Jay Rock) and Crips (Schoolboy Q), with two thesaurus fiends who had mastered their craft bludgeoning J Dilla beats (Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul).
Canvass the 2013 L.A. rap world and you'll find similarly hazy boundaries. Odd Future owe as much to Madlib and MF Doom as to Eminem and The Neptunes.
After two years of ideological scrutiny usually reserved for unruly pop stars and Supreme Court justices, Tyler the Creator and company produced some of the year's best music. They made millions off cat hoodies, caused riots at the Low End Theory and got Kanye West to appear at their carnival.
The ratchet sound patented by DJ Mustard became DJ plutonium throughout the West Coast. Almost everyone who got a Mustard beat scored a hit: Y.G., Ty$, TeeFlii, even Kid Ink.
See also: DJ Mustard and the Story of Ratchet
Compton's Problem, Slauson's Nipsey Hussle, Leimert Park's Dom Kennedy and Indiana transplant Freddie Gibbs built their own independent rap fiefdoms.
Holding down the far left was Nocando's Hellfyre Club, which brought the legacies of Max B and Myka 9 closer than anyone imagined. The Alchemist's lab in Venice became the West Coast's five-star rap camp.
Famed for its astral beats, the Low End Theory extended family produced rugged underground rap, experimental fusion jazz and deconstructed R&B.
With indie rock transforming itself into the Urban Outfitters of genres, a stasis crept in among the city's guitar bands. Still, punk standard-bearers No Age released their most complete record, and Haim managed to make Wilson Phillips seem cool to millennials.
On some lost mythological Erewhon, Julia Holter, Kelela and Chelsea Wolfe continued to release weird, dazzling songs.
With all subjectivity intended, these are the Bizarre Ride best albums of the second half of 2013, in haiku form. Because it's tradition.
Earl Sweatshirt, Doris (Sony/Tan Cressida)
Brutus in that booth
Returns from Samoan exile
Teen angst pays off well
Jonwayne, Rap Album (Stones Throw)
Savage sandaled Hun
Or bad egg from a bad duck?
The come up is real
Freddie Gibbs, ESGN (Mixtape)
Gibbs can make Mother Goose
Sound like cold-blooded murder
Becomes rap mob boss
No Age, An Object (Sub Pop)
Nothing set in stone
Guitars and drums can still work
Punk is just wild style
V/A, Dorner vs. Tookie (Hellfyre Club)
Cop, crip, warlock or scone
What's your spirit animal?
Weird's rarely this raw
Vince Staples & Larry Fisherman, Stolen Youth (Mixtape)
Dope, guns, and stickups
Best Long Beach product since Snoop
Learns, lives with regrets
The Internet, Feel Good (Odd Future)
Syd the Kid gets grown
Crafts Nag Champa neo-soul
Groove is in the heart
Dam-Funk & Snoop Dogg, 7 Days of Funk (Stones Throw)
Funk will not fade away
With Snoop and Dam still smoking
Watch the clouds and glide
Sons of the Morning (Prefuse 73 & Teebs), Speak Soon, Volume 1 (Yellow Year)
The beat scene godfather
Meets the west wind wunderkind
A.M. hymnals glow
Kelela, Cut 4 Me (Fade to Mind)
Mix Cherry coffee
With neon beats and icy cool
That's just the start
Goldroom, Embrace (self-released); Open Mike Eagle, Sir Rockabye (Hellfyre Club); Free the Robots, The Balance (self-released); Julia Holter, Loud City Song (Domino); Superhumanoids, Exhibitionists (Innovative Leisure); Computer Jay, Savage Planet Discotheque Vol. 2 (Weird Science); Nobody, Vivid Green (Alpha Pup); Crystal Antlers, Nothing Is Real (Innovative Leisure); Toy Light, Sign of Life (self-released); Boardwalk, Boardwalk (Stones Throw); Problem, The Separation (Diamond Lane); Alexander Spit, Dillinger (self-released); Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty (Sargent House); Zeroh, Bred: A Dedication (self-released)
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