West Coast is the best coast. With 2018 being the year hip-hop has cemented its status as the world’s most popular genre, it’s only right we pay homage to California, home to legends Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and so many more.
From G-Funk and Death Row Records to this new age of trap, rap has evolved to fit the sounds of each individual artist, while preserving vivid storytelling, spitfire flows and clever punchlines over hard-hitting production. While New York is known for its gritty bars and praiseworthy lyricism, nothing slaps harder than West Coast beats.
Of course, we can’t forget the fact that R&B and trap go hand in hand, too. As we near the year's end, L.A. Weekly presents a list of the top 10 West Coast albums of 2018, in no particular order.
Jay Rock, Redemption
As one of the original members of Top Dawg Entertainment, Jay Rock’s time has finally come. Serving as his third studio album, this 13-track project features guest appearances from labelmates Kendrick Lamar and SZA, Future, J. Cole and Jeremih. Album title Redemption is not only fitting, it showcases his ability to both rap and attract a mainstream audience.
Bouncing back from a near-death motorcycle accident in 2016, the album was recorded during the Watts native’s darkest moments. In addition to the positivity, motivation and inspiration that stems from “WIN,” each track displays a piece of his journey, overcoming the struggles of being from the 'hood and changing his life for the better. The project’s lead single, “King’s Dead” featuring Kendrick, Future and James Blake, was featured in hit movie Black Panther and its video currently has more than 96 million views on YouTube (making it a sure contender for video of the year).
Mozzy, Gangland Landlord
Mozzy has had a hell of a 2018, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Hailing from the Bay Area, the “Sleep Walkin” rapper has created a name for himself with his ability to spit bars and punchlines over top-notch production while telling his story. His life experiences include growing up on the streets in Oak Park in Sacramento, surrounded by the realities of gangs, drugs and violence.
With music being his go-to outlet since he can remember, Mozzy now has positioned himself to be one of the West Coast’s most favored artists. With the release of Gangland Landlord following his critically acclaimed debut effort 1 Up Top Ahk, real name Timothy Patterson effortlessly finds himself in the mainstream light. The album offers standout single “Thugz Mansion” featuring YG and Ty Dolla $ign, which pays tribute to Tupac, as well as features from Too $hort, Yo Gotti, ScHoolboy Q and Blac Youngsta.
Nipsey Hussle, Victory Lap
Nipsey Hussle has come a long way from selling CDs and mixtapes out of the trunk of his car. Establishing his name far before his Victory Lap album dropped, the Crenshaw native is the epitome of an MC who came from the streets and turned his life around for the better. For well over a decade now, the All Money In, No Money Out rapper has lived up to the “Hussle” in his name, grinding and putting his heart and soul into his music.
It’s shocking to think that Victory Lap is his debut studio album, but that also goes to show the amount of time, dedication and energy he puts into perfecting his craft. While fans have been waiting damn near his whole career for the project, it arrives as his best work to date. Of course, nothing screams L.A. more than Nipsey and YG joining forces on “Last Time That I Checc’d,” uniting both sides of the neighborhood.
Anderson .Paak, Oxnard
With the success of his second studio album, Malibu, in 2016, this “Bubblin” singer, songwriter and rapper tops himself with an even more extravagant body of work, catering to all music lovers across the world.
On top of the legendary features, including Snoop Dogg, J. Cole and, of course, Kendrick Lamar on the radio-friendly “Tints,” the 14-track project is executive produced by the legendary Dr. Dre. Oxnard showcases Paak’s ability to blend funk, soul, R&B and hip-hop, with a heartwarming tribute to Mac Miller on “Cheers” featuring Q-Tip.
Aminé has already proved he’s far more than his breakout single “Caroline.” With his most recent project, ONEPOINTFIVE, the follow-up to his debut effort, Good for You, the Portland, Oregon, recording artist showcases his versatility in both rapping and winging, while touching on relevant topics in today’s society.
To complement the project’s lead single, “REEL IT IN,” which is a certified banger, the production on the project screams all things West Coast. With features from Gunna, Rico Nasty and even G Herbo, Aminé showcases his rise as a well-respected MC who is still adjusting to success and fame. In this new wave of trap rap, he fits right in.
Buddy, Harlan & Alondra
With his breakout single, “Shine,” in 2016, fans of Compton rapper Buddy have been waiting patiently for his full-length debut. After being signed to Pharrell Williams' I Am OTHER label, the RCA Records signee showcases growth, maturity and versatility, while touching on all the obstacles a black man faces in today’s society.
Arriving in the middle of summer at 12 songs deep, Harlan & Alondra is reminiscent of a tour guide taking you through sunny Los Angeles, good and bad parts alike. With the majority of his song titles named after streets, the cover art features Buddy’s direct family, bringing fans into his own life in the most vulnerable way possible. With the politically conscious anthem “Black” featuring A$AP Ferg and “Hey Up There” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, Buddy continues to cater to the mainstream and hip-hop heads alike.
“P-Lo, time to bring the bass back.” P-Lo is officially in his Prime. Hailing from the Bay Area and coming up with the HBK Gang, the “Put Me on Somethin'” rapper proves he can rap just as well as he can produce. Last year, the 25-year-old unleashed his debut album, More Than Anything, and took his efforts on tour opening for G-Eazy, Lil Uzi Vert and YBN Nahmir.
With songs like “Nirvana,” “Bamboo” and “Woke,” P showcases his versatility to sing, rap and produce, unleashing nothing but bangers for new and old fans alike. Of course, “Same Squad” comes clutch as the perfect anthem for all occasions.
Phora, Love Is Hell
Phora has been through hell and back. Hailing from Anaheim, the 24-year-old rapper unleashed his debut studio album, Yours Truly Forever, which kept a positive outlook on his life amidst the bullshit. Now, he bares the most vulnerable side of him yet with Love Is Hell, touching on all the emotions that come with love and lust.
Recruiting Trippie Redd for the intro and title track attracted audiences from all ends of the spectrum, including trap and R&B lovers. Clocking in at 15 tracks deep, Love Is Hell features a surprising all-star list of features from G-Eazy, 6lack and Tory Lanez, something Phora fans may not be used to. “Sinner Pt. 3” serves as a reminder to his day-ones that he has yet to switch up.
Vince Staples, FM
Vince Staples continues to put on for his city of Long Beach. The only thing better than giving fans a whole new project is the fact that he dropped it out of nowhere, dedicated entirely to them. Serving as his third studio album, FM pays homage to the radio station that helped break his career, as well as the West Coast culture that birthed him.
The project’s lead single, “FUN!,” is a certified banger, reminding folks that summer lasts all year long in SoCal. In addition, Staples continues to use his platform for a greater good, touching on socially conscious issues and politics. The eight cuts begin with an intro from legendary host Big Boy, intertwined with social media clips and interviews throughout.
Ella Mai, Ella Mai
Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” has taken over airwaves from the States across the world. While the singer-songwriter hails from the U.K., it was DJ Mustard who discovered her and brought her under his wing with 10 Summers. Pairing her buttery smooth vocals with his West Coast banging production, the result is a perfect blend of soulful R&B and trap that listeners can’t pass up.
Signed to Interscope, Ella Mai recently unleashed her highly anticipated self-titled debut, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. With features from John Legend, H.E.R. and Chris Brown, the 12-track project is a fluid flow of vibes to close out 2018 with a bang. Standout singles “Whatchamacallit” and “Trip” hit the spot every time.
Honorable mention: YG, Stay Dangerous
From dropping his third studio album to performing that album at his first-ever fashion show in Los Angeles, YG has not let us down for a second. Being a hometown hero, the Bompton rapper unleashed Stay Dangerous in August, the perfect soundtrack to close out the summer.
The album title is often stylized in all caps, STAY DANGEROUS, similar to the 15 songs on it. While YG may not be yelling at you, the energy is explicit in each track, as he continues to talk his shit over banging West Coast production. The project contains a mix of radio-friendly records such as “Big Bank” featuring 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Nicki Minaj and “Power” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and that gangster rap YG grew up on.