How the West Was Won: The 20 Best Left Coast Albums of All-Time

Even with the success of Hip-Hop superstars like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and 2Pac, West Coast Hip-Hop as a whole has often faced an uphill battle.  Whether, in its early days, playing catch up to compete with its East Coast contemporaries and/or then not being embraced once success was achieved, rap music in the west for a long time did not get a fair shake.

Fortunately, times have changed though.  Dr. Dre, a pillar of West Coast Hip-Hop, is the wealthiest person in all of rap.  The anticipation for the follow-up to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city continues to grow by the day.  Loyal members of YG’s fan base protested outside of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles earlier this month to show their disapproval of My Krazy Life being snubbed for a Rap Album of the Year nomination at the upcoming ceremony.  And last but not least, today, January 18, 2015, marks the 10-year anniversary of The Game’s blockbuster debut album, The Documentary.

So out of respect for the past, recognition of the present, and anticipation  for the future of West Coast Hip Hop, has put together a list of it’s 20 best albums.

Hate it or love it, here are instances of when the underdog came out on top.

20). Kizz My Black Azz (1992) by MC Ren: Ren is a an incredible artist.  As one of the rappers for N.W.A and the group’s head writer, he proved to be one of the most skilled guys in the game.  This six song EP proved that he even after the end of the group, he hadn’t lost his stride.  If only the project were longer, because the villain is as ruthless as ever here and it’s great to see a once sometimes under appreciated emcee be in a space where is his talent is truly undeniable.

19). Cypress Hill (1991) by Cypress Hill: With their eponymous first album, Cypress Hill continued to bridge the gap between rock and rap.  Also, their pro-marijuana stance was emphasized in the fact their actual music sounded stoned too, like the tracks themselves inhaled a cloud of smoke before they were all mixed and mastered.

18). 21 & Over (1993) by Tha Alkaholiks: In addition to his work as a rapper, another thing that King Tee deserves credit for is the assembly of the Tha Alkaholiks.  On their debut, 21 & Over, they create ten songs of infectious material that perfectly suits the spirit of good times.  Quality over quantity wins again.

17). ’93 ‘Til Infinity (1993) by Souls of Mischief: A-Plus, Tajai, Opio, and Phesto, created a much needed change of pace for California Hip-Hop at the time of this release.  Their subject material was similar to the stuff on gangsta rap albums, but it was far less menacing and explicit.  The title track may have stalled at No. 72 on the charts back in the day, but its influence looms larger than ever now.  J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T., just to name a few, have rhymed over the instrumental.

16). Above the Rim Soundtrack (1994) by various: In addition to being the soundtrack to a great movie, this is also one of the best compilations to ever emerge out of the urban music scene.  And now thanks to digital music libraries, “Pain,” “Loyal to the Game,” and “Mi Monie Rite” aren’t restricted to just the cassette tape versions like they once were.

15). In a Major Way (1995) by E-40:  To paraphrase a line from “Sprinkle Me”: In a Major Way is hipper than a hippopotamus.

14). Quik is the Name (1991) by DJ Quik: Quik’s career behind the boards is iconic, but the props for his offerings as a solo artist have yet to surpass the buzz he created with this debut.  Like N.W.A, he was from Compton  and took pride in it (“Born and Raised in Compton”).  But he was seemingly determined to be more about chilling than killing.  Mission accomplished.  Almost a quarter of century later, “Tonite” can still get a party going.

13). Born to Mack (1987) by Too Short: This album is as much of an old-school classic as the Cadillac car on its cover.  After a few independent releases, Short Dog used his Jive debut to shine a national spotlight on Oakland’s pimp culture.  When I spoke with him in 2012, he said, “I feel that somewhere along the line I had always intended for it [rap] to be a mixture of funny sh*t, ignorant sh*t, social commentary type sh*t- just a reflection of me.  But somewhere down the line, people liked the dirty stuff a little better.”  Don’t hate the player; hate the game.

12). Power (1988) by Ice-T: Gangsta rap frequently prides itself on “keeping it real,” but the realness of what’s being discussed (sex, drugs, violence) often reaches caricature-like proportions.  Ice-T, however, is a pioneer who had his own brand of reality rap.  Instead of glorify the stories of the streets, he used them as cautionary tales.  This album has some of the best examples.  Clearly, this album has more of a purpose than what LL Cool J claimed in “To Da Break of Dawn.”

11). No One Can Do It Better (1989) by The D.O.C.: With this album, The D.O.C. made himself the Rakim of the West with his exemplary lyricism and flow.  Sadly, a car crash not long after this dropped severely damaged his vocal chords.  He is also yet another example of Dr. Dre’s incredible talent for finding talent.

10). Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (1992): The production on this album is amazing, and there is no filler on it at all.  Plus, “Passing Me By” is one of the greatest rap songs ever made.

9). The Documentary (2005) by The Game: Game’s alignment with 50 Cent and G-Unit helped make The Documentary a highly-anticipated release.  Fortunately, Game’s skills lived up to the hype and then some and the album revived West Coast Hip-Hop after years on the back burner.  And while his connection with Fif was short lived, the music they made together is timeless.  “I take all the credit for putting the West back on the map / If you ain’t feeling that, guess I’m Guerrilla Black.”

8). Bow Down (1996) by Westside Connection: The title track for this release is a metaphor for the entire project.  Three skilled emcees asserting their dominance atop heavy bass and synths.  Additionally, the sampling of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and the borrowing of the melody to The Beatles’ “A Little Help From my Friends” on two other respective tracks make the “Worldwide Westside” that’s laid out in the album intro sound very appealing.

7). good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012) by Kendrick Lamar:  On an album where Kendrick rapped over a beat CD in “Backseat Freestyle,” collaborated with MC Eiht on “m.A.A.d city,”and had a 12-minute epic with “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” it’s clear the then 25-year old was wise beyond his years.  This was a narrative album for the ages which solidified his spot as one of the best emcees of his generation.

6). The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996) by 2Pac: The last album that 2Pac recorded in his lifetime, under the name Makaveli, is his most powerful collection of songs.  The passion in the delivery of his words, for better or for worse, is undeniable.  “I ain’t a killer, but don’t push me / Revenge is like the sweetest joy next to getting p***y.”  It’s the realest s**t he ever wrote.

5). Death Certificate (1991) by Ice Cube: In ’91, Cube put out one of the best albums of his entire career.  In just over an hour, among other things, he foresaw the L.A. riots as a result mounting tensions (“Black Korea”), spoke on the plight of the underprivileged (“A Bird in the Hand”), and put a mirror up to his own community (“Us”).  The balance between hardcore and conscious rap that Ice Cube achieved here was flawless and remains unmatched to this day.

4). All Eyez on Me (1996) by 2Pac: Mr. Shakur’s first Death Row release doesn’t just epitomize the “Thug Life” tattoo on his stomach, but it also represents West Coast rap  to the fullest in terms of sight, sound, and style.  This is one of only seven rap albums that have gone diamond.  After just one listen to it, it’s easy to hear why.

3). Doggystyle (1993) by Snoop Doggy Dogg: While there were certainly gangsta rap elements to this album, Snoop wasn’t always angry like so many of his contemporaries.  And because of that, it broadened Doggystyle’s audience.  Instead of the listener feeling like they were along for the ride on a drive-by shooting, it was if they were attendees at the coolest house party in the neighborhood.

2). Straight Outta Compton (1988) by N.W.A: Straight Outta Compton forever changed the look and sound of not just Hip-Hop, but all of popular music.  The sequencing of the 13-tracks could be better in spots.  However, that’s just a minor misstep when compared to how millions of people started rooting for the bad guys because of these “n****z with attitude.”

1). The Chronic (1992) by Dr. Dre: Dr. Dre ushered in G-Funk with N.W.A (“Alwayz Into Somethin’”), but it wasn’t until his solo debut that he perfected it.  The way in which he fused those soundscapes, Snoop’s flow, and the aggression of inner-city California all together created a masterpiece.  Hardcore Hip-Hop never sounded so clean.

What’s your favorite West Coast album?  Please let us know in the comments section!

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171 Responses to “How the West Was Won: The 20 Best Left Coast Albums of All-Time”

  1. Ronlg1

    Wait, so you put Game, Kendrick and DOC album on the list, but left off Eazy’s ” Eazy Does It”? I mean, the DOC album is one of my top 10 albums of all times, but I always cross classify him cause he’s from Texas. Kendricks album was good, but didn’t deserve to be on that list and I don’t think Game’s album should have been in there either

  2. danboy1386

    Warren G – Regulate… G-Funk Era.

    The fact that game makes the list and at number 9! ahead of so many classics…….nah.

    • BlaqCeeza

      You crazy?!? That album was the truth! This DJ, So Many Ways, Super Soul Sis, Can U See, Running With No Breaks….Too many to list

      • danboy1386

        All classics. an album you can truly bump from front to back. Not to long not to short. gangsta but not so hard it compromises the music. i could listen to that cd in the dead of winter n still feel a little of that LBC sunshine. lol. Warren g and that album don’t get enough credit. top 3 of all time for me if not number 1.

  3. mademan3000

    I guess Above The Law, Dogg Pound, Kam, Tone Loc & Digital Underground, Spice 1 & Eiht them just never existed. Like others posted too the main person Eazy E was skipped! All those acts contributed in their own way. GTFOH with this bogus list…

    • Celz

      Suga Free? Quik gave me a beat now Pomona’s on the set!

      Tell ya kids I aint they muthafuccin daddy/ what, ya medi cal expire cuz they look like they been eatin cavi (aka crack rocks)… Suga Free is a fool

  4. Eli Pinilla

    Just moved out here from florida……luvin this sh*t….. just got pulled over for doin 87 on a 65. Californian’s can’t drive for shit. And san jose is f*ckin expensive… never knew mexicans could be this fine…..oh! And no chronic 2001 or dogg food????

  5. hoeyuno

    Dope my opinion “Black Sunday” was the best Cypress Hill album. That was the one with”insane in the membrane”, “A to the K” etc. .”Liquidation” was the best Alkoholiks album. And I woulda squeezed Spice 1’s “187 he wrote” and on some hip hip head shyt Del thafunky himosapians “no need for alarm” and Saafir “boxcar sessions”.. O and Ras Kass “Soul on ice” is top 10 hip hop albums ever made.

      • Ojdidit MajorFee

        And nothing’s farther from the truth…
        That’s that bullshit!!!

      • Kamal the 1st

        I said “most people”. You had to make a concerted effort to find they’re music. We wasn’t checking for them or Chunk or JT or E-A-Ski or Mac Dre or any of them other dudes you could only find in the swap meet. They didn’t play them on the mix shows on the radio. West Side Radio or even the Wake-Up show wasn’t banging they’re stuff.

      • Celz

        I used to see C-Bo and Brotha Lynch everywhere out here.. My boss a white dude had a Brotha Lynch cd back in 2001.. We was in swapmeets heavy tho that was like World Star and Dat Piff back in the day..

      • Kamal the 1st

        Them dudes are an acquired taste that most cats from Southern Cal didn’t rock with. Short, 40, Pac, Underground, Dru, Luniz, Heiro, Spice, 4Tay, Paris is who we generally rocked with. C-Bo and Brotha Lynch Hung didn’t get much play.

        Like I said, you had to be looking for them. And I’m not a Bay area hater as you can tell from the cats I mentioned earlier.

      • Celz

        I’ve been out here my whole life and everyone I knew whether they was banged out or on some emcee shyt was up on game..

      • Celz

        I mean it wasn’t like niccas go to music or nothin.. But if you put in Blocc Movement no one was gonna ask you who is that..

    • MLB44

      There’s always been somewhat of a Southern Cal bias when West Coast rap is presented to

      the rest of the country because of the commercial success of L.A. rappers.

      • Celz

        Yea I’m from So Cal so I can co sign that statement.. So Cal taught everyone how to get the majors and the Bay taught everyone how to get that independy bread.. Don’t sleep lots of times the Independent niccas eat better too.. Ask TLC… lol

  6. quiksand

    No Black Mafia Life or Uncle Sam’s Curse? No Niggaz4Life? No Rhythmalism? No South Central Cartel albums? No 187 He Wrote? No Safe & Sound? Boooooo.

  7. pauleyPee

    Luniz “Lunatic Muzik”… Yukmouth “Thugged Out: The Albulation”… C-Bo “Til My Casket Drops”… E-40’s “Hall of Game”… E-40’s “Element of Surprise”… B-Legit “Hemp Museum”……………….. And those are just the classics that I can remember off hand this morning.

    • Shad Reed

      Thanks for referring to my article as a “good list.” I know it’s impossible to please everyone, but I feel I explained my choices well enough to where even if there’s a disagreement – my opinion can still be respected.

      • Celz

        You were gonna catch flack any way you sliced it! Good list, I’d take Game off and add Chroic 2001 off the bat.. But you did ya thing..

  8. Kamal the 1st

    Eazy Duz It; Musik to Drive-By; Amerikkka’s Most Wanted; O.G; Dogg Food; Short Dogg’s in the House; Genocide and Juice; Mack-10 are all albums I would include on the list. Not sure who you take off these were slept on.

  9. Wtfcity

    This is good. There is enough good music to actually have a debate. Change it to anything after 2000 and this list is nonexistent.

  10. Markus

    While i agree on the front of this list,without question there were albums on the back end that were included that were not better than some of the albums left off. Ice Cube’s debut album as well as Dre’s second album not being here is a problem to me. Sex Packets missing as well as Above the Law. Flawed list in my opinion.

  11. Shawn H.

    Who ever came up with this list doesn’t really know shit about west coast artist, cause how could you not include any one of Above the law albums Cj Mac album, Yomo & Maulkie, the first Clique album C-BO, CMW

  12. Don_Te

    Couple Honorable Mentions that I haven’t seen in the comments:
    Murder Was The Case Soundtrack
    Amerikkkas Nightmare – Spice 1
    Restless – Xzibit
    Get in Where You Fit In – Too $hort (my personal fav short of all time)
    Untouchable – Mac Mall

  13. Ty

    Some of my favorites not mentioned:

    Warren G’s – Regulate: G Funk Era
    Tha Dogg Pound – Dog Food
    Compton’s Most Wanted – It’s a Compton Thang
    South Central Cartel – All Day Everyday
    Twinz – Conversation
    Foesum – Perfction
    B-Legit – Hemp Museum

  14. Dee Moe

    Man how do you not have Above the Law “Livin Like a Hustla” and 2nd II None? take off Ren’s album and Ice T power. Rhyme Pays was better than that. Oh yea and Spice 1 joint. Jayo Take a ride was dope also

  15. Celz

    What about Ras Kass Van Gogh? That album was ill even though it was never released. That was the dopest leaked album ever lol..

  16. Aiden_Abetting

    Souls of mischief ….. Classic. And The Documentary shouldn’t be on this list. It’s a great album but made by 50 not game. So that would be east coast

  17. Qwiccshott Sumlin

    THIS list is Pure TRASH !!!
    Documentary & GoodKidMadCity in the top 10???? GTFOH!!!!… top 50 maybe.
    No Dogg Food??? Me Against The World?? Chronic2001?? Soul On Ice?? Music To Drive By?? Lethal Injection?? Eastsidaz?? StreetzIzAMutha?? Spice 1? EFIL4ZAGGIN?? this is mind blowing garbage.
    p.s Section80 > GKMC

  18. Edonus

    This list is commendable but there are some that dont need to be here and you are missing some joints that should not be missed.


    E-40= in a major way

    Don Killumanati

    Cypress Hill

    Westside Connection Bow Down

    Game The Documentary.

    Put in

    Eazy E Eazy Duz It

    Comptons Most Waned Music to Drive Bye

    Thug Life

    Spice 1 Murder He Wrote

    Digital Underground Sex Packets

    Strangely enough I am trying to be fair because in truth EFIL4ZAGGIN, Chronic 2001, and Strictly for my N***az and Me against the world should be in there but that a lot of DR. Dre and 2pac for the list when they already represented nicely.

  19. rbgwarrior

    with all due respect……..i can’t believe these four didn’t make it:

    Ras Kass Soul On Ice

    Ice T OG: Original Gangster

    Compton’s Most Wanted Straight Checkn’ Em (or Music To Drive By)

    Blu & Exlie Below The Heavens

  20. JJones

    Man I’m from Texas and grew on the West Coast rap in the 90s….This is a good list but I would have like to see We come strapped, Hall of Game, C-Bo gas chamber, Brother Lynch Hung Season of Siccness, Spice 1, Dogg Pound, Thug Life, Yukmouth. I’m sure the west coast will name alot more classics. I do think that was a good look to add Above the Rim to the list…Best soundtrack made, hands down.

    BTW-I agree with those who say Me Against the World should be on here too…To me Pac best work because it was all him…No death row, no dre, no snoop..straight pac..

  21. Kevin Greene

    top (20)??? woooowww. sounds like they don’t wanna offend anybody! haha 20? wtf????!!!! happen to 10 or 5? making it 20 ensures that u can pretty much include everybody from the west in that list. make it interesting.

  22. Huey P. Newton Jr.

    MC Ren ????? WTF?? Why isnt Ice Cube Amerikkas Most Wanted on this list ??? Why is The Luniz first album not on this list ? Where is Mac Dre or Brotha Lynch Hung or C-bo ?? I respect Ren but cmon now

    • Joel Avalos

      I agree… but no recognition can go to independent albums/artists…exception e40… stupid doo doo dumb ? Gas chamber? X orsict? What about AWOL RECORD’S? Hollow tip FLAWLESS? celly cell killa cali? The clicks hurricane but you can call me slurricane? No dre dog ? This list you claim is classic west coast music? I disagree sir… YOUR LIST IS BOOTSIE.. no easy e ? Mc eight? YOU HAVE THE GULL TO SAY THE GAME? I hate the game.. MESSY MARV? Cougnut? RBL POSSE? JT THE BIGGA FIGGA? NO SAN QUINN? LOL your list can lick my azz.. dudes right Wheres spice 1?

  23. LetTheTruthBeTold215

    I would take off Ren. I did like the song same ol *ish but the rest was trash. Death Certificate yes, Pac yes, the Liks yes. Ice T FOH!!!
    THE DOC only like 3 songs on album Grand Finale, Funky Enough, and the Formula, Doggystyle yes, Pharcyde (lame azz commercial rap) e40 foh fast rapping fat bull with corny slang, Souls of Mischief- nice, very lyrical for west coast and underrated. Cypress Hill-one song Kill a Man. Don’t know about Dj Quik never listened to him. Im from Philly. You don’t hear too much from him over here. Most rappers on that list you cant listen to the album all the way through except Doggystyle, Ice Cube’s 1st few albums, same as Dre, Pac, NWA, the Alcoholiks was my shit in 94-95 Make room, Only wihen Im drunk, mary jane etc,Game *ish was nice too. It aint sell 5mill for no reason. Some of Easy E *ish was alright but couldnt listen to the whole thing. niggaz4life classic. Dogg Pound- naw, overrated.

    • LetTheTruthBeTold215

      Cypress Hill-hand on the pump, forgot. two songs. Somebody will say insane in the membrane, but that shit was weak

  24. water_ur_seeds

    Personally I would find away to add:

    Ras Kas – Soul on Ice
    The Coup – Kill my Landlord
    MC Ren – Shock Hour
    Dre – 2001
    The Luniz – Operation Stackola
    E40 – Hall of Game
    Cube – Amerikkkas Most Wanted
    King Tee – IV Life
    Ice T – OG Gangsta
    Spice 1 – Spice 1
    Xzibit – Restless

    Take off:

    Kendrick – GKMC
    Tha Liks – 21 & over (although its a classic top 25)
    E40 – In a Major way
    Above the Rim OST
    MC Ren – Kizz my black azz
    Pharcyde – Bizzare Ride (although its top 25)
    The Game – The Documentary
    Ice T – Power
    Spice 1 – Born to mack

  25. 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

    above the rim need to be top 10 . murder was the case sound track needs to be there . 2001 ? smh all of deathrows releases should be there from 92 – 96. topp 5 should be undisputed . ammerikka most wanted 5 , doggy style 4 , chronic 3 , all eyes on me 2, 2001 .number 1

  26. truthrevealer

    all eyez on me and don killimunati should DEFINITELY not be on here. theyre just giving those to him cause of his image and because hes dead. overrated pop hyped up trash.

  27. EaStoAkLaNd

    Hold this L for not putting digital under ground sex package
    The Luniz
    And Dru down can you feel me
    And Mac Mall illegal business
    Ray luv forever hustin
    And spice 1
    Gtfho the Bay Area got classics this list dont show the half

  28. hoeyuno

    Great list.

    Del tha funkee homosapien- No need for alarm
    Saafir- Triganometry, Boxcar Sessions
    Cypress Hill- Black Sunday
    Xzibit- At the speed of life
    Alkaholiks- 21 and over, Coast 2 Coast, Likwidation
    Spice 1- Amerikkkas Nightmare
    Too $hort- Get in where you fit in, Cocktails
    Snoop Dogg- Doggy Style
    Dr.Dre- The Chronic
    Eazy E- 5150, It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa
    Bone Thugs- Creepin up on a come up, East 1999 Eternal
    Pharcyde- Bizarre Ride
    Luniz- Operation Stockola
    Warren G- Regulate G Funk ERa
    ………………….All got mad play in my sony sport.

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