Label: Diamond Lane Music Group/Heart Break Gang
While T.D.E. deserves nationwide acclaim for their unique approach to hip-hop, California is as focused on the lightweight jammin' sounds of producers like DJ Mustard and IamSu!, who have carved a production style completely different from Atlanta-originated approach that dominates the South and Midwest.
This scene has seen its fair share of national anthems—Loverance's "Up!," Tyga's "Rack City"—but it remains the default sound only on the left coast. Homegrown artists from that scene have been producing more and more exceptional music; Problem, whose remix of Young Bleed's "How You Do That" became a regional hit "Like Whaaat,", has thrown his hat into the ring in an attempt to be one of the scene's next big stars. Time will tell if he can make the crossover leap, but Million Dollar Afro, his collaborative album with IamSu!, is a promising start, and one of the best overall projects the scene has yet produced. With sparse, groove-oriented fingersnap club beats that reinvent hyphy as smoothly restrained rather than unwieldy and abrasive, the album jumps from understated banger to understated banger. —David Drake