Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
20 Artists Who Made History At The 2023 GRAMMYs Other Than Beyoncé: Taylor Swift, Kim Petras, Viola Davis & More
As Queen Bey takes her throne as the artist with the most GRAMMYs of all time, take a look at some of the other 2023 GRAMMY winners who joined her in celebrating momentous achievements.
In the win heard around the world, Beyoncé became the person with the most GRAMMYs of all time at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Her win for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for RENAISSANCE put her at 32 golden gramophones — and in host Trevor Noah's eyes, that solidified her title as the GRAMMY GOAT.
But while Beyoncé's latest GRAMMY feat is unquestionably impressive, the "BREAK MY SOUL" singer wasn't the only artist who experienced a piece of GRAMMY history at the 65th GRAMMY Awards.
There were several special moments at the Premiere Ceremony, including the first-ever GRAMMY Awards for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical (Tobias Jesso Jr.) and Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media ("Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok"). At the Telecast, Kim Petras scored a major win for the transgender community with her Best Pop Duo/Group Performance victory, and Dr. Dre was the inaugural recipient of his namesake Dr. Dre Global Impact Award.
Below, take a look at some of the history-making feats from the 2023 GRAMMYs.
As Kim Petras and Sam Smith accepted the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their risqué collaboration, "Unholy," Smith let Petras do the talking because of a very special feat: She was the first trans woman to win in the category.
Earlier at the Premiere Ceremony, Germaine Franco became the first woman of color to win Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media, which she won for composing the Disney animated film Encanto. (Notably, Encanto swept all three of the categories for which it was nominated, also winning Best Song Written For Visual Media for "We Don't Talk About Bruno" and Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media.)
Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde rang in a country first, as their win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance (for "Never Wanted to Be That Girl") marked the first female pairing to win the category — and the first GRAMMY win for both artists!
There were seven new awards given at the 2023 GRAMMYs, making those seven recipients the first to receive their respective honors. These were the first-time winners at the Premiere Ceremony: Tobias Jesso Jr. (Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical), "Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok" (Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media), Wet Leg (Best Alternative Music Performance for "Chaise Longue"), Bonnie Raitt (Best Americana Performance for "Made Up Mind") and J. Ivy (Best Spoken Word Poetry Album for The Poet Who Sat By The Door).
At the Telecast, Dr. Dre became the first recipient of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award; shortly after, Iranian singer/songwriter Shervin Hajipour and his song "Baraye" received the first Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change.
There were a few other notable firsts at the Premiere Ceremony. Taylor Swift's Best Music Video win for "All Too Well: The Short Film" was the first time an artist won the category for a video directed by the artist themselves.
When jazz favorite Robert Glasper's Black Radio III won Best R&B Album, it marked his second win in the category — and an interesting one at that. His first win came in 2013 thanks to the original album in the trilogy, Black Radio, meaning his 2023 win was the first time an album and its sequel album have won in the category.
Elsewhere, two student groups celebrated some historic GRAMMY firsts: The Tennessee State University Marching Band became the first collegiate band to win a GRAMMY after receiving the golden gramophone for Best Roots Gospel Album, and the New York Youth Symphony became the first youth orchestra to win Best Orchestral Performance.
Viola Davis added a GRAMMY to her ever-impressive empire, which meant she is now officially an EGOT (Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, Tony) winner. Her GRAMMY win for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording helped her become the third Black woman to earn an EGOT, and the first to secure the status at the GRAMMY Awards, following Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson.
Last but certainly not least, "Into The Woods" joined elite ranks by winning the GRAMMY for Best Musical Theater Album. Stephen Sondheim's 1987 original won the category in 1989, making it only the fourth Broadway show to earn two Best Musical Theater Album GRAMMYs alongside "Gypsy," "Les Miserables" and "West Side Story." It's also the second year in a row a piece of GRAMMY history was born from the category, as "The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical" creators Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear became the youngest winners in 2022.
Photos (L-R): The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images, Jody Dominigue, Jack Bridgland, courtesy of the artist, Michael Tranafp, Rodin Eckenroth via Getty Images, Paras Griffin via Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This October: Troye Sivan, Drake, Blink 182, NCT 127 & More
Don't let the falling leaves bring you down — read on for 15 albums dropping in October from Taylor Swift, Gucci Mane and Riley Green.
Fall has already begun, and 2023 enters its final act with the beginning of October. However, that doesn't mean the music has to slow down — this month offers plenty of new releases for everyone from rap fans to country aficionados.
The month starts with Sufjan Stevens and the release of Javelin, his first fully-written album in eight years. On the same day, after several postponements, Drake will finally put forth For All the Dogs. Later in the month, blink-182 will make a long-awaited return with One More Time…, their first album featuring the original members since 2011, and Migos rapper Offset will drop his sophomore record, Set It Off.
Don't let the falling leaves bring you down — below, GRAMMY.com compiled a guide with 15 must-hear albums dropping October 2023.
Sufjan Stevens - Javelin
Release date: Oct. 6
The last time Sufjan Stevens released an album fully written by himself was 2015's Carrie & Lowell. Javelin, his upcoming tenth studio album, will finally break this spell.
Mostly recorded at Stevens' home studio and featuring contributions from several friends (including the National's Bryce Dessner), the 10 tracks of Javelin bring back sounds of "70s Los Angeles' studio opulence" and vibes of a "detailed yet plain" self-portrait, according to a press release.
The album also features a cover of Neil Young's "There's a World" and an ambitious, 48-page art book with collages and essays written by Stevens. Javelin is preceded by the soothing single "So You Are Tired" and the spaced-out "Will Anybody Ever Love Me?"
NCT 127 - Fact Check
Release date: Oct. 6
Within the NCT constellation, NCT 127 is the subgroup anchored in South Korea's buzzing capital, Seoul. Since debuting in 2016, the nine-member ensemble has been infusing the city's vibrancy with innovative EDM and hip hop mixes.
On Oct. 6, NCT 127 will return with their fifth studio album, Fact Check, bringing in another round of their experimental K-pop sound. Consisting of nine songs, including lead single "Fact
Check (Mysterious; 不可思議)," the album expresses 127's confidence.
So far, they released a wealth of teasers that are linked to NCT's overall "dream" concept, video contents, and a highlight medley of the album tracks. After the recent ronclusion of NCT Nation, NCT's first full-group concert in South Korea and Japan, fans are expecting 127 to announce tour dates.
BoyWithUke - Lucid Dreams
Release date: Oct. 6
Mysterious masked singer and TikTok phenomenon BoyWithUke will continue his dream-themed saga with the release of Lucid Dreams, his fourth studio album.
According to a statement by the Korean American star, Lucid Dreams is meant to express "my desires, my fears, my past, and my dreams." He also adds that the each song on the album is "like a different step on the path. I'm facing past traumas, making the music I want to make, and figuring out who I am."
That development can be seen on pre-releases "Migraine" and "Trauma," where he opens up about mental health and childhood struggles over signature ukulele strings. In his own words, this album is truly "BoyWithUke blossoming, spreading his wings, and finding himself."
Drake - For All the Dogs
Release date: Oct. 6
The album's tracklist is still a mystery, but it will reportedly feature names like Nicki Minaj, Bad Bunny, and Yeat, with production credits from 40, Bnyx, and Lil Yachty, among others. For All the Dogs is also linked to the Canadian rapper's debut poetry book, Titles Ruin Everything: A Stream of Consciousness — a 168-page collection written in partnership with longtime friend and songwriter Kenza Samir.
The album follows Drake's two 2022 studio albums: Honestly, Nevermind and Her Loss, in collaboration with 21 Savage. Currently, Drake is finishing up his It's All A Blur North American tour — one of the reasons why the album has been postponed before.
Troye Sivan - Something to Give Each Other
Release date: Oct. 13
On an Instagram post, Australian singer Troye Sivan stated: "This album is my something to give you — a kiss on a dancefloor, a date turned into a weekend, a crush, a winter, a summer. Party after party, after party after after party. Heartbreak, freedom. Community, sisterhood, friendship. All that."
Something to Give Each Other is Sivan's first full-length album in five years, following 2018's Bloom. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he revealed many of the inspirations behind this work, including partying, movies like Lost in Translation and Before Sunrise, and simple, ice-cold glasses of beer.
The trippy atmosphere of the album can be felt through pre-release singles "Rush" and "Got Me Started" — which features a sample of Bag Raider's omnipresent 2011 hit, "Shooting Stars."
Offset - Set It Off
Release date: Oct. 13
Migos rapper Offset said in a statement that his sophomore album, Set It Off, took over two years to finalize. "This season is personal for me. It marks a new chapter in my life," he added.
A follow-up to his 2019 debut LP, Father of 4, the album will feature appearances by stellar names such as rapper Future, Travis Scott, Chloe Bailey, and Latto, as well as Offset's wife Cardi B, who appears on single "Jealousy."
Later in the statement, Offset said he feels "like Michael Jackson coming from a successful group breaking records to superstardom on my own. This body of work is healing for me and a letter to my fans and supporters." Lead single "Fan" brings back that comparison through many Michael Jackson references in the music video — a clever choice for the rapper's keen self-awareness.
Metric - Formentera II
Release date: Oct. 13
Exactly one year after the release of Formentera, indie royalty Metric took to social media to announce their ninth studio album, Formentera II. "Sometimes I feel like I'm in a damn maze and maybe you do too, or maybe you have it totally together, or maybe you feel like you're always floating somewhere in between," they wrote. "Wherever you're at right now, I am here to guide you to the rocking️ conclusion of our Formentera I & II odyssey."
The Canadian band also shared lead single "Just the Once," which was described by vocalist Emily Haines as a "regret disco" song in a press statement. "It's a song for when you need to dance yourself clean," she added. "Beneath the sparkling surface, there's a lyrical exploration of a simple word with many meanings. Once is a word that plays a game of opposites."
In support of the release, Metric revealed another single, "Who Would You Be For Me," and will be playing special concerts in NYC, L.A., Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Monterrey, and Santiago starting Oct. 10. The concerts will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut LP, Old World Underground, Where Are You?
Riley Green - Ain't My Last Rodeo
Release date: Oct. 13
Alabama country star Riley Green has a moving story behind his second full-length album. Echoing the 2019 hit "I Wish Grandpas Never Died," Ain't My Last Rodeo came from one of the last conversations the singer shared with his late grandfather, Buford Green, who was an essential figure shaping his love for music and nature.
"I was fortunate enough to grow up within about three miles of my grandparents, so they were a huge part of my growing up and who I am — and this album is a lot of who I am," Green said in a press release. "This is really the first time I was able to really take my time, write and record songs that really felt like a cohesive album."
Ain't My Last Rodeo features 12 tracks (including a cover of Tim McGraw's "Damn Country Music") and collaborations with Jelly Roll and Luke Combs. In February 2024, Green will embark on a 34-stop tour throughout the U.S.
The Drums - Jonny
Release date: Oct. 13
As its title suggests, the Drums' upcoming sixth studio album, Jonny, dives deep into current solo member Jonny Pierce's life. According to a press release, the album mainly explores "the deep-rooted childhood trauma Pierce experienced growing up in a cult-like religious community in upstate New York."
The singer explains further: "When I finished Jonny, I listened to it, and I heard my soul reflected back at me. It is devastating and triumphant, it is lost and found, it is confused and certain, it is wise and foolish. It is male and female, it is hard and gentle.
"To encapsulate one's whole self in an album, to honor each and every part of you, even the parts that feel at odds with each other, is to make something deeply human, and because my religion is humanism, the album becomes a sacred place for me to worship. Each feeling a different pew, each song a hymn to the human heart."
In the past few months, Pierce gave insight into the 16-track, indie-pop collection through singles "I Want It All," "Plastic Envelope," "Protect Him Always," "Obvious," and "Better." Jonny is the band's first full release since 2019's Brutalism.
Gucci Mane - A Breath of Fresh Air
Release date: Oct. 17
Following 2016's Ice Daddy, Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane's sixteenth studio album will be named A Breath of Fresh Air.
In it, Mane is likely in his most vulnerable, relatable state yet. "I kind of wanted to let people know that I go through pain," he stated in an interview for Apple Music (via Revolt). "Like I said, I didn't want to have so much just superficial topics. I hit people and let them know, 'Hey, this was going on,' but it ain't a bad thing. It's okay to be happy. You know what I'm saying?"
According to iTunes, the album is set to have two discs and 24 songs, including singles "Bluffin" featuring Lil Baby, "Pissy" featuring Roddy Ricch and Nardo Wick, "King Snipe" with Kodak Black, and "06 Gucci" with DaBaby and 21 Savage.
blink-182 - One More Time…
Release date: Oct. 20
blink-182's newest single, "One More Time," is a hard-earned reflection about what really matters in life. The punk rock trio, which hadn't been reunited since 2011's Neighborhoods, now realizes how personal struggles impacted their friendship, and how they hope to make it different in the future.
"I wish they told us, it shouldn't take a sickness/ or airplanes falling out of the sky," they sing, referencing Travis Barker's 2008 plane crash and Mark Hoppus' 2021 cancer diagnosis. "I miss you, took time, but I admit it/ It still hurts even after all these years."
A proof of maturity since they stepped into music in 1992, the heartfelt single is also the title track off upcoming LP One More Time... Featuring 2022's "Edging" and "More Than You Know" as well, the album was recorded mostly during their reunion tour this year, and boasts 17 tracks in total.
Sampha - Lahai
Release date: Oct. 20
Lahai is Sampha's grandfather's name and his own middle name. Now, it will become part of his musical history — the singer's sophomore studio album and follow up to 2017's acclaimed Process is due Oct. 20.
Over social media, Sampha described the record through a series of words as intriguing as his music: "Fever Dreams. Continuums. Dancing. Generations. Syncopation. Bridges. Grief. Motherlands. Love. Spirit. Fear. Flesh. Flight." Featuring contributions from singers like Yaeji, El Guincho and Yussef Dayes, it will feature 14 tracks that seemingly take a more positive tone than his previous work.
In a statement about lead single "Spirit 2.0," the south London singer said "it's about the importance of connection to both myself and others, and the beauty and harsh realities of just existing. It's about acknowledging those moments when you need help — that requires real strength."
Starting Oct. 12 in his hometown, Sampha will play a string of concerts throughout the U.K., Europe, and North America, wrapping it up on December 4 in Berlin, Germany.
Poolside - Blame It All On Love
Release date: Oct. 20
"I've spent 15 years being like, 'f—your rules,' and I finally feel like I'm not trying to prove anything or anyone wrong," says Jeffrey Paradise, the man behind "daytime disco" project Poolside, in a statement about his upcoming album, Blame It All On Love.
"It's just pure, unfiltered expression, and that's why I'm really excited about this record," he adds. The album bears 11 tracks described as "funky, soulful, laidback, and full of hooks" — as can be seen in singles like "Float Away," "Each Night" featuring Mazy, and "Back To Life" with Panama. According to the same statement, "the production marks a return to his live music roots and finds ease in simple and radiant layers of sound, even as it comes face-to-face with the complex reality of one's dreams come true."
Blame It All On Love is the follow-up to 2020 and 2021's duo Low Season and High Season. Poolside is on tour across the U.S. until Oct. 14.
Black Pumas - Chronicles of a Diamond
Release date: Oct. 27
Black Pumas' long-awaited second studio album, Chronicles of a Diamond, is "wilder and weirder" than its predecessor, according to an official statement. It is also the Austin-based duo's "fullest expression" of "frenetic creativity and limitless vision."
The album contains 10 tracks that expand on their trademark psychedelic soul sounds, as it can be seen in singles "More Than a Love Song" and "Mrs. Postman." "I wanted to make something we'd be thrilled to play live 200 days a year," says singer/songwriter Eric Burton in the same statement. "I wanted to be able to laugh, cry, bob my head, do the thing: it was all very much a selfish endeavor."
After the release, the Black Pumas will embark on a U.S. tour starting Dec. 4 in Austin, Texas, and follow into an European tour starting March 15 in Paris.
Taylor Swift - 1989 (Taylor's Version)
Release date: Oct. 27
Just three months after the release of Speak Now (Taylor's Version), Swifties will be treated to the singer's fourth re-recorded album this month: 2014's 1989. "To be perfectly honest, this is my most FAVORITE re-record I've ever done because the five From The Vault tracks are so insane," she revealed over social media.
As usual with Swift, the announcement of the album was marked by a slew of hints, starting with the news' date — Aug. 9, or 8/9 — during the final U.S. stop of her Eras Tour at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium. On that day, she also debuted new, blue outfits that alluded to 1989's assigned color. Afterwards, the discovery continued through a partnership with Google Search for fans to solve word puzzles in order to discover the titles of the five "From the Vault" tracks.
The album, which Swift said "changed my life in countless ways" will be available in digital, cassette, CD, and vinyl. She will also release deluxe versions in four different colors: crystal skies blue, rose garden pink, aquamarine green, and sunrise boulevard yellow.
Photo: Renee Dominguez/Getty Images for Live Nation
Kim Petras Kicks Off Her Feed The Beast World Tour: Watch Performance Videos, Social Media Reactions
The GRAMMY winner opened her Feed The Beast World Tour in Texas on Sept. 27 with a sensational, scandalous performance of nearly two hours. Here’s what fans had to say on social media about the icon’s show.
Underneath the Austin sky, Kim Petras put on a show that was just as hot as the night around her.
The Feed The Beast World Tour — which opened on Sept. 27 at Austin's Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park and will continue for the next seven months — marks Petras’ most extensive journey yet. The pop princess performed hits from her various projects, even her 2018 Halloween-themed EP Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1.
Beyond embarking on a massive global tour, 2023 has been a year full of milestones for Kim Petras. The 31-year-old German singer performed at the 65th GRAMMY Awards and took home a golden gramophone for Best Pop Group/Duo Performance for "Unholy," her collaboration with Sam Smith.
Petras has been steadily releasing music for years, but her long-awaited debut album, Feed The Beast, was finally released this June. Just weeks before her tour began, Petras dropped the previously leaked album Problématique by surprise, taking power back into her own hands.
GRAMMY.com attended the opening night of Petras' Feed The Beast tour. Read on for a peek inside the powerful, larger-than-life show, as well as a hint of the spectacle to come.
Feed The Beast Got Tons Of Play & Praise From Fans
Petras opened the show with the title track from the tour's namesake. While Petras is performing many new songs live for the first time, she's also playing hits like "King of Hearts" and "Castle in the Sky."
A Spooky Section Featured Lots Of Throwbacks
Fans were ready to be transported into another world, and Petras delivered on multiple levels. During one of the show's many acts, she ventured into the dark side by playing songs from her first EP, Turn Off the Light. Petras performed darker-themed songs including "There will be Blood," "Wrong Turn," and "Demons."
Mesmerizing visuals and dancers heightened the sinister scene, leaving some fans speechless. The stage design blended into black and red, and Petras' commanding presence created an aura of royalty that hypnotized her audience.
Fans Were Passionate About The Lengthy Setlist
While some fans were grateful for the earlier hits in Petras' set, others took to social media to voice their opinions on what was missing.
Although the performance was nearly two hours long, it's impossible to please everyone in the audience. WhilePetras couldn’t cover the entirety of her extensive catalog, she wowed with more than 30 songs. There were still a few surprising omissions, however, including the fun and fruity hit "Coconuts."
There's Much To Look Forward To & Much Love To Share
Onstage, Petras constantly praised the crowd for their energy and was met with roaring cheers. After the extravagant opening show, she continued to share her appreciation online:
Both excitement and expectations were high for the Feed The Beast tour, and Petras' first show delivered a satisfyingly electric experience.
Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
A Brief History Of Hip-Hop At 50: Rap's Evolution From A Bronx Party To The GRAMMY Stage
Aug. 11, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. To honor the legacy and influence of this now global culture, GRAMMY.com presents a timeline marking the genre's biggest moments.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, a cultural movement that rose from humble beginnings in New York to fuel a worldwide phenomenon.
Scholars may debate whether its roots precede Aug. 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc debuted his "merry-go-round" technique of playing funk breaks back-to-back to a roomful of teenagers in the Bronx. However, there’s little doubt that this event sparked a flowering of activity throughout the borough, inspiring DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, and, eventually, pioneering MCs like Coke La Rock and Cowboy.
The music industry eventually caught wind of the scene, leading to formative 1979 singles like the Fatback Band’s "King Tim III" — the funk band featured MC and hypeman Timothy "King Tim III" Washington — and the big one: the Sugarhill Gang’s "Rapper’s Delight."
Today, rap music is the most popular genre of music, led by superstars such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future, Eminem, and many others. Despite its massive success, many artists retain their strong ties to communities of color, reflecting the genre’s origins as a form rooted in the streets.
To mark hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, press play on the playlist below, or head to Amazon Music, Apple Music and Pandora for a crash course in this quintessential stateside artform — further proof of the genius of Black American music.
At the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards, the Recording Academy showcased the breadth of hip-hop's influence via a star-studded, generation-spanning performance. Curated by Questlove and featuring legends such as Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C., Ice-T, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Nelly, and GloRilla, the 2023 GRAMMYs' hip-hop tribute showed that hip-hop remains one of the most exciting music cultures — and will likely remain so for the next 50 years.
A Timeline Of Hip-Hop's Development
1973 – On Aug. 11, 1973, Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell DJs a back-to-school party organized by his sister, Cindy Campbell, in the rec room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. The event is widely considered to be the beginning of hip-hop culture.
1979 – Longtime R&B star and producer Sylvia Robinson launches Sugar Hill Records with her husband, Joe. She discovers their first act in New Jersey, a trio of rapping teenagers — Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee — and brands the Sugarhill Gang. The Gang’s first single, "Rapper’s Delight," sells millions of copies and becomes the first global rap hit.
1982 – Co-written by Duke Bootee and Melle Mel and produced by Clifton "Jiggs" Chase, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s hit single "The Message" becomes a turning point in the genre. Bootee and Melle Mel’s stark descriptions of poverty signal to fans and critics that hip-hop is capable of more than just party music.
1984 – Russell Simmons’ Rush Management organizes Fresh Fest, a groundbreaking arena tour featuring hot rap acts like Run-D.M.C., Whodini, Kurtis Blow, the Fat Boys, and Newcleus as well as b-boy crews such as the Dynamic Breakers. Held during the next two years, it signifies hip-hop’s growing popularity.
1986 – After bringing frat-boy chaos as the opening act on Madonna’s Virgin Tour, Def Jam understudies the Beastie Boys collaborate with producer Rick Rubin on Licensed to Ill. Spawning the hit single "Fight for Your Right," the album is certified diamond in 2015.
Beastie Boys in 1987 | Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
1987 – Thanks to a remix by the late DJ/producer Cameron Paul, rap trio Salt-N-Pepa get teens everywhere twerking — and worry parents and school administrators — with the electro-bass classic, "Push It."
1988 – Public Enemy release their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Reportedly featuring over 100 samples and focused on Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff’s revolutionary lyrics, it’s often cited as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
1988 – Thanks to lyrics criticizing law enforcement and depicting raw life in Compton, California, N.W.A spark national controversy with their influential second album, Straight Outta Compton.
1991 – Ice-T appears in New Jack City, becoming one of the first rappers to headline a major Hollywood film. That same year, he appears on the Lollapalooza tour with his metal group, Body Count, and performs an early version of "Cop Killer." The song becomes a flashpoint in the 1992 presidential election.
1993 – Wu-Tang Clan release their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). With nine members led by rapper/producer the RZA, the highly unique Staten Island-based collective spawned dozens of solo albums and affiliated acts over the following decades.
1996 – After dominating most of 1996 with his fourth album, the diamond-certified double album All Eyez on Me, 2Pac is killed in Las Vegas. The unsolved murder of one of the greatest rappers of all time remains a watershed moment in music culture.
1997 – Days before the release of his diamond-certified second album, Life After Death, the Notorious B.I.G. is killed in Los Angeles. The slaying of two of hip-hop’s biggest artists prompts soul-searching across the music industry and inspired Biggie’s friend, Puff Daddy, to release the GRAMMY Award-winning hit, "I'll Be Missing You."
1997 – After writing and producing hits for MC Lyte and Aaliyah, Missy Elliott debuts as a solo artist with Supa Dupa Fly. With production help from Timbaland and kinetic music videos, Elliott establishes herself as one of the most innovative acts of the era.
Missy Elliott | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
1998 – After scoring multi-platinum hits with the Fugees, Lauryn Hill strikes out on her own with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The diamond-certified album earns her several GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year.
1999 – Dr. Dre releases 2001, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential rap producers ever. The album features numerous collaborators, including longtime homie Snoop Dogg and rising lyricist Eminem.
2001 – On Sept. 11, Jay-Z releases his sixth album, The Blueprint. It becomes a career highlight for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame rapper, and a breakout moment for rising producers Just Blaze and Kanye West.
2003 – Hit-making duo OutKast split their double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below into separate sides for Big Boi and Andre 3000 — the latter focusing on singing instead of rapping. Their fresh approach results in a diamond-certified project and a GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.
2008 – Lil Wayne mania peaks with Tha Carter III, which sells over 1 million copies in its first week and earns him a GRAMMY for Best Rap Album.
2010 – Nicki Minaj releases Pink Friday. The hit album makes her a rare female rap star during a dearth of prominent women voices in the genre.
2017 – By landing a Top 10 Billboard hit with "XO Tour Llif3" and topping the Billboard 200 with Luv Is Rage 2, Lil Uzi Vert signifies the rise of internet-fueled trends like "SoundCloud rap" and "emo rap."
2017 – With his fourth album Damn., Kendrick Lamar not only wins a GRAMMY for Best Rap Album, but he also becomes the first rap artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music, leading to the fanciful nickname "Pulitzer Kenny."
2018 – Cardi B releases her debut album Invasion of Privacy, scoring Billboard No. 1 hits such as "Bodak Yellow" and "I Like It." As the best-selling female rap album of the 2010s, the LP won Best Rap Album at the 61st GRAMMY Awards in 2019, making Cardi the first solo female rapper to win the Category.
Cardi B at the 61st GRAMMY Awards | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
2020 – In early 2020, rising star Pop Smoke is killed in Los Angeles. Months later, his posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, tops the charts, signifying the rise of drill as a major force in hip-hop culture.
2021 – At the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2021, the Recording Academy introduced the Best Melodic Rap Performance Category, formerly known as the Best Rap/Sung Performance Category, to "represent the inclusivity of the growing hybrid performance trends within the rap genre."
2023 - At the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, seven-time GRAMMY winner Dr. Dre became the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award for his multitude of achievements through his innovative, multi-decade career. Dre was first presented with the award at the Black Music Collective's Recording Academy Honors ceremony.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
A Guide To Southern California Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From L.A. & Beyond
Hip-hop began in the Bronx, but many of the culture’s most unforgettable moments came from Southern California. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, take a trip through SoCal's rich hip-hop history — from N.W.A. and KDAY, to the Super Bowl.
"The sun rises in the East, but it sets in the West," raps Ice Cube on Westside Connection’s 1996 hit, "Bow Down." Indeed, hip-hop began in the Bronx, New York. But many of the culture’s most unforgettable moments have come from Southern California, a region where young Black and Brown people took to hip-hop soon after the Sugarhill Gang’s "Rapper’s Delight" blew up worldwide.
This guide chronicles some of the region’s many musical peaks, from commanding attention in the late ’80s, to virtually dominating the genre in the ’90s, and eliciting worldwide acclaim in the 21st century and beyond.
A Brief History Of Southern California Hip-Hop
Since the first L.A. hip-hop record in 1981, Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp’s "The Gigolo Rapp," Southern California has generated some of the biggest names in hip-hop history: Ice-T, Eazy-E, N.W.A., Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, The Game…everyone knows who the kings of the West Coast are. That legacy has not only made the region a prideful one, but also led to assumptions that "gangsta rap" defines it.
But Southern California has yielded more artistic variety than just street politics, whether it’s poetic lyricists like Kendrick Lamar, brilliantly idiosyncratic producers like Madlib, bracing innovators like Freestyle Fellowship, or unabashedly good-time rappers like Tone-Loc and Tyga.
No matter the form, rap in Southern California is deeply rooted in bluesy funk, soul, and jazz. It’s a complex scene that's often divided by neighborhood affiliation and stylistic differences, yet united by a place everyone calls home. Artists in SoCal are unafraid to make soundtracks for dance floors and family cookouts as well as for cruising through L.A.’s freeway sprawl. That common touch is why the city’s brand of rap music resonates around the globe.
Southern California hip-hop has waxed and waned in national popularity, and its creative and commercial dominance in the 1990s and early aughts, thanks to massive hits such as Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and 2001 as well as 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me, continue to cast a long shadow over the culture. However, you’ll find highlights throughout the past four-plus decades, many of which are recounted here.
Key Moments In Southern California Hip-Hop
1983 - KDAY-FM Goes On The Air: When Texas radio programmer Greg Mack was hired by KDAY-FM 1580 AM in 1983, he decided to turn the station into the first rap station in the country. Early West Coast DJs like Dr. Dre and the KDAY Mixmasters — a group of jocks that included Tony G, Joe Cooley, DJ Aladdin, Battlecat, and others — made the station required listening for fans of the fledgling genre throughout the '80s and early '90s. Decades later, and after returning to 93.5 FM as an old-school hip-hop station, KDAY remains a point of pride for the local community.
1986 - Run-DMC’s Concert Sparks A Riot: While largely forgotten now, the events that unfolded during Run-D.M.C.’s ill-fated August 1986 concert at Long Beach Arena made national headlines. Local Crips and Bloods members fought each other in the stands, leading to injuries, arrests and a lasting stigma that rap shows were a magnet for thuggery. In its wake, city officials around the country barred artists from performing, and required massive insurance premiums for shows to take place. In December 1986, Run-DMC appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone to explain why hip-hop shouldn’t be associated with violence.
1989 - The F.B.I. Sends A Warning To N.W.A: On Aug. 1, 1989, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a letter to Priority Records, the distributor for N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton. "Advocating violence and assault is wrong," wrote the official in reference to the group’s protest song, "F— Tha Police." "I believe my views reflect the opinion of the entire law enforcement community." Ironically, the letter had a galvanizing effect when the group’s management leaked it to the press. Critics who were divided over the album’s merits rallied around N.W.A. as free-speech heroes, and it helped make the group one of the most important musical acts in America.
1997 - The Notorious B.I.G. Is Murdered In Los Angeles: When Brooklyn rap legend the Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down after leaving a Soul Train Music Awards afterparty at the on March 9, the public — correctly or not — viewed it as the culmination of an "East Coast vs. West Coast" rivalry between executives at Death Row Records and Biggie’s label Bad Boy Records, as well as retribution for Death Row superstar 2Pac’s murder in Las Vegas the previous fall. Biggie’s still-unsolved murder continues to cast a shadow over the L.A. rap scene, even though it is hardly the only hip-hop region where high-profile crimes have marred its reputation.
2011 - Odd Future Appears On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon": Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats’s rendition of "Sandwitches" alongside "Jimmy Fallon" backing band the Roots on Feb. 16, 2011 was a veritable youthquake. It not only made Odd Future one of the hottest groups in the country, but also served notice of that younger generation more influenced by online culture than street politics had officially arrived. Few who saw the viral video can forget the sight of Fallon giving Tyler a piggyback ride as Mos Def suddenly appeared out of nowhere, screaming in delight.
2011 – The West Coast Torch Is Passed to Kendrick Lamar: On Aug. 19, 2011, as Kendrick Lamar celebrated the release of his independent album Section.80 at the Fonda Theater (fka as The Music Box), the Game, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and Kurupt emerged onto the stage. "You’ve got the torch now, you better run with it," said Snoop. Then the rappers embraced Lamar as he broke down in tears and the crowd chanted, "Kendrick! Kendrick!" In the years since the moment was captured on video, Lamar became one of the most important rappers of his generation.
2022 - Dr. Dre And Friends Perform At The Super Bowl Halftime Show: Held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Super Bowl LVI gave Dr. Dre the opportunity to reminisce on his historic career. As he performed classics like "Still D.R.E." and "The Next Episode" with guests like Snoop Dogg, Bronx R&B singer Mary J. Blige, Detroit rapper Eminem, Queens rapper 50 Cent, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, and Oxnard rap singer Anderson .Paak, Dre took viewers on a journey through old-school hip-hop lore and created a joyous tribute to the genre. The widely acclaimed show was subsequently honored three times at the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Definitive SoCal Hip-Hop Rappers
Ice-T: Los Angeles rapper Ice-T was arguably the first West Coast star who elicited respect from New York tastemakers as a peer and fellow pioneer. Inspired by Philly rapper Schoolly D, his breakthrough single, "6 in the Mornin’," is often cited as the first West Coast reality rap song (although some would argue that Toddy Tee’s "Batteram" precedes it).
His 1987 debut album, Rhyme Pays, was the first to carry a parental warning sticker. Ice-T faced censorship throughout his career, most dramatically when police unions and the NRA targeted him for "Cop Killer," his satirical track with his rock-rap group, Body Count. Now in his 60s and a familiar face on the TV series "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Ice-T remains a role model for artists who want to make a greater cultural impact than just music.
N.W.A.: As an alliance between DJ/producers Dr. Dre and DJ Yella and rappers Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren (early member Arabian Prince left before Straight Outta Compton took off) — N.W.A impressed with their first single, "Dope Man." That led to a 1987 debut compilation for Eazy-E’s Ruthless camp, N.W.A and the Posse. Then, with tracks like "F— the Police," "Gangsta Gangsta," and the surprisingly upbeat radio hit "Express Yourself," Straight Outta Compton made them the most dangerous group in America, and a target of law enforcement as well as the FBI.
After a second album, efil4zaggaN, the group collapsed over financial disputes and interpersonal drama. That’s part of the N.W.A legend, too, as illustrated in the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated 2015 film, Straight Outta Compton.
Snoop Dogg: With his Modelo and Jack in the Box commercials airing nightly, Snoop Dogg is an ambassador for Southern California hip-hop. Discovered by Dr. Dre through Dre’s cousin, rapper/producer Warren G, he debuted with "Deep Cover," where he chanted in a sing-song voice, "’Cause it’s 1-8-7 on an undercover cop!" On his solo album, Doggystyle, he seemed to excel at hit singles like "Gin and Juice" that turned life into a never-ending party full of sticky weed and beautiful women.
In short, he personified how G-funk, a movement that once terrified the music industry, would be eventually mainstreamed into a party open to everyone. No matter one’s age or gender, everyone has a favorite Snoop track, whether it’s old-school favorites like "It Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)," club bangers like "Drop It Like It’s Hot," pop cameos like Katy Perry’s "California Gurls," or even bilingual Latin hits tracks like Banda MS’ "Qué Maldición."
Nipsey Hussle: At the time of his murder in 2019, Crenshaw rapper Nipsey Hussle seemed poised to break through to mainstream success. He represented a new era of Southern California rap defined by independent hustle, generational wealth from the ground up, savvy marketing stunts, and unapologetically street-oriented music.
Nipsey began his career in the mid-2000s, slowly rising through sundry mixtape appearances as well as features on albums by 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, and Glasses Malone. He earned national attention when he sold CD copies of his mixtape, Crenshaw, for $100 a pop; Jay-Z himself reportedly bought several. Tracks from his GRAMMY-nominated major label debut, 2018’s Victory Lap, seemed omnipresent at local sporting events. After his death, Nipsey appeared on a posthumous 2019 hit, "Racks in the Middle," with Compton rap singer Roddy Ricch.
Kendrick Lamar: Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar is the region’s crown prince, both blessed and burdened with sustaining West Coast rap tradition. While much of his music grapples with the weight of those expectations, he’s also been extraordinarily successful, scoring No. 1 hits like "Humble," global arena tours, and multi-platinum albums like good kid, m.A.A.d city and DAMN. The latter made him the first hip-hop artist to win the Pulitzer Prize.
One of the most influential and acclaimed artists of his generation, Lamar signifies a new openness among young artists to discussing mental health and self-care, all while dazzling listeners with conceptual complexity and thematic layers. Signed for years to Top Dawg Entertainment, Lamar recently has launched his own company, pgLang, with news about his direction forward still to come.
Cruical Hip-Hop Crews
Lench Mob: When Ice Cube broke from N.W.A. at the end of 1989, Lench Mob became his circle of friends as well as a production company and, eventually, a label imprint distributed by Priority Records.
Early members included Yo-Yo, who scored a major hit with Cube in 1991’s "You Can’t Play with My Yo-Yo." Then there was Da Lench Mob — Shorty, J-Dee, and T-Bone — and "Guerillas in the Mist." And after the 1992 L.A. riots sparked by the Rodney King verdict led to peace treaties among rival gangs in Watts, rapper Kam celebrated with his 1993 hit single, "Peace Treaty." Other associates include Inglewood rapper Mack 10, who scored gold-certified solo albums and joined with Cube and W.C. in the supergroup Westside Connection, and teenage South Central duo Kausion.
Soul Assassins: Originally formed as a publishing company for Cypress Hill as they created their classic self-titled 1991 debut, Soul Assassins eventually became an alliance of artists and one of the most underrated hit-making crews of the 1990s. Its members included House of Pain, authors of the deathless "Jump Around"; Funkdoobiest, who scored the 1993 hit "Bow Wow Wow"; and protégés like the Whooliganz, a duo made of future super-producer the Alchemist and future Hollywood actor Scott Caan; as well as Call O’ Da Wild, the Psycho Realm, and Self Scientific.
The crew’s releases espoused a dusty, psychedelic, and hardcore style distinct from the G-funk sound that defined the decade. In 1997, Cypress Hill producer DJ Muggs launched a series of Soul Assassins compilations that found him collaborating with the likes of Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA, and Mobb Deep.
Likwit Crew: Centered around Compton OG King Tee and Tha Alkaholiks members Tash, J-Ro, and E-Swift, Likwit Crew charted a hardcore middle path between the lyrical experimentations of the rappers associated with vaunted open-mic showcase Good Life Café, and the gangsta funk of Death Row.
Associated acts include Dilated Peoples, who scored at the dawn of the 2000s with the Alchemist-produced "Worst Comes to Worst" and the Kanye West-produced "This Way"; Xzibit, who released two solo albums before joining forces with Dr. Dre for 2000’s platinum-certified Restless; Defari, who released the underrated 1999 album Focused Daily; the Lootpack, and Phil Da Agony.
Project Blowed: For much of the late '90s and aughts, Project Blowed defined subterranean, avant-garde lyricism in Los Angeles. It was not only an event held in Leimert Park, but also a collective and a record label. Aceyalone, rapper and one-time member of pioneering group Freestyle Fellowship, and Abstract Rude — who was briefly signed to the Beastie Boys’ label Grand Royal — were two of its most prominent members. Others were Figures of Speech, which included future film director Ava DuVernay, Medusa the "gangsta goddess," and Volume 10, author of the 1993 hit, "Pistolgrip-Pump."
Odd Future: Formed in 2007, Odd Future became one of the most popular rap crews of their era. Their grungy skate-punk aesthetics, soulful introspection, and youthful fervor helped define the genre-agnostic quality of current hip-hop.
Onetime leader Tyler, the Creator is acclaimed for albums like 2019’s Igor and 2021’s Call Me If You Get Lost. The same goes for Frank Ocean and his two masterpieces, Channel Orange and Blonde. Other members include Earl Sweatshirt, Syd the Kyd — who went on to form the alternative soul group the Internet — Hodgy and Left Brain of Mellow Hype, and Jasper Dolphin, who later joined the Jackass franchise.
Essential SoCal Hip-Hop Releases
N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (1988): N.W.A’s landmark Straight Outta Compton is the product of three Compton musicians with years of experience in the L.A. hip-hop scene. Dr. Dre and DJ Yella spent three years as part of World Class Wreckin Cru, the mobile DJ unit and electro group led by Lonzo Williams. South Central native Ice Cube bounced around in various rap acts, notably the trio C.I.A. (Criminals in Action). MC Ren performed locally. The wild card was Eazy-E, a self-admitted drug dealer who didn’t have any musical experience until Dre asked him to rap Cube’s lyrics for "The Boyz-N-The Hood."
The Pharcyde - BizarreRideIIThePharcyde (1992): The Pharcyde’s debut album remains proof that Southern California hip-hop had more to offer than just gangsta rap. Produced by L.A. Jay, the album finds Romye, Imani, Slim Kid Tré, and Fat Lip embarking on a series of wacky, hilarious, and heart-rending adventures over crunchy samples from the likes of Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix. The tone ranges from the irreverence of "4 Better or 4 Worse" to the moving introspection of "Passin’ Me By" and "Otha Fish." BizarreRideIIThePharcyde was released a few weeks before Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.
Dr. Dre - The Chronic (1992): With The Chronic, Dr. Dre proved that rappers could make uncompromising, hardcore records and still succeed on the pop charts. Its first single, "Nuthin’ but a G Thang," was a sensation in rap circles and a major crossover hit, reaching the top five on the Billboard charts.
Dre collaborated with new voices like Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G, the Lady of Rage, RBX, Tha Dogg Pound — Kurupt and Daz, and singers Nate Dogg and Jewell, all of whom would define West Coast rap in the '90s. Meanwhile, his process of using musicians like Colin Wolfe to interpolate vintage funk sounds helped create what later became known as G-funk.
2Pac - All Eyez on Me (1996): 2Pac came of age as a rapper while living in Northern California's Marin County and Oakland, recording hit singles like "I Get Around" and "Keep Ya Head Up." But after signing to Death Row, he made a double album that posited Southern California as the center of West Coast hip-hop. Certified diamond by the RIAA, All Eyez on Me is an embarrassment of riches, packed with hit singles like "California Love'' and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," beloved deep cuts like "Ambitionz Az a Rider," and collaborations with Method Man & Redman, Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, and many others. It’s a gangsta party that certified him as a rap legend.
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012): Lamar’s first major-label album is not only a concept album about growing up in Compton, but also about a young person burdened by the gangsta legacy — for good and ill. His songs poke holes at long-held assumptions about how Black men in Los Angeles should handle life’s complications, from binge drinking in "Swimming Pools (Drank)" to navigating tensions between Crips and Bloods on "m.A.A.d city." His thoughts on spirituality and solitude on "Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe" reflect a new generation of Southern California rappers searching for inner peace while remaining true to their communities.
Notable SoCal Hip-Hop Labels
Ruthless: As the home of N.W.A, Eazy-E’s company hardly needs an introduction. Yet casual fans may not be familiar with the variety of acts that passed through the label in the '80s and '90s. In addition to documenting N.W.A’s tumultuous reign, it put out J.J. Fad’s pop smash "Supersonic," R&B singer Michel’le’s "No More Lies," and the D.O.C.’s platinum-certified 1989 debut, No One Can Do It Better — all in addition to solo projects from Eazy-E and MC Ren.
G-funk architects like Above the Law, Penthouse Players Clique, and Kokane spent time on the label, and it even found space for Jewish hip-hop group Blood of Abraham and an early version of Black Eyed Peas (then known as Atban Klann). Ruthless’ most famous post-N.W.A export is the Cleveland group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, who sold millions with hits like "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and "Tha Crossroads."
Delicious Vinyl: In the late '80s, Delicious Vinyl served as a contrast to the reality rap-focused Ruthless Records with pop-rap hits like Tone-Loc’s "Wild Thing," Young MC’s "Bust a Move," and Def Jef’s "Give It Here." Matt Dike, who co-founded the label with Michael Ross, was also a member of production team the Dust Brothers, who played a major role in Brooklyn transplants Beastie Boys’ 1989 masterwork, Paul’s Boutique.
The following decade, Delicious Vinyl’s roster expanded to innovators like the British acid-jazz combo Brand New Heavies, lyrically-minded L.A. quartet the Pharcyde, and New York unit Masta Ace Incorporated.
Death Row: Formed by Dr. Dre after he left N.W.A and Compton entrepreneur Suge Knight, Death Row was one of the most successful — and controversial — record labels of the 1990s. Beginning with Dre’s The Chronic, the label issued several albums that defined the era, like Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, the Above the Rim soundtrack, Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food, and 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me.
Death Row began to fall apart after Dr. Dre left and 2Pac was murdered in 1996, and Suge Knight was imprisoned on parole violation charges in 1997. The company’s valuable catalog has since changed several hands, with Snoop Dogg and various partners taking control of it last year.
Stones Throw: Originally founded in San Jose, California by DJ/producer Peanut Butter Wolf, Stones Throw relocated to Los Angeles in 2000. That’s when the label hit its stride as a popular indie label, thanks in part to idiosyncratic producer Madlib, who helmed critically acclaimed albums like Quasimoto’s The Unseen and Madvillain’s Madvillainy.
Other Southern California artists who spent time on the roster include Madlib’s brother, rapper/producer Oh No; Oxnard musician Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge, together known as NxWorries; Detroit rapper/producer J Dilla, who made Donuts while living in L.A. before his 2006 death; street-rap trio Strong Arm Steady, and Orange County rapper/producer Jonwayne.
Top Dawg Entertainment: Thanks in part to GRAMMY-winning Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar — whose literary and conceptual songwriting pushed hip-hop music to new heights — Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith’s record label is a powerhouse in the music industry. Then there’s New Jersey’s SZA, whose blend of rap-styled flows and R&B vocals make her one of the most innovative of her era.
Other standout acts on Top Dawg include Carson rappers Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul — who together with Lamar and Jay Rock form the group Black Hippy — Tennessee rapper/singer Isaiah Rashad, Inglewood alternative soul vocalist SiR, and Florida newcomer Doechii.
Subgenres Of SoCal Hip-Hop
Electro: When Southern California hip-hop emerged in the 1980s, the sound of electro dominated. Ice-T began his career with electro tracks like 1983’s "Cold-Wind Madness." Dr. Dre launched his career with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, and his DJ prowess shined on their single, "Surgery." Pioneering DJ Egyptian Lover — a member of Mobile DJ unit Uncle Jamm’s Army — scored a national hit in 1984 with "Egypt, Egypt."
Other memorable cuts during this era, which lasted roughly from 1983 to the arrival of N.W.A. in the late '80s, include Captain Rapp and "Bad Times (I Can’t Stand It)," which featured production from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis; Toddy Tee’s "Batteram," and Arabian Prince’s "Strange Life." Rap artists may have abandoned the sound, but it continues to inspire modern-day funk and electronic musicians like Dām Funk, Nite Jewel, and XL Middleton.
G-Funk: Since emerging around 1991 via productions from N.W.A’s Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, Cold 187um and DJ Pooh, G-funk has been the definitive Southern California rap sound — as key to the region’s identity as boom-bap is to New York and trap is to Atlanta. The bass-heavy, funky worm-driven, P-Funk-inspired sound has inspired decades of artists. At its peak in the mid-'90s, it was the sound of stars like Domino, Suga Free, and Warren G. But each new generation seems to find new twists on the sturdy formula, whether it’s The Game and Nipsey Hussle in the Aughts; or, in recent years, YG and G Perico.
Chicano Rap: While often overlooked by the media, Chicano rap — an umbrella term for Mexican Americans who make English and Spanglish-language rap — has deep roots in Southern California. West Coast OG Kid Frost began his career in the mid-'80s before landing a major hit in 1990 with "La Raza." He led a wave of Latin rappers in the early '90s that included A Lighter Shade of Brown ("On a Sunday Afternoon"), Mellow Man Ace ("Mentirosa"), A.L.T. and the Lost Civilization ("Tequila"), and Proper Dos ("Mexican Power").
Of course, Cypress Hill are the most famed Chicano rap group of all, thanks to songs like "Latin Lingo." Later years brought acts such as NB Ridaz ("Down for Yours"), Lil Rob ("Summer Nights"), Lil One, and Mr. Knightowl. On their 1998 debut album, Latin fusion group Ozomatli, scored rap hits like "Super Bowl Sundae" and "Cut Chemist Suite."
Turntablism: Coined by Babu of the Beat Junkies as well as Dilated Peoples, turntablism refers to the art of scratching, mixing, and blending records. An international scene flourished in the '90s and early 2000s — with strongholds in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area — putting a much-needed spotlight back to DJs, the original creators of hip-hop before rappers took over. Turntablism produced standout artists like D-Styles, J Rocc, Cut Chemist from Jurassic 5, DJ Rob One, Faust & Shortee, and others.
BTS/Beats: "Beats" is a catch-all term for production that incorporates electronic music and rap instrumentals. L.A. producers like the late Ras G, Carlos Niño and Daedelus developed the sound throughout the aughts before it caught fire with the likes of Flying Lotus, TOKiMONSTA, and Knxwledge.
Two major touchstones are Madvillain’s Madvillainy — a one-off pairing between Oxnard producer Madlib and the late New York rapper MF DOOM — and Donuts, which Detroit producer J Dilla made while living in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the dusty loops that many beat producers employ have inspired music by Earl Sweatshirt, rapper/singer Anderson .Paak, and others.
Rising Hip-Hop Artists From Southern California
03 Greedo: Watts rapper 03 Greedo became a cult sensation on the strength of projects like The Wolf of Grape Street and God Level, and a nakedly honest perspective on gang life augmented by a watery, Auto-Tuned voice. His trajectory stalled when he was imprisoned on trafficking charges in 2018. 03 Greedo was paroled earlier this year, and has said that he plans on making up for lost time.
Maxo: Max "Maxo" Allen parlayed underground notoriety into a major-label deal with Def Jam, which issued his Lil Big Man album in 2019. His second major-label effort, 2023’s Even God Has a Sense of Humor, stands out for his introspective writing, and his fearlessness in exploring life’s meaning and finding solace in family and lovers.
Navy Blue: Former skateboarder Sage "Navy Blue" Elsesser first drew attention with a cameo on Earl Sweatshirt’s lo-fi gem, Some Rap Songs. He subsequently built a following with independent solo albums that emphasized his spiritual-minded lyrics and lo-fi production. After signing to Def Jam, he released the acclaimed Ways of Knowing this year.