The Lambert Top 15: Los Angeles (Vol. 2)
By Andrew Lambert
Photo via Flickr
These lists are based off of my own personal opinion. I do not take into account commercial or critical success, and these lists may differ from your own opinions or appear biased.
Los Angeles has become arguably the best place for a rapper to come from. The impact the city had in the 90’s with artists like Tupac, N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, and many more, has forever changed the game. It’s Californicated paradise sound, heavily influenced by the weather and marijuana, creates relaxing vibes, while keeping in touch with the ghettos of Compton and enormous gang presence, creating some of the hardest gangster rappers we’ve ever seen. L.A. is an artist’s paradise, and I am going to explore 15 of my personal favorite albums created by Los Angeles rappers.
15- “Goblin” – Tyler, the Creator (2010
I am sure we all can remember seeing the edgy music video for “Yonkers” for the first time. Rap had not had its own personal dark psychopath since Eminem. Tyler’s debut enraged many, but inspired even more. He wasn’t a gangster, but he surely was not innocent, as he rapped about committing violent crimes, rebellion, and some questionable ideas. Songs like “She” and “Radicals” stand out to me as two songs on this project where Tyler made it clear he was here to stay. His odd style of production in collaboration with his aggressively rugged voice makes for a one of a kind sound.
14- “Black Sunday” – Cypress Hill (1993)
Cypress Hill is an interesting group, and at the time, were pushing boundaries to places nobody thought they should go. From “When The Sh– Goes Down”, to “Insane in the Brain”, to “Hits From the Bong”, the madness that is Cypress Hill is evident, while remaining a classic L.A. rap group and keeping in touch with their roots production-wise. Cypress Hill is an important piece to what Los Angeles rap has become today.
13- “Doggystyle” – Snoop Dogg (1993)
Although I went against the grain and did not pay homage to Los Angeles greats like Tupac and N.W.A. in this article, I enjoy Snoop Dogg’s debut all too much to not include it. As a superstar and television personality today, people forget how gangster and reckless Uncle Snoop was back in the day. While songs like “Gin and Juice” give a glimpse of the chilled out Snoop that he would so famously become, songs like “Murder Was The Case” shows how in touch with the hard streets of Compton Snoop Dogg was. All in all, this album is a classic.
12- “Earl” – Earl Sweatshirt (2010)
Tyler’s little brother, the genius producer who goes by Randomblackdude, or “that motherfucker Earl”, whatever you call him, Earl made a name for himself with his debut album back in 2010. Still a very young man at the time, only 16 years old, Earl was rapping way beyond his years and creating some of the most unique instrumentals we’ve heard at that time. From “Couch” to “Earl”, Earl makes his ability to spit mad-mouthed rhymes very clear, on top of his boundary pushing lyrics. While initially angering parents due to his lyrical content involving crimes and darkness, he became one of the first rappers to touch on mental health as a teenager.
11- “Oxymoron” – ScHoolboy Q (2014)
Kendrick’s right hand man should not be known as just that, and he proves so on his album. ScHoolboy Q has created a distinct image for himself as the aggressive MC druggie with the bucket hat. He keeps Los Angeles, particularly Compton, close to his heart, and embraces it’s style to a full extent. While showcasing his gangsta rap abilities on songs like “Man of the Year” and “Gangsta”, he does not hold back, and creates some unique melodies while displaying his fondness of partying and substances in songs like “Collard Greens” and “Hell of a Night”.
10- “To Pimp A Butterfly” – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Almost everybody claims to love Kendrick, but not many people really listen to what he has to say, or listen past his monster commercial hits. While songs like “King Kunta” and “i” have become radio staples, it is songs like “These Walls”, “Alright”, and “The Blacker the Berry” that really made me fall in love with this project. The symbolism behind the cover art which shows a shirtless squad of minorities on the White House lawn, is so perfect because it intimidates all that corrupt politicians stand for. Kendrick challenges the ideas so blindly accepted by society, and reads a poem throughout the album. The story this album tells will break your heart and make you smile at the same time, and on top of all of this, will send an extremely important message.
9- “November” – SiR (2018)
Don’t let its recent release date confuse you, because SiR has a sound so jazzy and soulful, it will take you back to the 90’s. His soul and soft voice accompanied by a west coast vibe create for some eloquent masterpieces to take you to a different planet. Songs like “Something New” and “Dreaming of Me” display his softer side and his ability to sing, while his newfound T.D.E. associates helped incorporate that west coast sound on songs like “D’Evils” and “Something Foreign”.
8- “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” – Earl Sweatshirt (2015)
Earl Sweatshirt has made a name for himself as a unique lyricist, but only some knew of his skills on the production side. This project puts his versatility on display as he gets extremely experimental. Although it may sound odd at first, the completely unique style of Earl is almost genreless, and he creates a complex array of sounds on each track. My personal favorite track, “Mantra”, not only showcases a different style of production never before heard, but also includes some of Earl’s best bars. The album might be an acquired taste, but it is definitely worth the time.
7- “Blank Face” – ScHoolboy Q (2016
ScHoolboy is without a doubt a gangster, and he embraces that hippy gangster image on this creative project. While he touches on the modern style with songs like “By Any Means” and “THat Part”, ScHoolboy Q makes it clear he will never lose his ghetto roots with hood anthems like “Dope Dealer” and “Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane”. Although and gangsta rap legend in the making, ScHoolboy Q proves himself as a true artist with long story telling ballads and interesting production.
6- “Summertime ‘06” – Vince Staples (2015)
Known for his breathtaking music videos that include creative imagery, Vince made it clear he is just as much an artist as a visionary. His boundary pushing lyrics tell stories of violence, heartbreak, and political concepts told from someone who has seen the worst of it on the streets of Long Beach, and is also a former member of the Crips. “Norf Norf” and “Senorita” depict so vividly life on the streets, while songs like “Jump Off the Roof” give us a taste of Vince’s artistry and musicianship. This album is an instant classic, and its sharp imagery will live on for years to come.
5- “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City” – Kendrick Lamar (2012)
I’m not too sure what I can say about this album that practically everybody doesn’t already know. This is the album that made Kendrick Lamar who he is today. This is the album that dug a message into listener’s minds of not only what Compton is like, but made us remember the name. It will go down as one of the best rap albums of all time most likely, and while hard hits like “m.a.a.d. City” are timeless bops, the most memorable track for me is “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, as Kendrick tells a heartbreaking story involving death and legacies.
4- “Do What Thou Wilt.” – Ab-Soul (2016)
Ab-Soul had already become a lyrical madman by the time he released his 2016 album, in which the title is the tattoo across Ab-Soul’s shoulders. Different from the other releases from Ab-Soul, he gives us a deeper look into who he is as a person. By far the darkest of his projects, songs like “D.R.U.G.S.” and “Huey Knew THEN”, really give us a view of his inner demons. His choice of production also differed in a good way, as he created a fusion of traditional west coast elements with darker, more abstract, elements. This album as very easy to relate to personally, and is Ab-Soul’s most creative work.
3- “Flower Boy” – Tyler, the Creator (2017)
I think it was unfair that this album got so much attention for the sole reason that it made people question Tyler’s sexuality. In my opinion, I don’t care if you’re attracted to boys, girls, turtles, or dolphins. I just want a good project that is honest, personal, and obviously sounds good. Tyler does exactly that on this album, and gave haters everything they said he couldn’t do. His previous projects showed us how ridiculous Tyler can be, as he almost made his last projects as laughable as possible. On this album, however, he gets personal. Songs like “911 / Mr. Lonely”, “November”, and “See You Again”, we see Tyler’s emotions for the first time. He vividly depicts that behind the colorful anarchy, he is still a person, and is most likely lonelier and sadder than we think. On top of that, just when critics thought he couldn’t rap or have the ability to deliver bars, he gives us “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time!”, in which he, excuse my French, raps his fucking ass off. His musicianship is, as always, enjoyable to listen to, as he is a master of his production craft. Tyler’s best project yet will be remembered for a very long time as most likely the project that took Tyler to another level.
2- “DAMN.” – Kendrick Lamar (2017)
As I said before, there is not much to say about Kendrick that we all don’t already know. This album is, in my opinion, his best project yet, and when you look at his catalog, that was very difficult to do for Kendrick. His flow has evolved substantially, moving from traditional bars to intricate and creative flows, while not losing his lyrical mastery. He also has become a skillful producer and musician, incorporating some of the most creative use of instruments I’ve ever heard in rap music. As expected, he gets political, but to my surprise, he somehow delivers an expected message in a very unexpected way. He also touches on his personal life and experiences with romance, creating for a journey that will make you just say “damn” at the end of every masterpiece of a song.
1- “Doris” – Earl Sweatshirt (2013)
Aside from the fact that Earl is one of my favorite rappers ever, I put this album as number one on this list because I feel like it goes underappreciated. Earl’s lyrical madness is on full display, and his skills as a producer are not held back in any way. From a dirty street anthem like “Hive”, to a ballad to marijuana on “Sunday”, to a darker personal view into Earl’s troubled life on “Chum”, to a typical circus of a song that Earl has delivered time and time again on “WHOA”, this album has it all. Earl establishes himself as a true artist on this one of a kind project, which is clear is the most in touch with who Earl really is.