The term "New West" has been used to describe various subsets of West Coast rap artists, most of them based in Southern California. There was the wave of street rappers who tried to capitalize on the The Game's breakout hits in the mid-2000s, like Bishop Lamont, Crooked I, Nipsey Hussle and Strong Arm Steady. Then there were kids -- like New Boyz, Y.G., Audio Push, Cali Swag District and the Rej3ctz -- who popularized "jerkin'" and other teen dances.
However, it's the emergence of the Black Hippy crew (Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q) and Odd Future (Tyler, the Creator; Hodgy Beats; and others) that makes a new era in West Coast hip-hop seem more like a promise than a wishful dream. These two groups in particular have the potential to make music that not only generates sales, but also inspires hardcore rap fans -- a confluence of critical acclaim and industry success that hasn't happened since the 1990s.
It's remarkable how much the glory years of West Coast rap, as well as its long decline, continue to overshadow the region. Any rapper who wants to earn something close to the millions that Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and others clocked regularly in the 1990s has to contend with a difficult legacy of East Coast-West Coast beefs; the rise and fall of Death Row Records and its attempts to both honor and transcend gang culture; and ostracism from a music industry that is both contemptuous and fearful. Those days are long past, true, but the painful memories remain. Why else would Dr. Dre's protégé The Game be the only West Coast artist in a decade to have a platinum debut with 2004's The Documentary?
So Kendrick Lamar collaborates with Dr. Dre on "The Recipe," and Tyler, the Creator jumps on The Game's "Martians vs. Goblins." A cynic would claim that these are just old rappers trying to appropriate the latest trends -- yet they're also trying to pass the torch to younger artists whose legacies are far from established.
As anyone who has listened to The Pharcyde and Tha Alkaholiks knows, L.A. was never just a G-funk paradise. Today it is home to the likes of Tyga and Dom Kennedy, Big Sean (a Detroit transplant) and Casey Veggies, and Co$$ and Shawn Jackson, artists whose sounds are just as diverse as hip-hop itself has become. Perhaps the region loses something when it can no longer be identified with a singular sound like G-funk. But after years spent in the hip-hop wilderness, it's time for the West Coast to try something new.