West Coast Lyricists
When people discuss the art of hip-hop lyricism, talk generally turns to New York rappers such as Rakim or Nas. Most think of the West as the home of gangsta rap, g-funk and low rider anthems. But that's only half the story. Rappers such as Ras Kass, Ice Cube and, of course, the late great Tupac Shakur can stand toe-to-toe with any of the legendary East Coast poets. And more than merely matching the masters of other regions, Left Coast emcees have made significant contributions in their own right. The modern freestyle -- where rappers spit completely impromptu verses -- was born in Los Angeles' the Good Life Café. Masters of the form Aceyalone and P.E.A.C.E., both from the seminal group Freestyle Fellowship, as well as Supernatural and Busdriver are the modern day equivalent of jazz masters -- bending, molding and regurgitating lexicon at the drop of a needle. From the groundwork that these acts laid in the early '90s, an entire underground movement emerged that was focused on reinventing the art of rhyme. The Bay Area alone is seemingly responsible for half of indie hip-hop's styles and ethos. Crews such as The Living Legends and Heiroglyphics helped establish the underground networks that East Coast pioneers such as the Def Jux crew would study and eventually ape. This isn't even touching on the lyrical innovations of the Bay's Mobb Music, Game's tour de force on "300 Miles and Running" and E-40 single-handedly authoring half of hip-hop's slang. In every sense, West Coast lyricism is the height of the art.