How I feel bout Regionalism, East vs. West Coast & topic of East Coast Bias!!
By DLabrie – http://www.hiphopcongress.com – Comment & RT
I’ve been processing the roots of the East vs. Westsince getting into Hip Hop or I’d say at least shortly after, being that I came of age during the rise of West Coast dominance. I also caught the East Coast movement in full swing when I was younger back in elementary. Despite being from Oakland, California like many others my favs wereGangstarr, Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS, Kid N Play, Salt & Pepper, and Big Daddy Kane.
I’d say a lot of early West Coast Hip Hop favored the East coast sound the beats and rhymes were much faster and grittier from Hammer to Cube, Ice T, even N.W.A, King Tee and Too Short. There was definitely influence, love, and admiration for N.Y. It was a rap thing, as we all rooted for the underground phenomenon that would soon grow to sweep the world. Most of the music that was big at the time was East Coast that was the standard. There was even a battle between Self Destruction and All in the Same Game. Which one was better? However that doesn’t mean that hip hop wasn’t goin’ on in its own way in other places and it doesn’t mean that N.Y. has all the rights to Hip Hop.
Hip Hop is a hood thing a black culture (and now multi cultural) thing. KRS told me himself when I toured w him in 2005 that Elements of Hip Hop were already firmly embedded in places like Oakland, Chicago, Texas and Seattle. No doubt the East pushed the movement 1st. Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation being credited with being the 1st crew to take Hip Hop around the world. It was nothing to hear or see X-Clan, Mc Lyte, LL Cool J, Dougie Fresh, on the radio or on a video as the standard of Hip Hop back then. I was a fan, and I would say I liked it more than West Coast rap because I myself was brain washed by the biased back then, but also because the music was dope and the East was runnin’ shit.
I had this convo with Crooked Iat Rock the Bells jus a day after the altercation (between Budden & Raekwon) in L.A about West Coast lyricism and growth and how that is perceived by fans. I felt that him coming from the Death Row, but also finding respect amongst Hip Hop purist it was a relative discussion.
As I started to emcee early in high school the tide was turning. Snoopwas out (who for yall who don’t know was label mates w Crooked at one point)…and every car goin’ by was “bumping” The Chronic by Dr. Dre, but I had Redman What TheeAlbum in my walkman, I was into the wild styles of N.Y. which had lyrics u had to decipher, I was tryna escape the harsh realities of West Coast in your face rap, which I lived amongst everyday not just in rap but as a young man in East Oakland.
My older cozen’ Ayinde who knew EVERYTHING about rap started playing what he called underground rap for me I specifically remember 93 til’ Infinity, Protect Your Neck, Come Clean singles. I was hooked this was the same cuzzin’ who used to sneak play me “Davy, Davy Crockett bring on the wild frontier” and “You don’t have to front on me bitch” when I was arguably too young by our parents standards. But by now I was gravitating to groups like Pharcyde, Souls of Mischef, Tribe Called Quest and The Alcoholiks. The1st thing I heard from E-40, Mac Mall or RBLfans was “You like dat East Coast soundin’ shit, you aint from Oakland.” (all this while I’m standing on Oakland soil lol).
Funny thing is I had E-40, Too Short, The Luniz, Spice 1“tapes” too, all whom I see to this day as some of the best lyricists ever. It was like u had to choose. When I would spit everyone would say u can rap but you got that East Coast flow. I was seen almost like a traitor, niggaz would say “move to NY”, or “Your raps make no sense”, “you be usin’ them metaphors” (too quote Common“These is Similes”). I didn’t all the way get it. I jus liked the sound. Maybe I was denying my roots, or maybe the West was being generalized. I didn’t have a Jeri Curl (Lauryn), gang bang , slang crack or even smoke weed at the time. I rocked oversized head phones, wore 1 pants leg up, and freestyled, tagged, and played hoop w non hangin’ dreds and there were many like me.
To this day I realized I wasn’t the norm but I also wasn’t alone. This was all part of my growth as an artist at some point The “Box”became the medium you could see East Coast, South Booty Shake, West Underground, local Oakland indie music… It actually almost turned the tide because for once you could rep your coast and not be forced to hear East Coast only. Finally things were evening out a little. The Bay was full of home pride Mob Music compilations, Hiero was doin’ songs w Tribe. and the East was kinda quiet in the mainstream outside of the Native Tongues / Nas/ Wu movement which wasn’t as big out west (at least amongst West purists). The west was sellin’ unbelievable amounts of records. The boom-bop sound of N.Y started bein’ known as Underground rap and you had to listen to the Wake Up Show or go to Berkeley to hear that here.
Long before the Southern dominated radio waves of today West Coast raised groups from the South who also followed in the footsteps of The Geto Boys & Luke started making noise w groups like Outkast, who were once accused of sounding like Hiero, and Swagger Jacking the Bay w “Players Ball”and groups like UGK, Eightball & MJG, Master P, Mystical, Goodie Mob, Trick Daddylines were getting blurred. The East even then was not really feeling the South and this formed a common bond between West and South. I recall Outkast was booed for winning “Best Rap Group” Source Award in 1995 where the event was hosted at Madison Square Garden in N.Y
Of course 2pac played a big role during this time he was uniting the West Coast and after being shot in N.Y, going to jail and signing with Death Row he emerged a cult like figure especially out West. Suge vs. Puff became Pac vs. Biggieand eventually Death Row vs. Bad Boy. 2pac was warring with the East with much success along with Westside Connection(Ice Cube, Mack 10, WC super group formed to finally address all the East Coast hating, and set the record straight). But Tupac Shakur was originally from Brooklyn, came up in the Bay and soon became the spokesman for L.A. He had Meth and Red on his classic ALL EYES on ME. Death Row was SMASHIN on the game.
Hmmmmm how did this happen? I almost missed the East coast sound at times. Pac went at everyone with a vengeance and the “WESSSYDE” tradition and throwing up the dub was formed. He even had public feuds with West Coast counterparts Snoop and Dre at some point who were no strangers to feuds w the East Coast. It seemed as if the East Coast was on the ropes. Especially after Hit Em Up, Pac had a lot of fans not feelin’ Notorious, Junior Mafia, Jay-Z, Nas, Mobb Deep, and cosigning venomous lyrics spit at other East Coast legends.
When Makaveli passed a lot of people felt the West Coast died with him. Think back of all the artists who were a part of that movement (not the dissing movement, but the One Nation Movement) on a national scale. The Outlawz, Yukmouth & Numbskull aka The Luniz, C-Bo, Dru Down, E-40, B-Legit, D-Shot,Suga-T aka The Click, Doggpound, MC Breed, Bone, Richie Rich, Digital Underground, Even east Coasters like Boot Camp Click and Treachto name a few. You can basically refer back to his rap army by hearing any Pac CD or peeping his many cameos. Many would argue he single handedly took on the East and settled the score. One thing that can not be argued he inspired a whole generation.
Let’s back track a little. When I 1st saw Biggie’s video Juicy(long b4 I knew who Puffy was) I jus knew for sure he was from the West Coast the flow, the sample, the laid backness of the song. Who knew he’d become the “King of N.Y” one day. I remember when Jay Z dropped Aint No Nigga, in Oakland we were like “this nigga stole Dru Down beat” at the time Dru Down was a signed artist nationwide I’d say maybe bigger than Jay-Z (this is up for debate).
My OG homie Lil Jof the group Flawless (who at the time was the number 1 example of West Coast bias lol ) out the blue came thru bumpin Reasonable Doubtin his firebird. I wasn’t interested at 1st, then I heard the slaps and was like okay. I noticed that Biggie, Jigga, and the East Coast sound was appreciating what we do out west and our style (Biggie said on Ready to die he was tryna’ figure out “how to sell record like Snoop”). the music was becoming less abstract more in your face. Pun, Mase, DMX, The Lox,Camron, Ja Rule, Lil Kim, Evewere all giving the West props and kickin in your face gangster shit (which I realized over time was always in East Coast music just spoken in different slang). The remix era was here and artists were working together from ALL Coasts!!
The East Coast bias was losing steam more and more. Too Short was on Jay-Z and Biggie’s albums – Bonewas out (everyone had a Bone flow song for a minute lol), shit was everywhere. The Midwest was coming up Eminem, Nelly, Twista, Commonwere on the scene hard. The internet and technology era emerged ushering in the true “independent” artists we are more familiar with today. Fans began finding there music online, and artists were able to burn there own CD’s and push music thru early Music & Social Networking sights like Rap Station and Black Planet. This was the beginning of the Digital era. At this time I didn’t even know how to use email. Groups who were not on major labels started seeing opportunities for indie expansion. Groups could tour without a deal and get music to fans without distribution.
To say u listen to East Coast style rap was becoming a statement a lot harder to define. In these days that term doesn’t even stick with artists like Jim Jones, Murs, Jay Electronica, Mistah F.A.B and Slaughterhouse even w me DLabrie– I get love in N.Y. for my True lyricism and also for my Hyphy ties. My Homies from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens they go dumb w me when they hear my single Pity Patt produced by Bay Heavyweight Traxamillion – (Check it out here – http://bit.ly/YW0nC ) they even ask me to spit that “Bay” shit and show them the town flavor. Sometimes I have to remind them I grew up on N.Y. rap and some of my fav MC’s ever are Hip Hop purists like Wu Tang, Def Squad, and Da Bush Babies. My point is this….it’s Hip Hop……. West borrowed from East, South borrowed from West, Midwest soaked game from all over, East borrowed from Jamaica, Disco, Cowboys, R and B, Soul, Rock. We have covered the gamut, now International MC’s are borrowin’ from American Hip Hop. It’s a cycle. We have to let the old terms go. It’s been a journey for me to find my voice as an emcee. I can rock on a cut with Mos Def or Luda, hood homie Keak da Sneak or a cat who don’t speak English Overseas. I’m still Hip Hop. “Backpackers/Conscious” rappers are fed up w the stigma, “Political” rappers are sick of being held to unreal expectations, “Gangsta” rappers are pourin’ they heart out. No one wants to be put in a box anymore. All bets are fuckin’ off now. I hear rappers sayin’ when will the real rap come back, or bring back the real hip hop? Jus do you!!
Let’s evolve and stop this bullshit. If you old school do you, if you with the new shit do you. I rep the Bay hard as fuck all day to the point where I still get mad when Bay cats diss Hyphy or the Bay in general but to each they own. I don’t take it personal. I don’t decide no 1’s opinion on hip hop and how they feel and vice versa. But also I don’t wanna hit the road and be seen as jus the “Hyphy” dude either just cuz im from Oakland ‘cuz then u think im one dimensional. That’s not like my MC tag or nothin. Nor is it the Bay’s only style anymore than Crunk is ATL’s only style.
I rep the whole West Coast now Seattle, Oregon, Vegas, Cali, AZ, Southwest ! Im still pissed XXL did a whole article on Hip Hop and R and B and didn’t mention the West Coast AT ALL (barely the South) and acted as if the 1st big song of this nature was Method Man and Mary J. Blige or Rakim and Jody Watley(with all due respect). At the Same time a lot of my favs new and old are in N.Y. and the East Coast in general and I always get my game face on, and get a lil’ kid like when I touch down in the Hip Hop Mecca. I always bring my best for them. Although the playing field is a lot more leveled out now and N.Y artists and fans complain that N.Y is being overlooked in 2009, overall there’s still an East Coast bias in general, especially with a lot of the dinosaurs, publications, shows, etc. This has caused a rebellion that lead to cats formin’ they own media (Hot Block Magazine), websites (WetheWest.com) and outlets (Bring your A Game Tour) to counter that mentality. Its like lets rep our own hoods not to diss nowhere else but if the mainstream aint gonna do it like N.W.A, Cash Money, Thizz, or G.O.O.D you have to put on for your city.
It’s like affirmative action give a fair chance to everyone. Some of yall are right, it’s not comin’ directly from the artists and not always the fans either. You can’t like what u don’t know about. Some cats I met in N.Y thought the Bay was just E-40, Too Short and I Got 5 on It. Maybe the Occasional Humpy/Hammerreference cuz that’s all they hear in the mainstream but many rappers get shine on the internet from other places now. This is why it’s important that no matter where you’re from get out of your area and spread your movement. Don’t blame anyone else for not having exposure take matters into your own hands. One thing I like about the Bay is Different types of Artists from ALL OVER THE WORLD travel here every day and WE SHOW LOVE. It makes for a good scene where everyone can grow as artists and see different perspectives. Let’s allow for a bigger mind state then jus Biggie, Jay Z and Nas, grimy street raps with beat breaks, break dancing and grafitti.
Even in N.Y that’s not the only thing crackin’ anymore. That will always be the foundation – but let rappers sing, do auto tune, dance, have fun, krump, snap, go dumb, Earl Flynn, say Tech 9 is the best, T.I or Wayne, San Quinn or Mac Dre, let a nigga make a song for the harmony and not jus for complicated lyrics, or just be different then what you like. It’s hard to look past your own opinion but don’t be “The Mad Rapper” or the Closed minded type of fan that can’t handle Wayne playing guitar or Andre 3000 doin’ falsetto in 2009. After I say all this shit I’m still gonna throw on my Illmatic tape listen to it a week straight on repeat and say its better than almost every album ever made and hold myself to that standard. ALL EYES ON ME is my shit too, and SouthernPlayalistic and Resurrection. Much respect to ALL regions, WE ALL have something to offer. It’s hip hop better yet its music…………
Original Article by Davey D – LINK –