Earlier this summer, I claimed it was L.A. rap’s best era since 2Pac absconded to his thug mansion in Havana. Since then, my conviction has only strengthened. If literacy and humanity still exist in a decade, today’s teenagers will inevitably rewrite the canon to favor Drakeo over Dre.
During the first half of the 2010s, YG and Mustard, TDE and Odd Future stone cold–stunnered all conversations about local hip-hop. Within the last 18 months, a new wave of street rappers emerged via YouTube and SoundCloud, sans co-signs or the backing of flavorless major-label and radio gatekeepers.
Between the Stinc Team, 03 Greedo and G Perico, L.A. rap has seen the strongest infusion of talent since Snoop crushed the buildings. And that’s not to slight veterans like Snoop and Quik, who continue to produce bangers that burnish their legacy.
As always, the power rankings are purely subjective and strictly based on music released in 2017. So I did not shun Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, Cam and China or your favorite rapper to personally spite you. There are 15 this year, up from 10, because the talent pool is too rich.
Throw up four fingers and twist them in the middle. And free Drakeo.
There are 15 this year
15. Ill Camille
Versatile Compton-born TDE collaborator cancels a half-decade solo hiatus to return with vicious bars and poignant introspection.
14. Frosty Da Snowman
Best new function rapper floating over beats with fantastic fits and more bucks than the Greek Freak.
13. Freddie Gibbs
Gary-to-L.A. transplant returns with a visceral and redemptive reminder why he’s the most consistent gangsta rapper of his generation.
12. Tyler, the Creator
Mr. I Don’t Give a Fuck admitted that he actually does, dropping his most vulnerable, musically advanced and best album since the first half of Bastard.
The Wayniac got sober and conquered his demons to write and produce an album as bone-crushingly effective as a 40 to the frontal lobe.
10. Snoop Dogg
I’m 90 percent sure that Snoop freestyled the entirety of Neva Left. I’m 100 percent sure that no 46-year-old has ever sounded so joyous rapping words together.
9. DJ Quik
Two types of people exist: those who recognize that DJ Quik is the greatest rapper-producer of all-time, and those doomed to never understand the meaning of rhythm-al-ism.
As dependable as traffic on the 405, Mr. L.A. effortlessly balances concrete wisdom with party slappers.
While incarcerated in County, the foreign whip crasher’s music quietly became ubiquitous on the L.A. streets. When he comes home, he might be the biggest homegrown star since K. Dot.
No album, but he quietly dropped a handful of gems and “FDT” became so crucial and cathartic that it played during VMAs commercial breaks.
5. Vince Staples
Chris Paul is gone. Lonzo isn’t ready yet. Vince Staples is the best point guard in L.A.
4. G Perico
Somewhere in a heaven that looks like the “Crossroads” video, Eazy-E is bumping nothing but his favorite new rapper, G Perico.
3. 03 Greedo
L.A.’s answer to Boosie or Kodak Black, the Watts rapper-singer-producer is about to be the first to go from Grape Street to gold plaques.
2. Open Mike Eagle
L.A.’s comic laureate of the bleak goes from James Baldwin to Vonnegut to answering the question that no one asked: What if Gabriel García Márquez rapped and made a magical realist masterpiece about superheroes in the Robert Taylor Homes?
1. Kendrick Lamar
Still the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world despite only weighing 150 pounds.
Problem, Nocando, Almighty Suspect, Ralfy the Plug, Natia, Ketchy the Great, Desto Dubb, Warm Brew, Shoreline Mafia, Injury Reserve, Buddy, Jay Worthy, Rhys Langston, AD, TeeCee4800, Bonny Billionaire, King Lil G, Tyson Crookmind, MC Eiht.
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