The Zelig of West Coast Hip-Hop

You’ve likely never heard of A.W., but he’s a Zelig-like figure who was there every step of the way during the West Coast hip-hop glory years of the ’80s and ’90s.

The man born Anthony Williams knew Ice-T “when he was stealing cars,” palled around with Dr. Dre in his pre-NWA days when he was performing at Willowbook club Eve After Dark, and fended off Suge Knight’s blood-thirsty German Shepard at Death Row Records.

He also helped birth the genre itself on our coast.

Along with an impresario named Duffy Hooks III, he launched Rappers Rapp Disco, which spawned the hip-hop song regarded as the first from the West Coast to get airplay, Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp’s “The Gigolo Rapp,” which you can hear below.

The 1981 track is so old that folks hadn’t even decided how to spell “rap” yet.

He and Duffy also helped establish a viable national distribution network for local hip-hop music, which doesn’t sound sexy, but was critical in helping L.A. artists establish themselves.

On Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Williams hosts the seventh annual West Coast Hip-Hop Awards, honoring Tupac, Nate Dogg, and Eazy-E. Scheduled live performances include Too $hort, Spice 1 and Kokane.

Ahead of the show, LAWeekly talked to A.W. about early West Coast rap.

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