So far I’ve used this spot to highlight a handful of classics from the West Coast rap archives. Today I’d like to shine the spotlight on one of my absolute favorite guys from the new school – Vince Staples. Vince can do no wrong in my book, and he’s accomplished a lot since his 2014 debut Hell Can Wait, including the best rap album of 2015, Summertime ’06. That said, when I go to introduce someone to him, I still lean on this gem from his debut. It’s going to be the song people are still screaming for when he’s doing his festival victory lap in spite of all the great things I’m sure he still has in him. Behold:
With this column, besides rehashing the classics, I’m going to attempt to highlight a lot of possibly lesser known tracks that are collaborations between all the greats. For example, this song, which features one of my favorite rap verses ever, by the irreplaceable yet often underrated MC Ren. He was the dark horse, the George Harrison of N.W.A., and he went harder than all of them. Throw Ice Cube on the chorus and Nate Dogg on the bridge and clearly it’s a must listen.
This probably should’ve been the first song I chose for my West Coast Wednesday segment. If this isn’t what started it all, this is what made it blow up. “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge…”
All Eyez On Me was my first “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” album, and for a long time, it was the only one my parents would buy me. So, naturally, it was my go-to album whenever I was a pissed off little fella because of all the cursing, and that the incredible delivery Tupac had only amplified the angst in all of his vicious words. (e.g. “…increase speed, make you mother fuckers bleed from your mouth, quicker…”)
I had heard “California Love” because the video was on loop those days (and rightfully so; best rap video ever?), but this is the first song on the album, and after that intro and those first four piano key strokes I was a changed person. These words and beat have been sampled countless times. It’s as iconic as it gets. “I won’t deny it, I’m a straight ridah…”
When I was a kid, rap was all I listened to. It wasn’t until I was nearly graduating high school that my musical horizons began to expand in every direction. West coast rap was what began my obsession; Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Kurupt, Too Short, Eazy-E, etc. Eventually I loved it all; through Texas with Scarface and UGK, over to Atlanta with Outkast, then up to NY with Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Biggie, and the rest of the east coast greats.
These days I don’t listen to rap like I used to, and although the nostalgia is huge with all of the aforementioned artists and many more, there’s still nothing like that old west coast feeling. Every Wednesday I’m going to post an old west coast gem (might through some new ones in there every now and then too), and to start it off, I feel I had no other option than this: