10 West Coast Rappers to Watch in 2014
Ever since artists like Too Short and N.W.A burst on to the scene in the late 1980s, the West Coast has been recognized as a hotbed for incredible and diverse hip-hop talent. Whether it was the gangsta music of artists like MC Eiht, Snoop Dogg and Above the Law or the decidedly non-gangsta rap stylings of groups like the Pharcyde and Tha Alkaholiks, there’s been a plethora of dope MCs throughout the Golden State.
These days the scene is as vibrant as ever. From San Diego to the Bay area, you’ll find a variety of different groups and solo acts that represent all aspects of the Left Coast lifestyle. However, there are a few rappers in particular that have the strongest buzz. These guys all have three things in common that any artist needs to thrive in the music business: strong singles, a growing fan base and undeniable bars.
Check out our list of 10 West Coast Rappers You’ll Need to Watch in 2014.
Hailing from Long Beach, CA., a town that's already associated with hip-hop royalty like Snoop and the Dogg Pound, Vince Staples is well on his way to be the next gangsta rap poster child -- especially since teaming up with Def Jam.
An Odd Future affiliate, Staples made his debut with a sinister guest verse on Earl Sweatshirt's 'ePAR' from Sweatshirts 2010 underground album 'Earl.' Since then Staples has dropped well-received mixtapes like this year's Larry Fisherman-produced 'Stolen Youth,' 2011's 'Shyne Coldchain' and the 'Winter In Prague EP' with producer Michael Uzowuru. Staples stole the show on Earl Sweatshirt's 'Hive' and makes an appearance on singer Jhene Aiko's 'Sail Out EP.'
There's hasn't been any word yet when Staples will release his full-length Def Jam debut, but by the way things are going for him, the album could catapult him to mainstream fame.
Pimpin' ain't easy but it sure is fun, just ask Berkeley, Calif., rapper 100s.
He writes songs paying tribute to that world and comes across as an O.G. permed-out player in the tradition of Suga Free and Kokane before him. The funny thing is though, he's only 20 years old.
Since his first release, 'Ice Cold Perm,' 100s has been a fixture in the Bay area rap scene, and he's signed to DJ A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs label Fool's Gold Records, making him labelmates with Danny Brown. 100s is also a featured performer on A$AP Ferg's Turnt x Burnt Tour. He's set to make his Fool's Gold debut in 2014.
It's not everyday that an artist makes the successful leap from a battle rapper to a mainstream fixture in music, but by the looks of things, Locksmith could be well on his way.
A finalist on MTV's 'Freestyle Battle Championship,' Locksmith gained national attention before ever releasing an album. You might have seen his video for the song 'Rare Form' floating around MTV Jams, in which he went on a lyrical tirade, taking aim at both Kanye West and Lil Wayne. The single displayed Locksmith's talent for putting battle rhymes into song form.
'The Green Box,' released earlier this year, is pegged as “his most personal work.” With songs like 'F--- Love' and 'Love vs. Lust,' this a rapper who isn't afraid to show some emotion in his lyrics.
After his 2010 mixtape, 'Pistols and Palm Trees,' Inglewood rapper Skeme has been consistently climbing the ranks. He's already worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Azalea and Schoolboy Q. He's even landed studio time with major producers such as Hit-Boy and DJ Mustard.
Skeme says that his success is built on hard work and developing the right relationships within the music industry. "Have a presence in the streets and relationships with artists that are bubbling out here on the coast [helps me be successful]," he said in a recent interview. "Always being a real dude and being genuine [is important too]. As life goes on, raps are going to get better, because I keep things on the up and up."
Looks like this lyricist already has his formula for rap success down to a science. Just listen to the Dom Kennedy-assisted single 'No Stress' and the motivational cut 'Road To The Riches,' and you'll see that this gruff-voiced MC is a force to be reckoned with.
And why is Compton rapper Buddy on this list? Two words: Pharrell Williams. Not only has the legendary producer mentored Buddy, he's signed him to his I Am Other record label and plans to produce some of his future projects.
But even before Pharrell came around, Buddy has put in a good amount of work on his own and has been one of the major players within the West Coast's thriving music scene. And this is mainly due to his sharp delivery and even sharper lyrical content.
However, it isn't just a co-sign that gives Buddy a great chance at stardom. The kid spits bars that are well beyond his 20 years spent here on earth, which has been evident since he dropped his very impressive 2011 single 'Awesome Awesome.'
On the bass-heavy Neptunes produced track, Buddy spits colorful raps that give the listener a clear picture of the things he's passionate about.
But Buddy just doesn't write verses about his West Coast lifestyle and upbringing, he can also create detailed stories, using extremely clever wordplay.
Just listen to the song 'Bell Ring,' where he rhymes about a teenage love from his high school days and you'll get a clear sense of why the Compton rapper belongs on this list.
Good things are certainly in store for this young talented Compton MC.
Compton rapper Problem has already developed some industry battle scars. In 2009, he inked a deal with Universal to release two singles, but it didn't work out. Yet that didn't stop the 28-year-old MC. Since then, he's made tons of moves independently, working with everyone from Jamie Foxx to Talib Kweli.
With his last two mixtapes, 'Ain't Nobody Hotter Than Me' and 'The Separation,' Problem has won over a lot of new fans outside of California, from the East Coast to the Midwest. Songs such as 'Like Whaaat' are getting plenty of spins around the country, which have only increased the rapper's profile.
But Problem's first big break didn't come via radio, it actually came when he was working behind the scenes, penning three songs for Snoop Dogg on his 'Ego Trippin' album back in 2011.
Just recently, Problem announced that he'll produce his debut album along with the production team League of Stars. The project will be released by the Diamond Lane Music Group, which is also the home of Casha Monet and Bad Lucc, two other West Coast artists that have garnered a fair amount of attention.
In fact, you can checkout Problem and Bad Lucc on fellow West Coast rapper Nutso's song 'Ph-k It,' produced by the Reef the Streets.
For now, there's no exact date on when Problem's debut will drop, but he's already put himself in a position to be one of the West Coast's major players next year.
Sage the Gemini
With a couple of Billboard-charting singles under his belt already, Fairfield, Calif., rapper Sage the Gemini has built a reputable name for himself. In August, he signed a deal with Republic Records, which is likely to give him all the corporate muscle he needs to take his music to higher levels.
After debuting the 'Gas Pedal' EP, which spawned Billboard hits like the IamSu-assisted song of the same title and the popular Auto-Tune-heavy 'Red Nose,' Sage is just getting started.
Additionally, he's down with the rap collective the HBK Gang -- short for the Heartbreak Gang -- which includes Jay Ant, Rossi, Chief, P-Lo, Kool John, Skip, IamSu, and Sage himself.
Currently, Sage is on the road doing a handful of shows before he drops his Republic Records album. His next show is in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 30.
At the age of 23, Compton's own YG has a resume full of collaborations with some pretty big heavy hitters in the music industry -- 2 Chainz and E-40 to name a few. In 2009, he signed a deal with Def Jam and in 2013, he joined Jeezy's CTE World roster, which means he clearly placed himself in a position of success. Plus, he's got a knack for making catchy tracks -- 'Toot It and Boot It,' anyone?
And YG has been pretty busy in the mixtape circuit too, releasing an impressive seven tapes in a relatively short period of time. But it was his last two projects, 'Just Re'd Up 2' and 'Boss Yo Life Up Gang,' that have put the talented rapper on a higher level of notoriety.
And YG just isn't an MC, he owns his own record label too, as he started his Pu$haz Ink company back in 2008.
It'll be interesting to see what this California native has in store for us in 2014.
If you've been following Los Angeles rapper Kid Ink's career, it's easy to tell that he's traveling on a great path. Since releasing his first mixtape, 'World Tour,' in 2010, Ink's brand has been on the rise. So far, he's worked with the likes of 2 Chainz, Wale and Meek Mill, and he's also teamed up with incredibly hot producers like Jahlil Beats.
Earlier this year, the tattooed spitter signed a deal with RCA and is set to release his first major label debut, 'My Own Lane.'
As his Chris Brown-assisted track 'Show Me' appeals to the pop crowd, Kid Ink proves he can switch lanes with ease, which will only benefit him in the musical long run.
When rap fans first got wind of Nipsey Hussle in 2008, he was quickly compared to Snoop Dogg for his look, his gang-affiliated content and the Left Coast he so passionately represented. But once they actually listened to his material, it was apparent he was his own artist, equipped with an entirely different message. A message that spoke of self-advancement and self-preservation.
Nipsey delivers his lyrical thoughts with a classic West Coast gangster style approach, but with some cool 2013 additions. Plus, his business acumen is admirable. Just recently, the wordsmith released the 'Crenshaw' album and charged $100 to separate the project from other releases. Jay Z bought 10 copies right off the bat, which proves Nipsey's hustle is a respected one.
His debut album 'Victory Lap' will undoubtedly be highly anticipated, as Nipsey has done a wonderful job of keeping himself on the scene in a do-it-yourself-way.
And this is why he's No. 1 on our list out of the West Coast rappers to watch for in 2014.