How the West is Winning in Hip Hop

I originally wrote this topic as a mock draft for 1 LOVE T.O for an internship application. I had no intentions on posting this online unless I got it. I didn’t get the internship, but the idea was too good (at least to me) not to post it. These are simply my personal views – I’m not a professional writer, I’m not a superior Hip Hop head. I’m sure many of you know more than I do…I’m simply just putting things out there. Enjoy.


“Who’s the greatest rapper ever?” – it’s a question that most of us are tired of hearing being asked, but one that will always be asked for as long as hip hop is around. There’s a new generation and everyone’s ‘greatest’ will always change. Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Biggie & Tupac will always be brought up, but there are the Hip Hop purists that will dive into the deep crevices of the proud genre and tell you other names that many will have overlooked because they didn’t have commercial success – which is fair.

“Where are the greatest rappers from?” – this is a question that doesn’t have one answer, because again, it all depends on who’s asking, where they live and you’d have to listen to essentially everything and everyone to get a correct answer; or at least your best opinionated answer. The East coast (specifically New York) is home to most of the greatest rappers, whether they lived there, or were born there. Tupac & Biggie were both born in the New York, but Tupac was more known for his legacy in the West. Does location matter as to where the best rappers live? No it doesn’t. People have pride and they will defend their home turf no matter what.

I live in a city with a Hip Hop base that’s slowly building back its reputation that was once glorious in the early 90s, and slowly ‘the city that shows no support’ is changing that motto, and I’m happy about that. Meanwhile, a good 3000 miles away (or kilometres, depending on which system you use), the West coast is also on a resurgence that many people wouldn’t have predicted some years ago. It’s been their music that I’ve been listening to the most as of recent because the sound is new, but that West coast influence from the 80s and 90s is still imprinted.

Consider the fact that a lot of rappers that have been featured on the never-ending amount of blogs & magazines for the past year, but specifically the ‘XXL Freshmen List’, have been from the West Coast. Now, I know that Hip Hop magazines are not necessarily credible for when it comes to recognizing talent, but it’s simply an example. The West Coast has a lot of names that people are talking about (at least from what I can only see). Black Hippy (including the standout member Kendrick Lamar) has taken the genre by storm with each individual member having each of their albums charted on the Billboard 200 in pretty much a year. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is from Washington State, and they sold 78,000 in their first week with no major label deal or distributing. The Game just put out one of the best Hip Hop albums all year (along with Kendrick), Dom Kennedy (although I don’t exactly listen to his music) has generated a strong buzz as well with the success of ‘The Yellow Album,’ and I can’t forget about how Odd Future has been all over the place over the past 2 years (including 6 nominations from Odd Future member, Frank Ocean).  The list goes on and on with the numerous acts that are popping up: Jhene Aiko, Pac Div, Nipsey Hussle, OverDoz, Blu, Fashawn, Murs, and Chuuwee just to name a few.

Now, it’s funny when I say that the West Coast is winning, but then people would argue that it’s still The South putting in work. 2 Chainz & Rick Ross have Grammy nominated albums, J.Cole had a great year for features and is releasing an album in 2013, Trinidad James just got signed for $2 Million at Def Jam, Jeezy is still riding the wave of TM103, Big K.R.I.T put out a great album in 2012 and Future has been a bright spot having been featured with the who’s who of the music industry. You could argue that they’re winning more because of the commercial success that’s being brought to the table. The aptly term ‘Ratchet Hip Hop’ has been the successful sound as of late since it’s all about the club music that people enjoy, but it’s not necessarily the overall better music – at least not to my ears.

Hip Hop was born in New York – and there’s never any denying that, but New York rap saw a decline over the past couple of years, but it too is on the comeback. A$Ap Rocky & Joey Bada$$ are at the forefront as the new leaders with their respective A$AP Mob & ProERA crews, Meek Mill’s vastly rising success, Nas put out a Grammy nominated album in 2012 as well, and a host of underground artists that have been making an impact as well, such as: Action Bronson, Rapsody, Skyzoo have each put out great projects. The older heads like Joe Budden and Fabolous have seen better years, but each of them are still sticking around. The East is in a transitional period.

The Midwest has always seemed to be the forgotten one. Sticking with specifically Detroit, where you have acts like Big Sean, Danny Brown, Elzhi, and Black Milk, they’ve been slept on for a while, but they too are also making a name for themselves to show that they shouldn’t be overlooked. The success of Freddie Gibbs thus far has been increasing as well, plus Chicago rap (including GBE) is on the rise with their hidden gems like Kembe X and Rockie Fresh, to name a couple.

Back to my original point in saying that the West Coast is winning, is because that’s where a lot of eyes are looking. You can put some of that on Kendrick Lamar’s success, but there are other acts that have been steadily growing their own buzz and grabbing the attention from the Hip Hop moguls. When it comes to the sound that a lot of people I talk to are looking for, the West Coast seems to be an option simply because they make the music that they can relate to more, and it feels like Hip Hop to them. Now, a geographical statement such as this one is difficult for most to make because everyone will claim that their set is the best – I get that. I’m from Toronto, and I’m pretty neutral, because our Hip Hop is considered ‘North’, so you could say we’re the 5th coast when you look at it.

People who really love their genre and everything about it, will do everything they can to protect it. Sticking with Hip Hop, there are a lot of people who hate the direction it’s going. I can agree to some degree because when you look at what have been hits on the mainstream – it isn’t your traditional Hip Hop that you’ve loved since you were a kid. Times change, and as unfortunate as some of the acts may be, it happens. The good thing about change; it’s recurring, so everything has its due time and place. Many people may think that the future isn’t bright for Hip Hop because of what they’ve been hearing for the past few years and what the big corporate record labels have been signing – and I feel and sometimes share their frustration. There’s a lot more to Hip Hop than what you hear on the radio, but a lot of people don’t want to spend the time and look for it. Fair, but that doesn’t mean that the genre is dead.

It was in the West that two of the biggest names in Hip Hop died; it’s the West that Hip Hop’s sovereignty will revive

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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