THE HIP-HOP HISTORY OF
The Bay Area
with G-Eazy
THE RICH HISTORY OF HIP-HOP IN
The Bay Area
with G-Eazy

FROM THE BAY TO THE UNIVERSE

The Bay Area’s hip-hop scene traces its roots back to the early ‘70s. Over the past several decades, artists from San Francisco, Richmond, Vallejo, and Oakland – like MC Hammer, The Jacka, Digital Underground, E-40, Too $hort and Souls of Mischief – released records that have sold millions of copies, and resonated internationally.

DIY is in the DNA of the Bay Area. From the Black Panthers’ survival programs, with free breakfast and health clinics; to early television programming like The Jay Payton Show and dedicated channel Soul Beat; to thriving independent punk, rock, and comedy scenes, the Bay has prided itself on being a place where, as Shock G from Digital Underground pointed out, you can “make a dollar out of 15 cents.” Artists like Too $hort – the godfather of Oakland rap – became known by selling tapes out of car trunks, and performing on transit buses.

Known for its infectious slang and unique delivery (see E-40’s “Tell Me When To Go,” Keak da Sneak’s “Super Hyphy,” and Andre Nickatina’s “Ayo For Yayo,” featuring San Quinn), the Bay Area rap scene brought its own swagger to hip-hop culture, and painted real-life pictures of “the ghetto” on wax. Rappers from here weren’t afraid to get raunchy either, as heard on Too $hort’s explicit “Freaky Tales.”

In the 1970s, the Bay had a pulsating funk movement. As Too $hort once explained, music on the West Coast is defined by the bass, whereas the East Coast centered on the drum. New York hip-hoppers were feverishly searching for breakbeats, while their counterparts in the Bay Area were trying to find the perfect funk groove. Some of the Bay Area’s best hip-hop producers came out of this ’70s funk scene, like Khayree, Ant Banks, Studio Tone, Al Eaton, Jay King, and Foster McElroy. Live instruments on slow rolling funk beats became the signature sound for many Bay Area rappers. Particular dance styles now embedded in hip-hop were initially unique to the Bay Area, like boogalooing, rutting and strutting (collectively known as BRS). Many of the Bay Area’s rappers, from MC Hammer to the Wild Boyz, started out as dancers.

Internet favorites like Lil B, G-Eazy, and Iamsu! continue to wave the Bay Area flag today. Diverse culture and unique language remain fixtures in the sounds emerging from the West Coast, while veterans like Too $hort and E-40 make cameos on hits like Chris Brown’s “Loyal,” and Big Sean’s “I Don’t F–k With You.” While other West Coast sub-genres like “gangsta” rap emerged in the late ’80s thanks to the likes of N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, and 2Pac, it was the Bay that first hosted the diverse cast of characters that made rap the melting pot it is today.

— Davey D



Video
G-Eazy's Tour of Oakland

Follow along as G-Eazy guides us through the streets of Oakland and performs at the club where he cut his teeth.

Historic Hip-Hop Locales
Timeline
10
G.O.A.T. Chart
Bay Area's Top 10 Rappers of All Time
in The Bay Area

Oakland, San Francisco and their surrounding areas have delivered some of the most iconic and influential MCs to ever pick up a mic. Check out the region’s top 10 rappers, based on their performance on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart*.

1
2Pac
Top Song: "Dear Mama" (1995)
Though born in Brooklyn, the California transplant (he lived in Oakland before calling Los Angeles home) was a top 15 regular on the charts, with hits like 1995’s “Dear Mama/Old School” and 1996’s “How Do U Want It/California Love.” He frequently claimed the Bay Area in interviews, once offering, “You can give all my Grammys to Oakland.”
2
Too $hort
Top Song: "The Ghetto" (1990)
The influential East Oakland rapper is often name-checked as one of the pioneers of West Coast rap; and frequently appeared in the top 20 of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart in the '90s, with hits like "Blow the Whistle" and "You Nasty." The explicit MC, who collaborated with both 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. at the height of their careers, also found himself in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013, with his contribution to the West Coast edit of Chris Brown's smash "Loyal."
3
MC Hammer
Top Song: "U Can't Touch This" (1990)
The Oakland rhymer -- and his signature harem pants -- parachuted to the top of the Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop songs with his 1990 party jam “U Can’t Touch This,” which peaked at No. 2 in 1990. Other offerings like 1989’s “Turn This Mutha Out,” 1994’s “It’s All Good” and 1994’s “Pumps and a Bump” peaked at No. 3.
4
E-40
Top Song: "Things'll Never Change" (1995)
Among the first Bay Area rap artists to sign a major label deal, the Vallejo rep and Jive Records signee was sick with the raps, especially with hits like "Captain Save a Hoe," "1-Luv" and "Things'll Never Change." He returned to chart glory as a feature on Big Sean's 2015 banger "I Don't Fuck With You."
5
Sage The Gemini
Top Song: "Gas Pedal" (2013)
The Fairfield rapper/producer and HBK Gang member boasts two viral party records, "Red Nose" and "Gas Pedal," both of which reached platinum status in 2013. Sage's 2014 debut album "Remember Me" hit the top 5 of the Billboard Rap chart in 2014.
6
Spice 1
Top Song: "Welcome to the Ghetto" (1992)
Discovered by Too $hort, this Texas-born, Bay Area-bred MC peppered the charts in the '90s with songs like "187 He Wrote," "AmeriKKKa's Nightmare," and "The Black Bossalini." The prolific MC returned in 2015 with two new projects: Thug Therapy (in collaboration with Bossolo) and Haterz Nightmare.
7
Rappin’ 4-Tay
Top Song: "I'll Be Around" (1995)
The San Francisco native made his debut on Too Short's "Life Is...Too Short" album in 1989. After dropping his 1991 debut album, "Rappin' 4-Tay Is Back!!!," the rapper hit his stride with 1994's "Don't Fight The Feeling," which featured the top 40 Hot 100 hit "Playaz Club."
8
Del The Funky Homosapien
Top Song: "Mistadobalina" (1992)
The humorous Oakland MC (and cousin to N.W.A member Ice Cube) delivered a scattered catalog throughout the '90s, including standout releases like 1991's "I Wish My Brother George Was Here" (which featured the international hit "Mistadobalina"), 1991's "No Need for Alarm," and 1998's "Future Development," to name a few. Del, whose unique style helped bring focus to the West Coast scene, has also been featured in numerous collectives, including Hieroglyphics, Deltron 3030, and Gorillaz.
9
Richie Rich
Top Song: "Let's Ride" (1996)
As a member of the Oakland-based rap collective 415, the West Coast lyricist released the Bay Area classic "41Fivin" in 1989. The success of the project led to Rich's debut solo album, "Don't Do It." In 1995, Rich became the first Bay Area artist to sign with Def Jam Records. In 1997, two Richie Rich tracks, "Let's Ride" and "Do G's Get To Go To Heaven?," landed on several Billboard charts. Rich currently runs his own record label, Ten-Six Records.
10
G-Eazy
Top Song: "Me, Myself & I" (2016)
After years building a following as an independent artist - and reaching No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with his 2014 debut "These Things Happen" - G-Eazy entered the major label arena with his 2015 album "When It's Dark Out," and found crossover success with cuts like "Me, Myself & I" featuring Bebe Rexha, and "Drifting" with Chris Brown.
*This ranking is based on actual performance on Billboard's weekly Hot Rap Songs chart, from the chart’s inception in the March 11, 1989, issue through the chart dated March 26, 2016. Rankings are based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 having the greatest value and weeks at lower positions proportionately less. Due to various changes in chart rules, chart length and methodology through the years, songs had varying reigns at No. 1 and on the chart. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from all years, certain time frames were weighted to account for the difference in turnover rates from those periods.
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