The Great 28, Pt. 1

Ranking The Best Rap Albums

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I’m an 80s baby who moved from Maryland to California when I was seven-years-old and never turned back. For Westcoasters my age hip hop didn’t really get started until it controversially crashed the late 80s with NWA, Too $hort, and 2 Live Crew (an adopted cultural crossover from the southeast). Heading into the 90s, Cali kids listened to Public Enemy, KRS One, Rakim, Run DMC, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and LL Cool J, but not as attentively as New Yorkers did. There was something about NY beats and rhymes that didn’t totally catch the West. Momma got some jabs in, but she didn’t knock us out. Maybe we couldn’t identify with the cold weather tone of the New York bars and snares. Maybe hip hop production had room to evolve and the Westside precogs were chillin in the tub waiting for Dr. Dre. Regardless, in the late eighties the Life Is…Too Short, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, and Niggaz4Life cassettes prepared CA for our looming global takeover. They also gave us an excuse to show off our yellow waterproof Walkmans. It was an exciting time.

The Chronic finally came in December of 1992. Doggystyle followed in November ’93. Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was released the same month, and for the first time it felt like New York and California overcame their sonic differences to become equally impactful. Maybe is was RZA’s keys. Maybe Wu-Tang’s yin to Snoop’s yang turned the genre into a new and higher quality of music. Maybe it was just Method Man on You’re All I Need. Whatever it was, with Wu-Tang came a windfall: Nas, Biggie, Mos Def, Mobb Deep, DMX, Redman, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z. 36 Chambers ushered New York rap into California and across the world.

In the South, The Ghetto Boyz were right there with NWA. In the mid-90s, solo Scarface reached new heights with The Untouchable. In the 2000s he did it again with The Fix. The Texas native was an adopted Cali fixture from the start. Ludacris was the turn-of-the-millennium southern artist who transcended Western boarders, particularly on Word Of Mouf; but starting six months after Doggystyle and 36, the undisputed Southern kings, Outkast, began to shake the…

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