Where would hip-hop be without the West Coast? Sure, the art form was born across the country in the Bronx, but the Westside helped walk it through adolescence. The Los Angeles scene, in particular, has been especially impactful, bringing legends like N.W.A., Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre to the forefront and helping the shape the sound and feel of G-Funk and gangsta rap.
That tradition of hip-hop greatness in the City of Angels lives on to this day, as proven by artists like YG and Kendrick Lamar. Both artists have become important voices thanks to their ability to speak on politics and social justice while also addressing gang culture and street ties. The late Nipsey Hussle did the same—he’s survived by his All Money In label, which is full of fresh talent sharing street tales in music. Other crews like AzCult, 1Take and boom-bap brigade Villain Park are also making noise in their L.A. hometown.
XXL highlights 11 up-and-coming Los Angeles rappers that you should have on your radar. —Talia Smith
Notable Songs: “Acro” and “Intro”
Sounds Like: Blueface with a more orthodox flow.
Why You Need To Know Him: With a distinct West Coast bounce and contagious energy, 1TakeJay creates records that are perfect for turning up in the club. His animated flow earned him play in car speakers all across L.A., while his quick-witted and comedic lyricism in songs like “Acro” (“Jumped out the bed just to jump in yo’ bitch DM,” he raps) have brought him viral attention.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Notable Songs: "Pop Shit,” “Real Movie” and “Ride With My Glock”
Sounds Like: Summertime block party music.
Why You Need To Know Him: AzSwaye has been going up in 2019. He dropped Swaye F.T.R. earlier this year, is fresh off a high-energy Rolling Loud performance and entering a joint Los Angeles-based tour with 1TakeJay. It’s all thanks to his solid rhymes and malleable voice: On “Pop Shit,” he paces an uptempo Cali-flavored beat while he croaks his way through “Ride With My Glock.”
Hometown: South Central, L.A.
Notable Songs: “Trap Pac” and “Raised Like This"
Sounds Like: A street-tested storyteller.
Why You Need To Know Him: Nipsey Hussle’s All Money In is a roster of amazing talent and BH, the youngest of the crew, has a body of work that speaks for itself. His music depicts his reality with vivid imagery, whether BH is addressing life-threatening gunshot wounds or recounting past times with Neighborhood Nip. His lyrics are equal parts motivation and hope for the youth.
Notable Songs: “Do Wit It,” “Playa,” “Penny Proud” and “Two Tone Drip”
Sounds Like: Hustler music with a shot of helium.
Why You Need To Know Him: Holland’s playful cadence perfectly juxtaposes his complex subject matter. His June album, Stay Sunny, revolves around the idea of staying positive despite life’s everyday trials and tribulations. He can deftly switch up his flows and drop witty punchlines with the tact of a rap veteran.
Hometown: South Central, L.A.
Notable Songs: “The Marathon Continues” and “See You Fail”
Sounds Like: A disciple of Nipsey Hussle.
Why You Need To Know Him: It’s rare to find an artist thriving off pure talent in 2019. No internet gimmicks. No social media stunts. J-Stone is that rare artist. His single “The Marathon Continues” is a beautiful tribute to his All Money In brother and fallen soldier Nipsey Hussle that paints a portrait of the grief experienced after his passing. The rapper also showcases his versatility on his latest single, The Game-assisted “See You Fail,” flipping the bird at snakes over a haunting beat.
Hometown: Inglewood, CA
Notable Songs: “The Heart” and “Playin’”
Sounds Like: Smoking session raps.
Why You Need To Know Him: KB Devaughn provides the type of laid-back tracks that are perfect for chilling out at the beach (or lighting up on the boardwalk). His gruff vocals are a vibe of their own—they irresistibly contrast the music on the Big Pun-sampling “Playin’” and narrative-driven “105 West, 110 North.”
Notable Songs: “Fucc You Niggaz” and “Never Gon Change”
Sounds Like: West Coast drop-top music.
Why You Need To Know Him: Pacman Da Gunman seeks to grab the baton from his slain mentor Nipsey Hussle. His music is perfect for introspection, as he raps about sticking true to core principles and character values, staying loyal, understanding the value of life and remaining 10 toes down through any storm. Pacman is something serious—his May 2019 project, No Guts No Glory, puts his razor-sharp bars on display.
Hometown: Athens, Willowbrook, CA
Notable Songs: “Lonely” and “In the Making”
Sounds Like: Street poetry.
Why You Need To Know Him: Quincey White is one of the most dynamic rising rappers in L.A.—check his Sway In The Morning freestyle for proof. A vivid storyteller, Quincey can kick game and reveal raw emotion over any track that he’s on. (“Los Scandalous Times” is an insightful, conscious look into L.A. politics and police brutality.) Quincey White is vying to become the people’s champ of his city.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Notable Songs: “Visions” and “We Out Here”
Sounds Like: Pro Era’s California counterparts.
Why You Need To Know Them: Rappers Smokey V, Bunge and DJ Coly Cole—collectively known as Villain Park—quickly gained a reputation for churning out rugged tracks that recall raps of two decades prior, in the best way possible. Over hard, snaring beats, the trio rhymes about youthful angst and coming of age in West L.A. On the 2019 album, The Recipe, the group takes a deep look at social justice issues with a poetic delivery.