Since the Beach Boys in the 1960s, musicians have been trying to explain what exactly is going on with the West Coast. When songs about sunshine and convertibles weren’t cutting it anymore, Dre, Pac and Snoop stepped up and captured the soul of the strange coast with their chronic-soaked beats, hazy spirituality and razor-sharp politics. But when the ’90s ended, West Coast hip-hop faded from the public eye. Until now.
“Everybody serenade the new faith of Kendrick Lamar / This is King Kendrick Lamar,” proclaimed Lamar on “Compton.” His self-coronation might have felt premature at the time, but in 2014 it’s hard to argue his claim: After a brilliant debut album, a world-shattering verse on “Control” and dozens of guest spots, Lamar has inherited the West Coast throne. Now, after years of relative silence, a brand new West Coast scene is emerging around him.
He’s surrounded by a young generation of California talent determined to make the Golden State the center of the hip-hop world. Here are the nine rappers bringing California love back to hip-hop and redefining what it means to be a Californian in 2014.