​california love: hip hop’s hollywood dreams

We pay homage to the best West Coast rappers tributes to the City of Angels.

by Hattie Collins
07 May 2015, 12:05am

It's no wonder the film industry moved to California back in the day - the light people, the light! Music videos don't do too badly too - rap videos in particular. More than any other genre, hip hop loves to nod to its neighbourhoods in - whether that's BDP's Boogie Down South Bronx or Kanye's Homecoming video - and nowhere can you find better example of this than L.A based rap videos. Here's some of our greatest moments of the city on celluloid from the perspective of some of the West Coast's finest rhymers as we choose our favourite depictions of L.A in video.

N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton
"You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge'. N.W.A. lit the fuse to the streets of rage, putting two fingers up at the police, inciting the ire of C. Delores Tucker and dripping jheri curl all over Ronald Reagan's shoes. Before now, L.A. had been all palm trees and the Beach Boys; under the filter of Cube, Dre, Ren, Yella and Eazy E, Cali was suddenly all sawed-off shotguns, Dickies, Locs and lowriders.

Ice Cube, It Was A Good Day
Sometimes life can just go right, even for a Boy in Da Hood. Instead of waking up as AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Cube threw on some Isley Brothers, and headed out into South Central to play basketball, have sex, watch Yo! MTV Raps and buy himself a lovely burger. And not once did he even have to touch his AK. Damn, today really was a good day.

DJ Quik, Born and Raised in Compton
One of LA's most underrated yet influential producers and rappers, Quik might often be missed out in West Coast conversations, but he was behind some of the coolest classics of the 90s and 00s. Shot in B&W, his debut visual highlights streets like Rosencrantz; the very same block that a young kid called Kendrick was born on just four years earlier.

Dr. Dre, Fuck Wit (Dre Day)
Anyone old enough to remember will recall waiting to watch this on Yo! MTV Raps or the Box. This was a video that would have you glued to your screen for the full four and a half minutes. Introducing a then unknown Snoop Doggy Dogg, the video, directed by Dre, sees the Doc parody former friend turned foe 'Sleazy' E, producer Jerry Heller and Miami rapper Luke. This was four minutes and 42 seconds of cold hard bars and a fierce Funkadlic sample. After taking a verse each, the third verse sees Dre and Snoop go head to head as they unleash a barrage of disses towards the former lynchpin of N.W.A. Aint' nothing but a G thang…

Tupac, To Live And Die In LA
Despite the fact that he was born in Baltimore, Pac will forever be associated with the West Coast. Before his untimely death, he shot various videos on the streets of Californ-i-a, but this one, which culminates in a food fight outside Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, showed another side of LA; neither beach babes in bikinis nor the streets of rage, just family and friends having fun in the sun. That day, all was good in the hood.

The Game, Westside Story
For a while following the dominance of Dre et. al, the West Coast fell off. Few bangers were produced, no new rapper of note came through; hip hop's focus was firmly on New York and, increasingly, southern states like Atlanta. Then, in 2005 along came a young man from Compton called Jayceon Taylor with an album called The Documentary and just like that West Coast rap was back on the map. The progeny of Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, and dressed head to toe in red, Game's allegiances and influences were clear from the off. Hate him or love him, the underdog was on top.

YG, Bickin Back Being Bool
Taking it to today, it's only right to acknowledge Young Gangster, whose street paeans see a return to the days of N.W.A and Snoop. Heavily referencing LA in pretty much all of his videos, Bicken Back Being Bool is another example of Y.G.s pride in his city.

Kendrick Lamar, King Kunta
More an excuse to slip mention of Kendrick's super-awesome album into this feature, like Game before him, Kendrick has also helped usher in a new era -not only for West Coast rap, but Hip Hop in general. Born and raised in Compton, Lamar is proudly a good kid from a m.a.a.d city and uses his visual opportunities to express that. In the video for the explosive King Kunta, K.Dot takes us on a tour of Compton's notorious swap meet.

Michael Jackson, Thriller
Ok, not hip hop, but you can't do a list of LA-set videos and not at least reference the most influential video of all time. Directed by John Landis and starring Vincent Price and Playboy's Ola Ray, Thriller is set in various locations around downtown LA (the Palace Theatre), East LA and Angeleno Heights. The 13 minute video is an homage not only to ghosts and ghouls but to the city of angels too as MJ scared the beejezus out of eighties babies the world over.

Los Angeles
Dr. Dre
Kendrick Lamar
the game
Ice Cube
DJ Quik