Like their East Coast brethren, it was the veteran West Coast artists that made the most noise in 2008.
The West delivered good to solid LPs from vets Ice Cube, E-40, and Snoop Dogg. The Game also supplied a shining mainstream moment with LAX, the only gold-certified album to come from the Westside this year.
Away from the mainstream, thriving underground scenes have developed. The Bay Area, for example, has numerous acts like Mistah Fab, Ya Boy, Keak Da Sneak, and San Quinn who have thrived simply by making music for their small but devoted audiences. In LA, artists like Planet Asia and Crooked I have done the same while retaining mainstream aspirations.
Its hard to predict when the West will return to its former glory, but until then the region will sustain as a self-contained unit until the rest of the world is ready to catch back on.
If youre looking for an example of a veteran thriving through the independent grind, look no further than the Don Mega. Cube released his political-heavy 8th album Raw Footage in August to rave reviews. To date, the album is on pace to give Cube is second consecutive best-selling independent album of the year.
In addition to working with fellow vets Scarface and Nas (Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It), Ice Cube reached out to new school stars The Game (Get Use To It) and Young Jeezy (I Got My Locs On).
On the film front, Cube starred with Katt Williams in the comedy First Sunday, which opened at number two at the box office and grossed over $37 million. Look for Cube to make more noise in 2009 with a new movie featuring Mike Epps and Young Jeezy called Janky Promoters, and a possible collaboration album with Nas and Scarface.
Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It, I Got My Locs On,
The King of Slang and Ambassador of the Yay retained his winning ways in 2008 with the release of The Ball Street Journal, 40s 11th album.
Pushed through his own Sick Wid It Records, 40 Waters new album featured The Game, Gucci Mane, Snoop Dogg, Too $hort, Bun B, Shawty Lo, Ice-T, and Akon. The album debuted six on Billboards Top Hip-Hop albums list.
A hustler since his first album Federal back in 1993, E-40 will keep the Bay Areas self-contained music scene thriving; recession or not.
Break Ya Ankles, Wake It Up
Long-overlooked emcee Crooked I took it upon himself to capitalize on the hype gained in 2007 through his innovative Hip-Hop Weekly series.
Hip-Hop Weekly, started in April 2007, featured the talented lyricist creating a new song per week over old and new instrumentals, and many times taking requests and shouting out fans on the tracks. The successful series finally concluded in April 2008.
From there, Crooked hits the streets running with three mixtapes: St. Valentines Day Bossacre, The Block Obama, and The Block Obama II, which found distribution through iTunes, Amazon, and Rhapsody.
His efforts were duly noted throughout the industry, as now other emcees such as Freeway have adopted modified versions of the Hip-Hop Weekly series to generate their own buzz.
Look for Crooked I to make more noise in 2009 through the super-group Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 59, Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Crooked I) and his anticipated debut B.O.S.S. (Beginning Of Something Serious).
Its quite possible that Kanye West got his idea for an auto-tune only album from the success of Snoops Sexual Eruption. The lead single for Ego Trippin was released quietly at the end of 2007, but subsequently blew up over the beginning of this year courtesy of radio and club spins, plus a highly stylized throwback video. The top ten single enabled Snoops ninth studio album to debut number three on Billboards Top 100 chart.
With a second season of Snoop Doggs Fatherhood recently launched on November 30th, Snoop D-O- Double G remains one of Hip-Hops brightest crossover stars.
Sexual Eruption, Life Of Da Party
Comptons The Game solidified his position as one the Wests biggest artists with LAX, his third and alleged final Hip-Hop album. The LP had a staggering list of guests ranging from rappers like DMX and Raekwon to R&B stars in Chrisette Michele and Bilal. The album earned Game a gold plaque and a narrow miss of receiving his third consecutive #1 LP by less than twelve hundred copies.
Game went on to build his own resume of guest appearances by working with a diverse group of artists in Nas (Make The World Go Round), Good Charlotte (Fight Song Remix), E-40 (Pain No More), and former rival Joe Budden (The Future). If The Game is indeed hanging up the microphone, hes going out on top.
Games Pain, My Life
Even though LAX fell short of its expectations, The Game was still the Wests shining star in 2008.