The Bay Area has a chip on its shoulder when it comes to hip-hop. Everyone steals Bay Area slang, but the radio won't play Bay Area music. It doesn't help that The Bay's artists never want to deal with major labels, and then cry foul when they don't get spins any further east than Sacramento.
This relative isolation has led to a certain kind of creativity, or strangeness, depending on how one sees it. Whether it's E-40's "Woody Woodpecker on crack" voice, Keak da Sneak's smoker's cough gibberish, Mac Dre's ecstasy-twisted dance moves, or Andre Nickatina's apparent obsession with Jungle Book, some of the Bay Area's most celebrated artists are downright bizarre—and that's what people love about them.
This alternative approach to rap, in the East Bay especially, has a long tradition outside of street rap, that goes back to Digital Underground, Hieroglyphics, Hobo Junction, and continues today with internet phenomenon Lil B. In the Bay Area, gangsta rap is not all that serious, and serious rap is still really fun.
Would the Bay Area give up its strangeness for a shot at the mainstream? We hope not. In any case, here's a primer with The 50 Greatest Bay Area Rap Songs for those who have been missing out. Don't be surprised if you feel like you really missed out; you did.
Listen to Complex's Best Bay Area Rap Songs playlists here: YouTube/Spotify/Rdio
Written By Willy Staley (@bushwickwill)