In recognition of hip hop’s 50th anniversary, BET Digital, in partnership with Ambrosia For Heads, is celebrating the culture by hosting a bracket-style competition that allows you to determine hip hop’s greatest crew.
Rather than having “experts” tell you who is the greatest of all-time, this is your opportunity to collectively make that decision. After giving the opportunity to any and all fans to provide feedback on which crews should be included, 32 collectives from different regions, styles, and generations have been selected—all vying for that #1 spot. When the final battle is over and the last vote is cast, you will have determined who is your Greatest Rap Crew of All Time. It's time to move on to the West Coast.
Long before it appeared in the film "Breakin'," hip hop had a West Coast identity. In the early days, the production was distinct from the culture's East Coast counterpart. By the late 1980s, the West Coast drew from its streets to make the music compelling, captivating, and colorful.
Many artists from the West Coast expressed themselves by talking about unfair treatment from law enforcement, drug epidemics, and street politics. While greater Los Angeles built an identity dealing with an array of social issues, the Bay Area piloted its distinct sounds to reflect its attitudes and movements, drawing inspiration from the streets as well as the area's rich heritage in jazz and funk.
The crews of the West launched superstar careers, sometimes with several in the same unit. By the early 1990s, this region had become a focal point across the hip hop landscape. These eight crews, packed with left-coast legends, represent diversity in the region, spanning content, styles, cities, and eras.
Check out the crews representing the West Coast.
In the mid-1990s, the Death Row family and the Hieroglyphics crew had simultaneous movements. Coming straight outta Compton and Long Beach, Death Row was topping the charts, appearing on magazine covers, and dominating video and radio shows. Meanwhile, 400 miles North, Del The Funky Homosapien, Souls Of Mischief, and Casual were cultivating a West Coast underground through jazz-tinged beats and dynamic lyricism. Respect was there among these artists, as Tupac was photographed with Del when both artists were on the come-up. Years later, Snoop Dogg and Souls Of Mischief would make music together in a full-circle moment. For now, Hieroglyphics squares up against the Death Row family in a Round 1 coastal California bout.
The West Coast battles heat up with N.W.A. & The Posse versus the Soul Assassins crew. These collectives represent major movements in and around Los Angeles, with incredible production supporting accounts of street life, low-riding, and demands for the empowerment of under-represented communities. Both rooted in the 1980s, the Soul Assassins’ run took shape just as N.W.A. & The Posse dispersed. N.W.A. & The Posse came to prominence with the release of its eponymous compilation album in 1987, which featured Eazy-E’s seminal “Boyz-N-The-Hood” record. By 1992, most of the principal players in the crew had disbanded, due in large part to conflicts about compensation. In contrast, DJ Muggs, B-Real and Sen Dog’s breakout came with the release of their eponymous “Cypress Hill” album in 1991, featuring the hit single “How I Could Just Kill A Man.” Notably, N.W.A.’s Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren worked with members of the Soul Assassins crew during the 1990s (including the rap chart-topping hit “Check Yo Self”). While an ensuing misunderstanding between Cube and Cypress Hill was put to rest long ago, hip hop fans must choose between these crews over a quarter-century later. Only one of these West Coast contenders can advance to Round 2.
At the top of the 2010s, Southern California watched two generational hip hop movements rise simultaneously. Both TDE and Odd Future built fanbases through the Internet, using compelling music, great music videos, and charisma to their advantage. By the middle of the decade, these crews reached the top of the charts and exercised their creative visions at the highest level. Members of these crews frequently collaborated, supported one another, and watched their digital grassroots efforts blossom into forces that shifted culture for years to come. The crews of Top Dawg Entertainment and OFWGKTA have produced superstars that have helped define the last dozen years in rap. Only one of these squads can remain as the West Coast bracket condenses from eight crews to four.
E-40 and Too Short led movements out of the Bay area dating back to the 1980s. These pioneers built their crews with standout artists who could be unique and multi-talented. In 40’s case, his Sick Wid It crew started with family and extended to a collective that lasted for decades. For Too Short, he assembled a squad of rappers, musicians, and producers in the Dangerous Crew who would go on to make history and have hits. 40 and Short have since released two collaboration albums, including the recent Mount Westmore Collective with Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. However, despite the love and fellowship, only one of these crews will reach round 2.
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