Tuesday, January 17, 2012

KG's Top 5 California Hip Hop Tracks

I’ve just moved to Los Angeles to finish my final semester of college, and so far… it’s everything I thought it would be.  Yes, there is a lot of driving.  Yes, it is much slower paced than NY.  Yes, In N Out Burger is amazing.  However, living in LA has inspired me to think about the greatness of the LA hip hop sound, and how accurately the tracks match the environment out here. That got me writing about my favorite California Hip Hop tracks. This is my top 5... 

    5)    Kendrick Lamar – A.D.H.D.

Kendrick Lamar is currently tearing shit up in the hip hop circuit.  His album, Section.80, was one of the best albums of 2011, and “A.D.H.D.” has all of the elements that make the album so admirable.  The chorus is made memorable for Kendrick’s odd accent, the origins of which I am unsure of because Lamar grew up in California, and the lyrics “Eight doobies to the face, fuck that.  Twelve bottles in the case, fuck that.”  Beat drops galore.  Smooth, lie-back synths that fog your brain. Echoing percussion and some subtle record static give the track a vintage feel to accompany the very modern beat and chorus.  This is yet another ideal roll-through-LA-windows-down track.  Section.80 happens to be full of these kinds of songs, making it a nearly perfect modern West Coast album.  Other tracks to drive to include “Hol’ Up,” “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” and “HiiiPower.” 

   4)    Mellowhype – Hell

This is one of the directions in which LA rap has been moving toward.  Odd Future sub group Mellowhype’s “Hell” showcases Left Brain’s dark and aggressive production methods, and Hodgy’s ability to match lyrically.  Hodgy raps about the grind on this song, and is convincing at that.  He was 19 during the recording, and since he doesn’t share the track with other OF rappers, his individual presence is much more evident.  The song knocks pretty damn hard.  Synthy, loud, pregnant with bass, and completed with a great Frank Ocean hook, “Hell” is the ideal Mellowhype track.

3)    The Pharcyde – Soul Flower (Remix)

Best. Remix. Ever.  This remix is better than the original in the same way that R Kelly’s “Ignition” Remix is better than its original.  There is no contest.  “Soul Flower” sounds like a celebration.  Excellent use of the whining rap style is employed, and some blaring, funky horns will pretty much never fail.  A full 23 seconds of the song is filled with the lyric “shot him in the ass on the down stroke,” which is the merriest chorus that I have ever heard about shooting someone.  Overall, the track is a lot of fun, and a pretty big hit at most parties. 

2)    Dr. Dre – Let Me Ride

This is my gateway track to West Coast rap.  The bass is just... unreal.  Funky, harsh, popping, and heavy, the bass makes the song work.  To deprive this song of its bass is to deprive an artist his brush.  Dre was at the top of his rapping game in those early days, so his verse on this song is top notch.  “Let Me Ride” is my favorite song from The Chronic, and my favorite Dr. Dre song for that matter.  Playing this song in a car with the windows down in LA might sound clich√©, but it is a proven good time. 

1)    People Under the Stairs – San Francisco Knights

This track changed my life.  When I began listening to hip hop, the first 3 songs that sparked my interest were: Wu Tang Clan – “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nothing to Fuck With,” MF Doom – “Rapp Snitches feat. Mr. Fantastik,” and People Under the Stairs – “San Francisco Knights.”  The sample starts out the song with a soft and soothing vibe, and the drums come in hard with the ride cymbal driving the beat. The deep, deep bass drum reminds you that it is a classic rap track.  Next to “Acid Raindrops,” “San Francisco Knights” is People Under the Stairs’ most popular track, and for good reason. I can’t explain why, but the vocal sample makes my chest warm like I just took a shot of hard alcohol.  It’s a good burn.   This is one of the only songs that I can listen to at any time and still appreciate. 

by Ken Glauber