10 West Coast Rappers Carrying California’s Underground Torch

By | Posted August 22, 2017
You already know Kendrick, Tyler, Q, YG and Vince, allow us to introduce you to a few more names.
2017-08-22-west-coast-rappers-california-torch
Photo Credit: Instagram

Who is the first artist that pops into your head when you hear the phrase, “West Coast hip-hop”?

For the 25 and younger crowd, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator, ScHoolboy Q, YG and Vince Staples probably come to mind. '80s and early '90s babies might land on Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg or even The Game first. There’s a long list of universally acclaimed artists that have carried the West Coast banner for their generation since hip-hop first hit the Pacific Ocean.

Step away from the iconic names and faces for a moment, though. Beyond each of these superstar rappers who have earned their place in West Coast hip-hop history, there’s a common tradition tying the West together: a fierce dedication to doing it yourself, making the music you want to make, and setting new trends while bucking old ones.

Here are 10 underground artists (in no particular order) that are carrying that independence-minded West Coast torch.


Dumbfoundead (@dumbfoundead)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Battle rappers have been getting more shine lately thanks to spectacles like Toronto's King of the Dot (KOTD) league, but few are so notorious that their return to the ring would warrant Drake himself showering praise at a press conference. Enter Dumbfounded, a Los Angeles-raised Korean emcee who should already be on every rap lover’s radar. Dumbfounded is a master at making social commentary palatable to any audience, often tackling complex issues like race relations without ever coming across as overly preachy. His elite rhyme style is obviously influenced by all of the time he’s spent sharpening his pen for the battling ring, but Dummy doesn’t suffer from any of the usual shortcomings that some battlers face when they write for a beat rather than a beatdown.

Duckwrth (@DUCKWRTH)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

From Chance The Rapper to Anderson .Paak, contemporary hip-hop is becoming less and less about gritty street bars and more and more about genuine, from-the-heart music. If that trend warms your heart as much as it warms ours, former DJBooth Top Prospect Duckwrth is the perfect artist for you to get acquainted with. He’s taken a long path to find his sound, but the music Duckwrth makes today is so undeniably Duckwrth—his authenticity is irresistible. Sonically, Duckwrth fits on the shelf next to funk-inspired acts like GoldLink and .Paak, but his perspective and songwriting style are entirely unique. Let’s hope Duckwrth is able to ride his modern feel-good wave of funk and land the recognition he deserves.

Trizz (@Tr1zz)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

If he were born 15 years earlier, Trizz might have been your favorite member of G-Unit. His style is heavily influenced by the guttural, hard, street elements of West Coast rap that have faded in today’s scene; his first major co-sign was from Brotha Lynch Hung, who took Trizz under his wing as a partner on the road. If you’re turned off by the occasional over the top horrorcore bar or a unique, drawling delivery, Trizz may not be the rapper for you. But for his growing, adoring fan base, Trizz’s commitment to making gritty music about the world surrounding him is endlessly endearing. He may never land on the top of the Billboard charts thanks to his fearless style, but keep an eye on this young grinder as his catalog and influence continues to grow.

Ill Camille (@illcamille)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

You’ve probably heard Ill Camille’s voice, even if you don’t know it; the LA-based rapper contributed background vocals on one of Kendrick’s most powerful songs, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” The TDE cosign is always a powerful one, and here it proves what Ill Camille’s fans have been saying for years: she’s one of the best-kept secrets in California. Her newest album, Heirloom, is bursting with creative experimentation and finds the MC coming into her own musically, adding lush layers and melodic flourishes to her already strong arsenal as a pure rhymer. Bookmark Ill Camille now so you can show your friends how far ahead of the curve you were after she inevitably blows up.

Chuuwee (@Chuuw33)

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Since his early days as an MC, Sacramento’s Chuuwee has never been afraid to blur genres and experiment with wide-ranging sounds. Today, all of that experimenting has resulted in an eclectic sonic landscape that’s firmly rooted in Northern California’s hip-hop history. Catchy hooks and reflective, often politically influenced rhymes have built Chuuwee a loyal fan base, but for whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to take his music to the next level commercially as of yet. Chuuwee has signed short deals with multiple labels over the past six years, but now, he’s taking on the game independently like so many West Coast legends before him.

G Perico (@BGPerico)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Since Ice-T first hit the scene, California rap has always had a fascination with gangster violence and the street life. Plenty of young rappers act like they’re about it; G Perico is the one who got shot in the leg last year and played a show at the Roxy later that night. He bled on stage. From a fresh gun wound, the result of an assassination attempt. Yeah. While he’s not involved in street hustling anymore, it’s clear from his music that G Perico has seen some crazy shit go down. Far from constantly glamorizing that lifestyle, though, the South Central native has never shied away from the ugly side of gang activity in his lyrics. On his most recent album, All Blue, Perico pays homage to the G-funk legends of the past without crossing the line between homage and imitation.

Hodgy (@monkmiyagi)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Sure, Hodgy might be “bigger” than a lot of names on this list, but much of his recognition comes from his status as a founding member of Odd Future. Which is a shame, really, since the LA-based rapper’s music deserves a whole lot more love than it gets beneath Tyler’s media-darling shadow. Looking back, much of Tyler’s own progression in style is thanks in large part to Hodgy’s influence; back in the vintage Odd Future days, Hodgy served as the Wolf Gang leader’s less aggressive, more introspective counterpart. Today, Hodgy has perfected a versatile flow and dense rhyme style that shines throughout his excellent 2016 debut, Fireplace.

Natia (@natiabooboo)

Hometown: Inglewood, CA

If the current watered-down take on rhyming in the mainstream sickens you, Natia is your man. The Inglewood-based rapper lists Big Pun, Raekwon, and Big L as his heroes, and it’s easy to see why when you jump into the young MC’s heavily old-school-influenced rhyme schemes. While most of his idols are heavily tied to the East Coast, there’s plenty of California flavor in Natia’s enthusiastic delivery and plenty of bounce in his LA-centric beat selection to place him in the lineage of Ice Cube and Kurupt. Usually, there’s at least some correlation between following and talent, but in Natia’s case, that couldn’t be further from the truth: he hasn’t blown up in a major way yet, but he's got the skill set and swagger to chase down the ghosts of each of his old-school influences.

Adam Vida (@adamraps)

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

For much of his career, Adam Vida rapped as A-1, a perennial cypher favorite on the TeamBackPack platform. Since abandoning that stage name and rapping as Adam Vida, a lot has changed for the San Francisco-based artist, whose Mr. Carmack-produced single “I’m Juiced” recently caught the attention of Interscope Records. One thing that’s remained the same, though, is Adam’s devotion to deceptively complex rhyming; hit play on any of Adam’s recent singles and you’ll bob your head along with his infectious flow, but pick apart those lyrics on paper and it’s clear that Vida is a top-tier writer and wordsmith. That combination of swag and intellect is bound to take Adam far, and no one should be surprised when he’s buzzing on a bigger stage.

Mozzy (@MozzyThaMotive)

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Sacramento is full of talented rappers, but California’s capital doesn’t have one clear leader of the pack wearing the crown for this generation. That’s Mozzy’s presumptive throne to take, but it’s also far from where the rapper’s ambitions end. Critics may say that Mozzy’s often harsh and gritty vocal stylings, combined with his violent and aggressive street style, may keep him outside of rap’s highest echelons. But people said the same thing about YG nearly a decade ago, and as long as Mozzy keeps up the momentum he’s tapped into recently, there’s no ceiling for this hungry Sac native.  

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