3. Los Angeles
Local legends: NWA, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, Warren G, Cypress Hill, The Game, Murs, Mad Lib, Jurassic 5, The Pharcyde, Alchemist, DJ Quick, Just Ice, Ice-T, Dilated Peoples, W.C., Spice 1 etc.
Hot right now: Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator, Tyga, Schoolboy Q
Up-and-coming talent: Earl Sweatshirt, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Problem, YG, DJ Mustard, Blu
Check out live shows at: Troubador, House of Blues Hollywood, Wiltern, Gaslamp, El Rey Theatre, Greek Theater
Best rap parties/festivals: Paid Dues Festival, Rock the Bells LA, Powerhouse, Odd Future Carnival, Low End Theory at Airliner
Tune into: Power 106, passionoftheweiss.com
There's always been something a little different in the air in Los Angeles (and not just weed smoke or smog, although those may be factors). Whether it was NWA bursting into America's living rooms with their frustrated rage, Snoop Dogg chilling the country out as its foremost marijuana ambassador, or Kendrick Lamar making lyrically dense rap radio-friendly again in 2013, the city has often seemed to operate on its own wavelength. It's always been particularly welcoming of the underground, whether in supporting the careers of positive-vibes traditionalists like Jurassic 5 and Murs or in launching experimental, production-driven movements through independent labels like Stones Throw and Brainfeeder. Although it dropped off the national radar for most of the '00s, recent years have seen the city launch major dance crazes in the forms of jerking and the dougie, infiltrate the sound of radio with the ratchet beats of DJ Mustard and foster two of the strongest rap collectives of the moment, Odd Future and TDE. A major industry destination, it's also where more established rappers come to live and record (Mac Miller, Drake, and Kanye are among the artists with area homes), making it the kind of place where an unknown producer might suddenly end up placing beats on a Big Sean mixtape because he happened to drop by the studio. With "women, weed and weather" as an undeniable draw, it's the ideal place to make or simply to listen to rap music—ideally on Power 106, which plays far more local music than many comparable stations in other markets.