The West Coast has long been a hub for innovative and influential hip hop, with a rich history of talented rappers who have left their mark on the genre.
Whether we’re talking the early days of N.W.A., Ice-t and the start of the gangsta rap movement or we look at the rise of Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator and Vince Staples more recently, the West Coast has consistently produced some of the most iconic and important rappers in hip hop history.
From the smooth, laid-back flow of Snoop Dogg to socially-charged rage of 2Pac to Kendrick’s superb rhyming talents, here are the top 50 best West Coast rappers of all time.
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50. The Lady of Rage
Discography: Necessary Roughness (1997)
One of the fiercest spitters to come out of the West Coast during the ’90s, The Lady of Rage held it down for Death Row whenever she stepped up to the mic. Whether it was holding her own against L.A.’s finest on posse cuts like “Lyrical Gangbang” or “Stranded on Death Row,” scoring her own hit single with 1994’s “Afro Puffs” or appearing on Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, The Lady of Rage was a West Coast staple. Not only is she one of the best West Coast rappers of all time, she’s one of the best female rappers ever.
49. Tone Loc
Discography: The Devil Made Me Do It (1990), Sleeping with the Enemy (1992), Guerrilla Funk (1994), Unleashed (1998), Sonic Jihad (2003), Hard Truth Soldiers Vol.1 (2006), Acid Reflex (2008), Hard Truth Soldiers Vol.2 (2009), Pistol Politics (2015), Safe Space Invader (2020)
Tone Loc’s career may have peaked during the ’80s and quickly fizzled out afterwards, but for the short period of time that he was on top, he was the man. Look no further than his 1988 hit single “Wild Thing.” Released via Delicious Vinyl, the record appeared on Tone’s debut album, Lōc-ed After Dark, and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. “Wild Thing” quickly sold over a million copies, becoming the first rap song to be certified platinum.
Discography: Operation Stackola (1995), Lunitik Muzik (1997), Silver & Black (2002), High Timez (2015), No Pressure (2018)
Best known for their 1995 anthem “I Got 5 on It,” Luniz is forever etched in the hearts and minds of weed aficionados around the world. It’s easy to think of them as a one-hit wonder because “I Got 5 on It” was so encapsulating, but let’s not forget they put out a few strong albums, including the West Coast classic Operation Stackola.
47. Mack 10
Discography: Mack 10 (1995), Based on a True Story (1997), The Recipe (1998), The Paper Route (2000), Bang or Ball (2001), Ghetto, Gutter & Gangsta (2003), Hustla’s Handbook (2005), Soft White (2009)
Mack 10 was a force to be reckoned with in the West Coast gangsta rap scene of the 90s. Even though he may not have reached the level of mainstream fame as some of his peers, he still made a huge impact with his lowrider G-funk sound and gangsta lyrics. And let’s not forget his collaborations with the likes of Eazy-E and Nate Dogg, or his role in the legendary hip hop group Westside Connection with Ice Cube and WC. This LA native was truly a standout in the golden era of West Coast rap.
46. Bishop Lamont
Discography: Caltroit (with Black Milk) (2007), The Shawshank Redemption/Angola 3 (2010), The Reformation G.D.N.I.A.F.T (2016), Tunnel Vision (2019)
Bishop Lamont has been on the industry’s radar for years ever since Dr. Dre discovered the Carson City rapper in 2005 and signed him to Aftermath. Throughout the remainder of that decade the MC appeared on high-profile collabs with the likes of Dre, Busta Rhymes and legendary regulator Warren G. With a unique twist on the modern West Coast vibe, Bishop Lamont writes lyrical and insightful rhymes that often look beyond the hood for subject matter. He has gained the respect of his peers, but widespread mainstream success has eluded him to date.
45. MC Hammer
Discography: Feel My Power (1986), Let’s Get It Started (1988), Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990), Too Legit to, Quit (1991), The Funky Headhunter (1994), Inside Out (1995), Family Affair (1998), Active Duty (2001), Full Blast (2004), Look Look Look (2006), DanceJamtheMusic (2009)
MC Hammer might be a meme or punchline for a lot of rap fans these days, but if you’re a real hip hop head, you’ll be able to recognise that the Oakland rapper paved the way for a lot of artists these days. Without the success of his global smash hit “U Can’t Touch This” and the diamond-selling album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em that cemented the commercial viability of hip hop to the corporations, who knows where the culture might be today. Whether or not you like his super pop-rap songs, there’s no denying that MC Hammer is one of the most impactful rappers and iconic West Coast rappers of all time.
Discography: The Shadiest One (1998), Ghetto Heisman (2002), Guilty by Affiliation (2007), Revenge of the Barracuda (2011)
Originally from Texas, WC grew up in South Central, LA. A lifelong member of the Crips, the rapper wears his OG credentials on his sleeve. He started his career with the group Low Profile and later formed WC and the Maad Circle before going solo. However, it was WC’s role in the hip-hop supergroup Westside Connection that solidified the gravel-voiced rapper’s place in the genre’s history books. The trio of WC, Mack 10 and Ice Cube hit gold with their debut album Bow Down in 1994, and solidified themselves as three of the greatest West Coast rappers ever.
43. Spice 1
Discography: Spice 1 (1992), 187 He Wrote (1993), AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare (1994), 1990-Sick (1995), The Black, Bossalini (1997), Immortalized (1999), The Last Dance (2000), Spiceberg Slim (2002), The Ridah (2004), Dyin’ 2 Ball (2005), The Truth (2005), Haterz Nightmare (2015), Throne of Game (2017), Platinum O.G. (2019), This Is Thug World, Vol. 1 (2020)
Here’s a test if you want to see how deep someone’s hip hop knowledge runs. Ask them what the acronym for Spice 1’s name is, and if they answer: “Sex, Pistols, Indo, Cash and Entertainment,” you know you’re talking to a real one. If there was a list of the most underrated West Coast rappers, Spice 1 would be towards the top of it. A staple of the ’90s Oakland rap scene, he was a frequent collaborator of future legends like 2Pac and E-40. The Texas-born MC dropped a number of classic albums, including 187 He Wrote and AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare, that mixed bouncy G-funk production with his sneakily complex rhymes.
Discography: The Devil Made Me Do It (1990), Sleeping with the Enemy (1992), Guerrilla Funk (1994), Unleashed (1998), Sonic Jihad (2003), Hard Truth Soldiers Vol.1 (2006), Acid Reflex (2008), Hard Truth Soldiers Vol.2 (2009), Pistol Politics (2015), Safe Space Invader (2020)
Speaking of underrated rappers, Paris was the West Coast’s answer to the East Coast’s Public Enemy and X Clan. But in many ways, the San Francisco MC was more aggressive and politically-charged than his East Coast counterparts. Just have a listen to his 1990 debut album, The Devil Made Me Do It, to get a glimpse of what sort of wavelength Paris was on during his peak years. But don’t get it twisted, he’s hasn’t stopped spreading the message and sending shots towards government institutions – Paris dropped his latest album, Safe Space Invader, just recently in 2020.
41. Tha Alkaholiks
Discography: 21 & Over (1993), Coast II Coast (1995), Likwidation (1997), X.O. Experience (2001), Firewater (2006)
Coming out of the West Coast during the early ’90s but signed to Loud Records, the label that housed legendary East Coast acts like the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and Big Pun, Tha Alkaholiks represented a different type of L.A. sound to the all-consuming Death Row G-funk at the time. While their music still retained a certain street edge to it – especially with their affiliation with King T – for the most part, Tha Alkaholiks were concerned with demonstrating their verbal acrobatics and having a good time. Ain’t nothing wrong with that whatsoever.
40. Jay Rock
Discography: Follow Me Home (2011), 90059 (2015), Redemption (2018)
As the first breakout success coming out of Top Dawg Entertainment, Jay Rock had been grinding for a minute before he put his name on the map. After a failed stint on Asylum Records, the Watts rapper ended up signing a joint venture deal with TDE and Tech N9ne’s Strange Music to release his debut album, Follow Me Home. Over the years as he watched label-mates Kendrick and Schoolboy hit bigger commercial success, he was always right there to drop a scene-stealing feature verse or two. Jay Rock’s latest album, Redemption, dropped in 2018 and is unarguably his best work to date.
39. Crooked I
Discography: Apex Predator (2013), Sex, Money and Hip-Hop (2014), Good vs. Evil (2016), Good vs. Evil II: The Red Empire (2017)
When we talk about rap bars, flow, delivery, work ethic, and love for hip hop culture, Crooked I has them all. Hailing from Long Beach, Crooked I, also known as KXNG Crooked, established himself as one of the best West Coast rappers of the post-Death Row era. While most rap fans know him from the lyrical supergroup Slaughterhouse, that’s only the tip of the iceberg in Crooked’s extensive catalogue. Pairing traditional gangsta tropes with more socially conscious themes, Crooked I has been a staple of LA hip hop culture for the past two decades.
38. Daz Dillinger
Discography: Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back (1998), R.A.W. (2000), This Is the Life I Lead (2002), DPGC: U Know What I’m Throwin’ Up (2003), I Got Love in These Streetz (2004), Tha Dogg Pound Gangsta LP (2005), Gangsta Crunk (2005), So So Gangsta (2006), Gangsta Party (2007), Only on the Left Side (2008), Public Enemiez (2009), Matter of Dayz (2010), D.A.Z. (2011), Witit Witit (2012), Weed Money (2014), Dazamataz (2018), Smoke Me Out (2018)
As a founding member of the legendary West Coast hip-hop duo Tha Dogg Pound, Daz Dillinger and his cohort Korupt helped create some of the most iconic hip-hop of the 1990s. Under the creative direction of Dr Dre, Death Row Records defined the West Coast sound. Daz was a key member of the team and had a hand in some of the label’s biggest successes. Daz Dillinger and Kurupt came to mainstream prominence as central contributors to Snoop Dogg’s paradigm-shifting debut album.
Discography: My Krazy Life (2014), Still Brazy (2016), Stay Dangerous (2018), 4Real 4Real (2019), My Life 4Hunnid (2020)
Ever since YG dropped his game-changing collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, “Toot It and Boot It,” in 2010, he has kept one foot firmly rooted in the limelight while balancing it with his involvement with the hood. Over the past decade, he has achieved commercial success with a number of hit singles and highly praised albums, solidifying his place alongside other prominent West Coast rappers like Kendrick Lamar.
The Compton rapper’s music combines elements of classic hip-hop with modern sounds, resulting in hard-hitting beats and smooth West Coast rap flows that pay tribute to the genre’s pioneers while still being unique. YG’s dedication to his Los Angeles roots and the classic hip hop style is a key foundation of his successful career, and has solidified him as one of the West Coast greats in recent history.
36. The Pharcyde
Discography: Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (1992), Labcabincalifornia (1995), Plain Rap (2000), Humboldt Beginnings (2004)
The Pharcyde is a one-of-a-kind group from the West Coast whose energetic performances imbue their music with an intense, captivating energy. Comprised of Imani, Bootie Brown, Fatlip, and Slimkid3, they are known for their jazzy production style featuring bouncy basslines and steady drums that make it hard to stay seated when you hear them. With classic albums like Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and Labcabincalifornia, the South Central L.A. group has cemented its place as one of the most iconic and influential acts on the West Coast, proving that the East Coast isn’t the only region capable of producing top-quality jazz rap.
Discography: F’Real (1997), Good Music (1999), Murs Rules the World (2000), The End of the Beginning (2003), Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition (2004), Murray’s Revenge (2006), Murs for President (2008), Have a Nice Life (2015), Love & Rockets, Vol. 1: The Transformation (2016), Captain California (2017), A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable (2018), Brighter Daze (2019), The Iliad is Dead and the Odyssey is Over (2019), Thees Handz (2019) (with The Grouch), He’s the Christian, I’m the Rapper (with Dee-1) (2020), Love & Rockets, Vol. 2: The Declaration (2020)
Los Angeles’ Murs has been a West Coast underground rap hero for over 20 years. The prolific alternative hip-hop artist has released dozens of albums as a solo artist and with a string of rock and hip-hop groups like The White Mandingos and his logtime duo Felt. Murs is known for jazz-infused soul grooves, lyrical storytelling rhymes and poetry-slam freestyle bars. Although his career has been long and eventful, he is probably best known in the mainstream for one particularly impressive feat. In 2016 Murs set a Guinness World Record for rapping non-stop for 24 hours, live on Twitch.
34. King Tee
Discography: Act a Fool (1988), At Your Own Risk (1990), Tha Triflin’ Album (1993), IV Life (1995), The Kingdom Come (2002)
There is a short list of emcees who qualify as true hip-hop old-school pioneers. On the West Coast, the old-school was defined by the likes of Ice T, Kid Frost and King Tee. King Tee debuted in 1988 with the now classic Act a Fool‘. While Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were still making beats and writing rhymes in Eazy E’s garage, Tee was dropping records and creating the Compton gangsta rap sound. He’s never achieved true crossover mainstream success but he has kept busy, dropping new music as recently as 2020.
33. Digital Underground
Discography: Sex Packets (1990), Sons of the P (1991), The Body-Hat Syndrome (1993), Future Rhythm (1996), Who Got the Gravy? (1998), ..Cuz a D.U. Party Don’t Stop! (2008)
The Bay Area’s Digital Underground are best known for their massive 1990 crossover hit, “The Humpty Dance”. However, that novelty track is just the tip of the iceberg from this iconic hip hop collective. Through its tenure, Gregory “Shock G” Jacobs’ brainchild launched the careers of legends, and played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of West Coast hip-hop. While Digital Underground’s most recognized character is Shock G’s alter-ego Humpty Hump, their most notable alumnus was Tupac Shakur, who spent his early rap career working as a roadie and backup dancer for the group. Digital Underground further impacted the decade with early and frequent use of classic 70’s funk samples, which in a way, pioneered the West Coast G-funk sound that would soon take over the rap world.
32. The Coup
Discography: Kill My Landlord (1993), Genocide & Juice (1994), Steal This Album (1998), Party Music (2001), Pick a Bigger Weapon (2006), Sorry to Bother You (2012)
Oakland’s The Coup are entering their third decade as vanguard underground hip-hop pioneers. Paying no attention to hip-hop trends during their tenure, the group has built an intensely loyal following with their smart and socially conscious bars and funk, jazz and rock fueled boom bap grooves. Led by frontman and producer Boots Riley, The Coup is an unlikely success story. The group has stayed true to their principals through all of the genre’s stylistic manifestations. In 2022 they remain one of the few truly radical voices in modern music.
31. Drakeo the Ruler
Discography: The Truth Hurts (2021)
I don’t want to describe the late Drakeo the Ruler as “unfulfilled potential” but it’s hard looking at his recording career and catalogue, and not think how much more it could have been. Described by OG hip hop journalist Jeff Weiss as the “most original West Coast stylist in decades,” Drakeo mesmerised the L.A. street rap scene with his unique flow and croaky wordplay. It’s just a tragedy that he was taken away in his prime because looking at the material he created while alive, he was headed to even further greatness.
30. Freestyle Fellowship
Discography: To Whom It May Concern… (1991), Innercity Griots (1993), Temptations (2001), The Promise (2011)
Underground heroes, Freestyle Fellowship came out of Los Angeles in the early 1990’s. However, their sound owed more to the five boroughs than the streets of Compton. The group’s sound and style landed somewhere between Wu Tang Clan’s gritty mafioso street boom bap and the hippie experimentation of De La Soul. While the group’s West Coast peers were raiding George Clinton’s discography, Freestyle Fellowship were building organic jazz-infused soul grooves. However, they were best known for their impressive collective skills on the mic, developing freestyle and chopping techniques that are still replicated today.
Discography: At the Speed of Life (1996), 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz (1998), Restless (2000), Man vs. Machine (2002), Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004), Full Circle (2006), Napalm (2012)
With his tough as nails delivery and straight-talk rhymes, Xzibit helped define the new school West Coast sound in the mid-nineties. One of the most recognizable artists to come from that era, the rapper turned his musical success into a multimedia empire. In the quarter of a century since his debut, Xzibit has dropped dozens of platinum singles, mixtapes and albums. He hosted and produced the hit MTV show Pimp My Ride and has appeared in over 20 films. His most recent high-profile gig came as the character Shyne on the Fox hit show Empire.
28. Schoolboy Q
Discography: Setbacks (2011), Habits & Contradictions (2012), Oxymoron (2014), Blank Face LP (2016), Crash Talk (2019)
Known for his turn-up anthems and drug-fuelled party tracks, Schoolboy Q has been a surprisingly underrated lyricist ever since he first came onto the scene. But as he’s proven time and time again, especially on his 2016 masterpiece, Blank Face LP, the L.A. rapper has a killer pen. Influenced by the likes of Jay-Z, Nas, 50 Cent, 2Pac and Big, Q has created his own potent legacy as part of TDE and cemented his name amongst some of the greatest West Coast rappers ever.
Discography: Nia (1999), Blazing Arrow (2002), The Craft (2005), Imani Vol. 1 (2015)
Sacramento’s Blackalicious made their debut in 1999 as the dominant West Coast gangsta rap era was disappearing in the rearview mirror. Formed by the duo of Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel, the group filled the void with a brand new message of Afrocentric positivity and spiritual enlightenment. Pioneers of alternative hip-hop, Blackalicious paired smart and verbose lyrical rhymes with solid soul riffs, breakbeat rhythms and old-school cutting and scratching. After years of silence the duo returned in 2015 with the acclaimed album Imani, Vol. 1. Sadly the comeback would be cut short in 2021 with Gab’s untimely passing.
26. Vince Staples
Discography: Summertime ’06 (2015), Big Fish Theory (2017), FM! (2018), Vince Staples (2021), Ramona Park Broke My Heart (2022)
Vince Staples rose to prominence as a talented West Coast artist in the mid-2010s and has continued to impress with his innovative blend of West Coast rap styles and genres such as electronic dance music and avant-garde. Even at a fairly young age, the Compton-born rapper has amassed a serious catalogue that could go up against any MC veteran in the game. Staples’ lyrics often draw on his own experiences with gang life in his teenage years, and his rap verses are known for their artful simplicity and concision, as demonstrated on recent masterpieces like 2021’s Vince Staples and 2022’s Ramona Park Broke My Heart.
25. Nate Dogg
Discography: G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2 (1998), Music & Me (2001), Nate Dogg (2003)
Long Beach native and West Coast homie, rapper-singer Nate Dogg provided the hooks to massive hits from some of the biggest stars of 90s and 2000s hip hop. His list of collaborators reads like a greatest rappers of all time list, ranging from 2Pac, E-40, Mos Def and Fabolous to Eminem, 50 Cent, Ludacris and Mobb Deep. As a solo artist, Nate enjoyed a relatively successful career – G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2 is, as you would imagine, a West Coast classic – however his biggest impact can be felt in his feature appearances.
24. Nipsey Hussle
Discography: Victory Lap (2018)
Nipsey Hussle may have only dropped one studio album over the course of his recording career, but he was a mixtape legend and an iconic West Coast rapper. Coming up in the 2000s with the Bullets Ain’t Got No Name and Marathon series, Nipsey was always a staple on the L.A. rap scene, whether it was collaborating with YG and Dom Kennedy or pushing his own record label, All Money In. After making headlines in the music business world with his 2013 mixtape, Crenshaw, Nipsey became the figurehead for independent rappers and he doubled down on preaching about ownership until he was tragically murdered. The Marathon Continues.
23. Ras Kass
Discography: Soul on Ice (1996), Rasassination (1998), A.D.I.D.A.S. (2010), Barmaggedon (2013), Blasphemy (with Apollo Brown) (2014), Breakfast at Banksy’s (with Jack Splash as Semi Hendrix) (2015), Intellectual Property (2016), Soul on Ice 2 (2019), I’m Not Clearing Shxt (2020)
Ras Kass was raised in Watts, during the decade following that Los Angeles neighborhood’s infamous riots, which were spawned by racial injustice and police brutality. The significance of his home was not lost on the young rapper. Throughout his career he has addressed social-political issues head-on. Known for smart freestyle rhymes and clever rapid-fire wordplay, Ras Kass has remained relatively underground throughout most of his career. However, those in the know have been putting the West Coast rapper at the top of ‘Best-Of’ lists for thirty years. Still as active as ever, Ras has dropped dozens of new singles in the 2020s.
22. Del the Funky Homosapien
Discography: I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991), No Need for Alarm (1993), Future Development (1997), Both Sides of the Brain (2000), Eleventh Hour (2008), Funk Man (The Stimulus Package) (2009), Automatik Statik (2009), It Ain’t Illegal Yet (2010), Golden Era (2011), Root Stimulation (2012), Iller Than Most (2014)
Bay area rapper Del the Funky Homosapien has skated on the edges of fame since his debut album I Wish My Brother George Was Here. Since then the enigmatic star has split his time between his original moniker and his sci-fi alter-ego, Deltron 3030. In both incarnations, the rapper has established himself as a pioneer and leader of underground hip-hop. Del’s sound is fluid. At times his records sound like the West Coast’s answer to De La Soul. At other times the rapper takes his sound out of the stratosphere. Old-school soul and jazz-fueled rhythms are common threads throughout, as is the fact that he’s a West Coast legend.
21. The D.O.C.
Discography: No One Can Do It Better (1989), Helter Skelter (1996), Deuce (2003)
Born in Dallas, Texas but making his come-up on the West Coast, The D.O.C. is one of the most important figures in L.A. hip hop history, if you’re a hip hop head that is. As an in-house writer for N.W.A., the rap legend penned some of the most important records for the likes of Eazy-E and Dr. Dre, while playing a behind-the-scenes role. When it came to dropping his own debut, D.O.C. didn’t disappoint. No One Can Do It Better remains one of the best Dre produced albums of all time, and the rapper’s lyrical performance across the 13-tracks is simply remarkable. Sporting a relentless flow, pinpoint delivery and tight vocal control, he was a mix between Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube.
20. Tyler, the Creator
Discography: Goblin (2011), Wolf (2013), Cherry Bomb (2015), Flower Boy (2017), Igor (2019), Call Me If You Get Lost (2021)
Tyler, the Creator’s evolution between the release of his albums Igor (2019) and Call Me If You Get Lost (2021) is one of the most significant transformations ever seen in a hip hop artist. While Igor featured fewer rap lyrics and focused more on R&B, funk, and neo-soul tracks, Call Me If You Get Lost is a project entirely devoted to rap, showcasing Tyler’s impressive range and talent. Over the past few years, his contributions to the hip-hop genre have been recognized with two Grammy awards, solidifying his status as a leading and influential figure in modern hip-hop.
19. Mac Dre
Discography: Young Black Brotha (1993), Stupid Doo Doo Dumb (1998), Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game (1998), Rapper Gone Bad (1999), Heart of a Gangsta, Mind of a Hustla, Tongue of a Pimp (2000), Mac Dre’s the Name (2001), It’s Not What You Say… It’s How You Say It (2001), Thizzelle Washington (2002), Al Boo Boo (2003), Ronald Dregan: Dreganomics (2004), The Genie of the Lamp (2004), The Game Is Thick, Vol. 2 (2004)
Hailing from Vallejo, California, the late Mac Dre is best known for the impact he had on his hometown’s legendary hip hop scene. As the founder and boss of independent record label Thizz Entertainment, Dre helped dozens of young Bay Area rappers get their start. From his 1992 debut What’s Really Going On? to his untimely death at the hands of a still unknown shooter in 2004, Mac Dre produced a now legendary catalog. Over hard boom-bap beats he dropped smart and societal observations. His rhymes were often critical of Northern California police, a fact that many think contributed to his questionable incarceration in 1992.
18. Warren G
Discography: Regulate… G Funk Era (1994), Take a Look Over Your Shoulder (1997), I Want It All (1999), The Return of the Regulator (2001), In the Mid-Nite Hour (2005), The G Files (2009)
Warren G’s name will forever be synonymous in the mainstream with his ubiquitous 1994 classic “Regulate”. He and lifelong friend Nate Dogg solidified their place in the hip-hop history books with the song’s smooth West Coast funk and laid-back gangsta chill. However, Warren G’s influence on the genre goes far deeper than that. Before “Regulate” was even written, the rapper played a pivotal role in the production of his stepbrother Dr. Dre’s West Coast G-Funk masterpiece, The Chronic. Thirty years of successful collaborations and solo projects followed.
17. Cypress Hill
Discography: Cypress Hill (1991), Black Sunday (1993), III: Temples of Boom (1995), IV (1998), Skull & Bones (2000), Stoned Raiders (2001), Till Death Do Us Part (2004), Rise Up (2010), Elephants on Acid (2018), Back in Black (2022)
Cypress Hill exploded onto the scene in 1991 with their debut self-titled album. The record was a crossover smash, thanks to hits like “How I Could Just Kill a Man” and “The Phuncky Feel One.” MTV and the alt-culture of the early 90s embraced the group’s stoner-gangsta vibe, making them as popular on 120 Minutes as they were on Yo MTV Raps. The pioneering group combined boom-bap grooves with the chilled lowrider vibe of NorCal Latino hood culture. Their sound was a unique mix of East Coast beats and West Coast attitude. During live shows, they often included live instrumentation, including a healthy dose of metal guitars. The group has remained active, releasing a new LP in 2022.
Discography: Below the Heavens (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2007), The Piace Talks (with Ta’Raach, as C.R.A.C.) (2008), Johnson&Jonson (with Mainframe, as Johnson&Jonson) (2008), theGodleeBarnesLP (2010), Her Favorite Colo(u)r (2011), Jesus (2011), Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2012), York (2013), Good to Be Home (with Bombay) (2014), Bad Neighbor (with MED and Madlib) (2015), Cheetah In The City (with Union Analogtronics) (2016), Gods In The Spirit, Titans In The Flesh (with Nottz) (2018), The Blueprint (with Shafiq Husayn) (2018), A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (with Oh No) (2019), True & Livin’ (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2019), Ground & Water (with Damu The Fudgemunk) (2019), Miles (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2020), The Color Blu(e) (2021)
One of the greatest underground rappers to ever grace a mic, Inglewood-born rapper Blu made his debut with the incredible, Exile-produced Below the Heavens in 2007, and has been a major figure of the L.A. rap scene ever since. With his blue collar rhyme style, relatable subject matter and superb technical skills as an MC, he has grown to become one of the most beloved artists in the rap game. Whether it’s making collaboration albums with Oh No and Nottz, linking back up with Exile for 2020’s brilliant Miles or dropping music on the solo tip, Blu is one of the hardest working and best West Coast rappers ever.
15. Earl Sweatshirt
Discography: Doris (2013), I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (2015), Some Rap Songs (2018), Sick! (2022)
Earl Sweatshirt’s lyricism is distinguished for its lack of fluff, with the Chicago-born MC offering up raw, hard-hitting bars over no-nonsense beats – a clear nod to MF DOOM’s signature style. If there were ever an heir to the throne of rap eccentricity, it would undoubtedly be Earl Sweatshirt. Despite having a smaller catalog of work compared to other artists, Earl Sweatshirt has proven himself as one of the most naturally gifted hip hop lyricists today. Every few years, he blesses us with something special – like I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside and Some Rap Songs — before retreating from public view again.
14. MC Ren
Discography: Shock of the Hour (1993), The Villain in Black (1996), Ruthless for Life (1998), Renincarnated (2009)
Known primarily as a member of N.W.A, Compton rapper MC Ren was pivotal in building the now legendary West Coast hip-hop empire. He got his start as a teen, writing rhymes for childhood friend Eazy-E. As a member of the Crips, Ren was also deeply involved in Compton’s gang life. In N.W.A, MC Ren functioned primarily as a lyricist. Much like the group’s primary wordsmith Ice Cube, Ren layered his gangsta stories with deeper socio-political themes. After N.W.A, MC Ren launched a solo career. His output has been sporadic, but he remains active
13. Too Short
Discography: Don’t Stop Rappin’ (1985), Players (1987), Raw, Uncut & X-Rated (1987), Born to Mack (1987), Life Is…Too Short (1988), Short Dog’s in the House (1990), Shorty the Pimp (1992), Get in Where You Fit In (1993), Cocktails (1995), Gettin’ It (Album Number Ten) (1996), Can’t Stay Away (1999), You Nasty (2000), Chase the Cat (2001), What’s My Favorite Word? (2002), Married to the Game (2003), Blow the Whistle (2006), Get off the Stage (2007), Still Blowin’ (2010), No Trespassing (2012), The Pimp Tape (2018), The Vault (2019), Snoop Cube 40 $hort (as Mount Westmore) (2022)
When we talk about old-school rap from the 1980’s, images of Brooklyn teens with gold chains, Kangol hats and Adidas sneakers come to mind. But the forefathers of hip-hop were not exclusively from the East Coast. Too Short is a hip-hop originator from Oakland whose impact on the genre rivals any of his peers from the five boroughs. His double platinum debut album Life is… Too Short introduced an original Bay Area street poet who provided live reports from the hood over 808 beats and funk riffs. In doing so he set the stage for all who followed in his independent footsteps.
12. The Game
Discography: The Documentary (2005), Doctor’s Advocate (2006), LAX (2008), The R.E.D. Album (2011), Jesus Piece (2012), The Documentary 2 (2015), The Documentary 2.5 (2015), 1992 (2016), Born 2 Rap (2019), Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind (2022)
Since releasing his iconic debut album two decades ago, The Game has experienced a career full of impressive successes as well as some difficult moments. His aggressive and classic gangsta rap delivery often causes contention with fellow rappers such as 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Eminem – just to name a few. But even though the West Coast rapper has encountered public battles over the years, he remains an undeniable West Coast icon, and his love for hip hop culture can never be denied.
Throughout his career, Game has consistently delivered outstanding music. Boasting ten albums and countless mixtapes to date, he is among the few remaining hip-hop artists who still know how to put together an enjoyable project from start to finish. There are no doubts about his masterful songwriting and delivery of raw lyrics that bring to life the vivid imagery of his humble beginnings.
11. Dr. Dre
Discography: The Chronic (1992), 2001 (1999), Compton (2015)
The greatest hip hop producer of all time. An iconic West Coast name. Dr. Dre may have had people writing his rhymes for him (most famously Jay-Z writing “Still D.R.E.” in the late ’90s), but he is such a legend of the game, how could you not include him on this list? With his booming voice and aggressive delivery, Dre had the perfect presence on the G-funk classics and menacing gangsta anthems that he crafted over the course of his illustrious career. Dre might not be one of the best MCs, he’s definitely not what you could call a lyricist, but when we’re talking about the most important hip hop artists of all time, this Compton-born producer-rapper is right up there.
10. MC Eiht
Discography: We Come Strapped (1994), Death Threatz (1996), Last Man Standing (1997), Section 8 (1999), N’ My Neighborhood (2000), Tha8t’z Gangsta (2001), Hood Arrest (2003), Veterans Day (2004), Affiliated (2006), Which Way Iz West (2017), Official (2020), Lessons (2020), Revolution in Progress (2022)
MC Eiht’s illustrious music career was heavily influenced by his upbringing and life experiences in Compton. With a successful career that spans three decades, during which he’s made records as Compton’s Most Wanted as well as an independent artist, the West Coast legend has always delivered. While his level of success is not comparable to that of other stars from the region, it could be argued that his longevity far exceeds many of those who came up alongside him. With a style that made up of old-school production and catchy R&B touches accompanied by compelling tales from the streets, Eiht’s voice can never be replaced in West Coast lore; it’s no surprise Kendrick asked him for a feature on “m.A.A.d City.”
Discography: Eazy-Duz-It (1988), Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton (1996)
Like Dre, Eazy-E didn’t write his own rhymes, he had a whiny, nasally voice, he often flowed awkwardly on tracks, but none of that shit matters because he’s a motherfucking West Coast icon. If Eazy-E didn’t decide to start up Ruthless Records back in the ’80s, there’s a very real chance that the entire hip hop landscape as we know gets flipped on its head. Maybe we don’t get Dr. Dre, which means no Snoop, or Eminem, or 50 Cent, or Kendrick Lamar on a major label. Misunderstood and controversial from the beginning of his career to his dying days, Eazy-E is a pioneer of West Coast gangsta rap, and we wouldn’t be writing about half the people on this list if it wasn’t for him.
Discography: Rhyme Pays (1987), Power (1988), The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say (1989), O.G. Original Gangster (1991), Home Invasion (1993), Ice-T VI: Return of the Real (1996), The Seventh Deadly Sin (1999), Gangsta Rap (2006)
The godfather of West Coast gangsta rap, Ice-T, like fellow legend Kurupt, was born on the East Coast (in New Jersey) and raised in L.A. Before he turned 15-years old, Ice had suffered the loss of both his parents – his mother died of a heart attack when he was in third grade, his father also passed from a heart attack when he was 13-years old. Coupled with him joining the military and subsequent ventures into the criminal underworld, Ice-T was equipped with unforgettable life experiences to pen some of the most authentic gangsta rap stories ever. Whether you want to talk about his debut, Rhyme Pays, or his ’91 magnum opus, O.G. Original Gangster, Ice-T has long been recognised as one of the greatest West Coast rappers of all time.
Discography: Kuruption! (1998), Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha (1999), Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey (2001), Against the Grain (2005), Same Day, Different Shit (2006), Streetlights (2010), 7Ps Tha Gotti Way (2022)
Hailing from Philly but raised in L.A., Kurupt represents the best of both worlds, with his aggressive, lyrical-driven style meshing well with his West Coast sensibilities and swagger. With a career spanning since the 1990s, Kurupt has made a name for himself through his impressive performances on tracks like “Stranded on Death Row,” his collaborations with Snoop on Doggystyle, as well as his work as a member of Tha Dogg Pound and as a solo artist. His undeniable rhyming talent and important contributions to the West Coast rap scene have cemented his place as one of L.A.’s greatest rappers of all time.
Discography: Federal (1993), In a Major Way (1995), Tha Hall of Game (1996), The Element of Surprise (1998), Charlie Hustle: The Blueprint of a Self-Made Millionaire (1999), Loyalty & Betrayal (2000), Grit & Grind (2002), Breakin’ News (2003), My Ghetto Report Card (2006), The Ball Street Journal (2008), Revenue Retrievin’: Day Shift (2010), Revenue Retrievin’: Night Shift (2010), Revenue Retrievin’: Overtime Shift (2011), Revenue Retrievin’: Graveyard Shift (2011), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1 (2012), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 2 (2012), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 3 (2012), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 4 (2013), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 5 (2013), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 6 (2013), Sharp On All 4 Corners: Corner 1 (2014), Sharp On All 4 Corners: Corner 2 (2014), The D-Boy Diary: Book 1 (2016), The D-Boy Diary: Book 2 (2016), The Gift of Gab (2018), Practice Makes Paper (2019), Snoop Cube 40 $hort (as Mount Westmore) (2022)
E-40 is one of the most hardworking and prolific figures in hip-hop, having built a vast and respected legacy in the industry since the early 1990s. As a member of the Bay Area group The Click, which included his siblings Suga-T and D-Shot and cousin B-Legit, E-40 found early regional success before embarking on a successful solo career.
Over the years, he has collaborated with a wide range of artists such as 2 Chainz, Fabolous, Kendrick Lamar, and Lil Jon, and has also developed emerging talent through his label Sick Wid It Records. In addition to his music career, E-40 has also proven himself to be a savvy businessman, branching out into industries such as energy water, cognac, and takeaway food. He is widely recognized as the greatest Bay Area rapper of all time and a pioneer of the independent hip-hop movement.
5. DJ Quik
Discography: Quik Is the Name (1991), Way 2 Fonky (1992), Safe + Sound (1995), Rhythm-al-ism (1998), Balance & Options (2000), Under tha Influence (2002), Trauma (2005), The Book of David (2011), The Midnight Life (2014)
One of the most underrated hip hop artists of all time, DJ Quik’s achievements as a rapper and producer rivals that of Dr. Dre’s, even though his legacy doesn’t hold the same weight in a lot of rap fans’ minds. From his early days as a teenager releasing mixtapes in Compton to his work with some of the biggest names in popular music, Quik has consistently demonstrated his talent. He was a pioneer of the funk-infused, George Clinton-inspired West Coast sound that gained popularity in the 1990s thanks to artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and his contributions to the genre cannot be overlooked. With the ability to tailor his music to his laid-back rapping style, Quik has solidified his place as one of the best West Coast rappers of all time.
4. Snoop Dogg
Discography: Doggystyle (1993), Tha Doggfather (1996), Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (1998), No Limit Top Dogg (1999), Tha Last Meal (2000), Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss (2002), R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece (2004), Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006), Ego Trippin’ (2008), Malice n Wonderland (2009), Doggumentary (2011), Reincarnated (2013), Bush (2015), Coolaid (2016), Neva Left (2017), Bible of Love (2018), I Wanna Thank Me (2019), From tha Streets 2 tha Suites (2021), BODR (2022), Snoop Cube 40 $hort (as Mount Westmore) (2022)
Snoop Dogg isn’t just a West Coast legend and one of the most iconic rappers to represent L.A., he’s arguably the most famous hip hop artist of all time. All around the world, whether they listen to rap music or not, people know who the motherfuckin’ D-O-double-G is. Before the likes of 2Pac, DMX, Eminem and 50 Cent were tearing up the chart, the Long Beach rapper was the top dog.
Rising to fame with his star-making performances on The Chronic, Snoop’s debut album Doggystyle sold over 800,000 copies in its first week, setting a record for a debut artist and becoming the fastest-selling hip-hop album of all time at the time of its release. With his West Coast-infused style, reminiscent of Slick Rick, and smooth, laid-back flow, Snoop Dogg’s music was underpinned by funky production and marked by iconic lines like “One, two, three and to the four/ Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door,” from “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.”
3. Kendrick Lamar
Discography: Section.80 (2011), Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012), To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), DAMN. (2017), Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (2022)
There shouldn’t be any conversation around whether Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper of his generation, by now it’s just facts that he is. The debate now is how high on the GOAT list is he? With more certified classics to his name than just a few other rappers, I would say he’s pretty damn high right now. With his exceptional rhyming talent, strong commercial appeal and exception songwriting skills, Kendrick has always represented hard for the West Coast, bringing the story of growing up in Compton to millions of people around the world. Even though he experienced writer’s block and had not released a full-length project since 2017, Kendrick’s return with Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, along with the preceding single “The Heart Part 5,” reminded rap fans of his unparalleled talent and solidified his place as one of the best West Coast rappers of all time.
Discography: 2Pacalypse Now (1991), Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… (1993), Me Against the World (1995), All Eyez on Me (1996), The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (as Makaveli) (1996)
2Pac’s rap career was defined by his ability to pack a lifetime’s worth of music, emotion, and experience into just a few short years. His debut album 2Pacalypse Now was released in November 1991, and just five years later, his first posthumous release, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, hit the shelves on November 5, 1996. In that time, 2Pac managed to cover an incredible range of emotions, from love and joy to anger, paranoia, and rage, and his music reflects the many facets of the human experience. While some traditionalist rap fans may criticize 2Pac for not being “lyrical” in the sense of delivering complex, multisyllabic rhymes, it’s his ability to pour his heart and soul into his words and connect with listeners on a deep emotional level that makes him one of the greatest rappers of the 1990s, if not of all time.
1. Ice Cube
Discography: AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990), Death Certificate (1991), The Predator (1992), Lethal Injection (1993), War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc) (1998), War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc) (2000), Laugh Now, Cry Later (2006), Raw Footage (2008), I Am the West (2010), Everythang’s Corrupt (2018), Snoop Cube 40 $hort (as Mount Westmore) (2022)
The greatest rapper to come out of the West Coast goes by the name of O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Cube formed his first rap group called C.I.A. in 1986 before linking up with Eazy-E and Dr. Dre to join N.W.A. It was part of the world’s most dangerous group that he was their chief writer and main rapper, channeling his anger and superb penmanship that resonated across the nation. After a dispute with Eazy and N.W.A.’s manager Jerry Heller, Cube split from the group and launched his solo rap career to become “The Nigga Ya Love to Hate.”
There isn’t a rapper in history who personifies L.A. more than Ice Cube, aside from maybe Snoop Dogg. Over the course of his 30-year plus career, particularly that stretch from 1988 to 1993, Cube demonstrated time and time again why he was the best West Coast rapper of all time. Whether it was his landmark debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, classic Kill at Will EP, masterpiece follow-up Death Certificate (which ranks as one of the best sophomore rap albums ever) or the blockbuster Predator, the West Coast icon has a catalogue that very few rappers can fuck with. From his rapping abilities to his storytelling chops to his overall impact on the game, Ice Cube is undisputedly the greatest West Coast rapper of all time.