Home Music Music Lists

The 100 Greatest West Coast Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

From N.W.A to Tyler, the Creator, from mobb music to hyphy

100 greatest west coast hip-hop songs all time


HIP-HOP WAS BORN in the Bronx in the summer of 1973. To celebrate the music’s 50th anniversary, “Rolling Stone” will be publishing a series of features, historical pieces, op-eds, and lists throughout this year.

Our story of West Coast hip-hop music begins in 1981. That’s when producer, songwriter, and industry veteran Duffy Hooks III formed Rappers Rapp Disco Co. in Los Angeles. The label’s first release was “The Gigolo Rapp,” a nine-minute party platter that featured Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp rocking over an interpolation of Rick James’ “Give It to Me.” That same year, Oakland entrepreneur and soul singer Mickey “Mo” Moore released “Super Rat,” by Motorcycle Mike and the Rat Trap Band on Hodisk Records. However, the tale could start much earlier. There’s plenty of evidence that rap developed long before the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” brought New York hip-hop to the world. “From the nasty tales of Stagolee to H. Rap Brown in the Sixties, most of rap is nothing more than straight-up Black bravado,” wrote Ice-T in his book The Ice Opinion. “Rapping is just something you pick up in the ghetto.”

In four-plus decades, the West Coast scene has blossomed with musical variety, not only in Los Angeles and the Bay Area but also Sacramento, Phoenix, Seattle, and other cities across the region. From the electro era to mobb music, turntablism, hyphy, and more, it has produced so many standout artists, micro-scenes, one-hit wonders, and multi-genre fusions that it proved impossible to fit them all into a single, 100-song list. We could dedicate half of the list to the N.W.A family tree alone, a lineage that stretches from the World Class Wreckin’ Cru to Kendrick Lamar. We could have stuffed it with 2Pac, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg hits. Instead, we chose to go broad, sticking to one main artist’s song apiece, with few exceptions. Even then, we struggled to include everyone who matters. Inevitably, some did not make the cut.

The list was compiled by our editors and a team of critics headed up by Bay Area writer and longtime RS contributor Mosi Reeves. After compiling the initial list, we thought it would be nice to get an insider’s opinion. Our expert eyeballer for the 100 Greatest West Coast Hip-Hop Songs is Mike Cox of the L.A. production duo Mike & Keys. They have worked with many of the artists who appear here, including Dr. Dre, Nipsey Hustle, Dom Kennedy, Xzibit, and Saweetie. “West Coast hip-hop is the inspiration that me and my partner Keys used to make Nipsey’s album Victory Lap, because we were inspired by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A,” says Mike. “We were inspired by them using funk samples with hip-hop drums.”

Mike says that when Nipsey Hussle began work on the Grammy-nominated Victory Lap, he connected with numerous OG producers, including the late Digital Underground figurehead Shock G, Dr. Dre, and DJ Quik as well as engineers who worked on those sessions. “It’s like going and sitting with your senseis that did it before you and getting the blessing. We did that with all the West Coast legends,” he says.

However, Mike wonders what West Coast hip-hop means now in the age of the internet. “The internet made it possible for anybody to put their music up and think they’re a professional,” he says. “It’s made music more of a gumbo effect.… When you have everything accessible to you, you’re kinda all over the place.” Yet that’s part of the history, too. As the region evolves and acclimates to changing tastes in the music industry, our 100 Greatest West Coast Hip-Hop Songs stands as a snapshot of the scene’s important landmarks. It’s made with the knowledge that the future may well uncover a different portrait.

Hear this playlist on Spotify.

From Rolling Stone US


Kid Frost

“La Raza” is not only an essential Chicano rap anthem, it’s a signpost for two veterans with deep connections in the L.A. hip-hop scene. Kid Frost began his career as a dancer with Uncle Jamm’s Army, collaborating with the likes of Ice-T and releasing 12-inches like 1985’s underrated “Terminator.” By 1990, he had a deal with Virgin, leading to the debut album, Hispanic Causing Panic. Produced by Tony G of the KDAY Mixmasters crew, “La Raza” cruises at a simmering Latin-soul pace, and Frost peppers the track with Spanglish phrases and cholo street knowledge. “Your own barrio doesn’t back you up/They just look at your ass and call you a poo butt,” he boasts. After Panic, Frost worked with funk veterans War and formed the supergroup Latin Alliance with A Lighter Shade of Brown, Proper Dos, Hi-C, and Hispanic MCs. Frost’s son, Scoop Deville, is a noted producer who worked on Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice.” —M.R.


The Conscious Daughters

Mentored by San Francisco rapper-producer Paris, East Oakland rappers the Conscious Daughters were an anomaly in the Bay Area’s mobb music scene of the mid-Nineties. As two hardcore women amidst a macho landscape bedazzled by dreams of being macks of the year, CMG and the late Special One more than held their own, earning respect for deep, bass-ridden tracks like their debut single, “Something to Ride To (Fonky Expedition).” Produced by Paris, with live instrumentation by himself and session musician Eric Valentine, “Fonky Expedition” hums at a low, steady altitude, fueling the sound of a duo on the come up. Their vocal interplay is heavily influenced by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” “Kickin’ that shit you love,” raps CMG. “Pass the drank and the dank for the bitch to buzz.” —M.R.


Schoolboy Q

South Central L.A. rapper and former Hoover Crip member Schoolboy Q has long split the difference between punchy, evocative bars touting his thug bona fides and memorable turn-up choruses. “Man of the Year” encapsulates that unique songwriting talent by centering on a crazily effective strip-club chant. “Shake it for the man of the year/Uhh, m-man of the year/M-man of the bounce!” he raps, with producers Nez & Rio and Soundwave adding a percussive flourish as Q says the word “bounce.” But he also imbues his verses with colorful details like wearing “tank tops” to soak in the California breeze, “burnt lips” from blunt smoke, and “making meals from a verb.” Far from the knotty textures of onetime Top Dawg labelmate Kendrick Lamar, Q occupies his own lane and, as Will “Chazz Michael” Ferrell once said, he gets the people going. —M.R.


Roddy Ricch

Throughout 2020, “The Box” was inescapable. It seemed as if you couldn’t turn on a radio for more than a few minutes without hearing Roddy Ricch’s high-pitched “eee-err” ad-lib that kicks off the track. The global chart-topping hit was the culmination of growing acclaim for the Compton rapper’s hybrid of L.A. style and Southern melodic rap influences and followed increased attention for his mixtapes as well as breakout singles like “Die Young,” his dedication to a murdered friend. Co-produced by 30 Roc, Datboisqueeze, and Zentachi, “The Box” is an otherworldly number full of laptop synth washes and bass drops, a glossy canvas for Roddy Ricch to crow about “mojo deals” and “trapping like the Eighties.” —M.R.



Releasing dispatch after dispatch from his underground Bomb Shelter studio, the hopelessly prolific Madlib has been a cult figure for decades thanks to his offbeat sample choices, blunted textures, and endless stream of aliases. Next to his now-legendary Madvillain project, there’s perhaps no Madlib guise more beloved than Quasimoto, his squeaky-voiced, crate-digging “bad character” prone to sampling psych rock and Sun Ra. “Microphone Mathematics” was the lead single off Quas’ hazy debut, The Unseen. “The music is just uninhibited,” Madlib told Remix. “All of my stuff is, like, one take, like a free-jazz dude. And as far as Quas goes, that’s all freestyle shit.” —C.W.


2Pac feat. Digital Underground

“I Get Around” marked a reunion between 2Pac and Digital Underground, the Oakland rap band who first brought him to prominence as a touring dancer (and sometime stand-in for Shock G’s alter-ego, Humpty Hump), then as a breakout guest in 1991’s “Same Song.” Even though it was his first real pop hit, he had already gained notoriety through a starring role in the 1992 movie Juice, run-ins with law enforcement, and Black Panther-inspired songs that earned the ire of former Vice President Dan Quayle. There’s a sense of paying it forward as Pac spotlights the pioneering Bay Area crew behind “The Humpty Dance” while continuing his ascent to generational icon. Produced by Shock G’s D-Flow Production Squad with drum programming from DJ Fuze and a cameo from Money B, “I Get Around” is a playful, good-natured party classic, save for one ominous lyric that came back to haunt 2Pac: “It’s a lot of real Gs doing time/’Cause a groupie bit the truth and told a lie.” —M.R.