Why The West Coast Is Winning in Hip Hop…

Currently listening to Schoolboy Q’s LP, Blank Face. I really like it! The first time I heard Schoolboy Q was on the song “Collard Greens” and I’ve been a fan ever since.

blank-face-lp1

What is it about the West Coast that’s winning right now in Hip Hop?

(1) Musicality

Historically, West Coast Hip Hop has always been groovy. The artists who have achieved national fame, always have tracks that groove. Strong baselines & full instrumentation. Most of the beats on Blank Face sound great on their own merit. This is probably due to the influence of one of Hip Hop’s greatest producers Dr. Dre. The music is funky, jazzy and at times a little rock-n-roll.

(2) Distinct Voices

West Coast artists have figured out how to use their voices like instruments. Q’s voice sounds at times like a string instrument, and at other times it sounds like percussion. Kendrick has also mastered the use of his voice. For the longest time in hip hop, it felt like everybody sounded the same. They were applying the same technical sound to their voices. The thing that I love about Golden Age Hip Hop (and even Hip Hop in the 90s) is that you can tell by the voice, who is rapping. You know Nas’s voice, you know Jay-Z’s voice, you know Mystikal’s voice, you know DMX’s voice. Schoolboy Q & Kendrick both have unique voices that are distinctive.

(3) It’s Dynamic.

It’s not gangster music. It’s not conscious music. It’s a blend of both and you can appreciate it. They express vulnerability – fear, aspirations, and also classic hip hop bravado. They want to get the money, but the also want peace. They want the girls, but they also talk about love. It’s more connected to our real lived experience. Not some one-sided, inflated, one-dimensional reality.

(4) It Knocks.

A footnote for the musicality. You can feel the bass, which contributes to that hypnotic feeling. You can get lost in the track, and not lost like you have no idea what’s being said (seriously 75% of todays’ rap, I have to have translated for me), but lost like your conscious melds to the track. It has a certain bounce (that can play in the club) but also lends itself to just cruising in the car. It works in various settings.

So yeah, Blank Face, will be on rotation for me and I may even try to go to the concert! It’s rare that you have an album that you can play beginning to end, but this album works.

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