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9 LOCAL LA HIP-HOP ARTISTS YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS YEAR

The Cure Company is always looking for the freshest local LA hip-hop artists to listen to. Los Angeles is one of the country’s most prominent musical markets in several genres. But, the local scene has played a significant role in fostering hip-hop, second only to New York City. LA is often the proving ground of many young artists looking for their spot on the throne. There’s no question that especially now, Los Angeles continues to play a pivotal role in emerging and mainstream hip-hop. 

Local legends like Ice T, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, NWA, and Dr. Dre became global sensations. They gave rise to Death Row and Death Row Records, which broke superstars like Snoop Dogg and furthered 2Pac’s already established musical career and dominated rap charts.

The G Funk and Gangster Rap era saw local street artists South Central Cartel, Sinister, CJ Mack, and many others rise to create a generation of unforgettable hip-hop music that influences emerging artists worldwide. Here are nine of the best up-and-coming local LA hip-hop artists you need to know before the end of this year.

1TakeJay

Straight out of Compton, 1TakeJay broke onto the SoCal scene as part of the rap crew OneTakeBoyz with 1Take Teezy and 1Take Quan. He found influence from his mom’s love for rap and fellow California rappers like DJ Quik, Sugar Free and YG. Jeff Turner, aka 1TakeJay, and his crew began recording and producing music in high school, posting it on Soundcloud. After his songs got more attention, 1TakeJay came to Los Angeles in search of bigger opportunities and higher-level collaborations. He’s been compared to local LA artist Blueface, and the two have collaborated on tracks like “Blow Her Bacc.” Recent solo hits include “Imma Flirt” and “Slide Ina Uber.”

Baby Keem

Boasting a recent appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and an upcoming gig at the Day In Vegas music festival in November, Baby Keem is rising fast. Not too long ago, he was a scrappy young kid clawing his way up out of the underground rap game. This September, he put out his debut studio album under the Columbia Records banner. Collaborations with huge players like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott have helped him hone his performance skills and writing chops. The Melodic Blue album has solidified his position as one of the main voices of the new generation in rap.

Crunch

Hip-hop phenom Crunch is breaking through the ceiling of traditional music with his versatility in content, substance, wordplay, and thought-provoking melodies. The 40 songs and four albums he’s released stand out in a sea of local LA artists. High-energy tracks like “Whip It Out,” “West Coast Anthem,” and the breakout track, “Lonely People” have been seeing significant attention.

Crunch is most proud of his battle rap tracks and freestyles influenced by OG hip-hop masters like Dr. Dre, 2Pac, and 50 Cent. In an interview with Daily Music Roll, Crunch said, “I base my music on the original Hip-hop. The rapper’s mouth was the gun, and their words were the bullets. It was a verbal war to see who could put words together the best to defeat their opponent. That was battle rap.”

Crunch claims consistent writing helps him hone his already sharp skills. If that’s true, look for him to break onto the global stage in the not-too-distant future. Crunch considers Street Life and the latest album release Lethal his finest work to date.

Cam & China

Born and raised in Inglewood, identical twins Cam and China got their first taste of fame at just 16 years old as part of the wildly successful teenage rap group Pink Dollaz. The all-girl crew became the female face of the jerk rap movement that trended in LA during the late aughts. After the group disbanded, Cam and China set out to make their mark on the local scene. Their music is filled with honesty and truths that alternate between rough and explicit emotional vulnerability.

In 2021, at just 24 years old, they have put in the work to hone their bars and gain respect in a way that others have spent a lifetime working towards. Maybe their cohesive sound and seemingly effortless collaboration have something to do with a special bond perhaps only twins share. Of their music, Cam says, “We’re connected on a deep level. We’re rebellious and don’t really care what anyone has to say. We want to show people the path to accepting themselves.”

Drakeo The Ruler

Drakeo the Ruler is building a viral following out of LA, and fans are hungry for each new release. His fourth mixtape, Cold Devil, released at the tail end of 2017, got over 10 million streams in under six months. Known for his singular flow and unusual yet poetic bars, the Los Angeles Times once called him “the most original West Coast stylist in decades.”

Collabs with Mozzy, Skeme, and Philthy Rich morphed into remixes of his songs by Lil Yachty and Shy Glizzy. His YouTube releases get millions of views apiece, with incarceration never slowing him down. In 2020, he gave us Thank You For Using GTL, which Pitchfork called “likely the greatest rap album ever recorded from jail.” Early in 2021, he released his ninth mixtape, The Truth Hurts, featuring Drake and Don Toliver. Check out his most recent video for “Long Live the Greatest” below.

G Perico

Hailing from South Central LA, G Perico’s business savvy, throw-back style, and lyrical tales from the hood might make him one of the best local LA artists in the past decade. Perico credits music with saving his life, often citing too many friends who fell prey to the streets.

Music, claims Perico, gave him a second chance and a way out. Major labels are already courting G, but he’s holding out and staying independent until he finds what feels right. G Perico’s music embraces OG themes. His spin adds a positive twist to the dark subject matter and replaces standard cadences with fresh beats and urgent rhythms.

J Stone

Founding member of Nipsey Hussle’s All Money In No Money Out label, J Stone has been hugely influenced by Hussle since they were kids. They both grew up hustling and banging on Crenshaw’s gritty streets. Their mutual love for music provided an escape from the streets, a strong bond of camaraderie, and an outlet to express it all. The force was so strong in the music, J Stone credits it with leading to a sense of unity between fierce enemies, the Crips, and Bloods. Stone’s standout tracks from the era include “The Marathon Continues” and “All Get Right” with Hussle.

His deep bond with Hussle is still evident in many of his tracks and Instagram posts. But J Stone stands on his own two feet these days, reflecting on his own past experience with the violence of jail culture in his mid-2021 track “CountyJail.” Recent collaborations with DMX, Usher, and Hit-Boy show he can hold his own in the big leagues. Still, his great friend and collaborator will always be close to his heart, and we’ll be sure to hear echoes of Hussle in Stone’s music for a long time to come. 

King Lil G

King Lil G – there may not be another local Latino rapper as popular with local fans since Cypress Hill hit their heyday back in the 80s and 90s. But the Mexican-American rapper can’t be put in a box, and his appeal goes way beyond identity. King Lil G has a superb talent for penning tales of survival on inner-city streets, a gift so large some liken his talent to legends like 2Pac.

Raised in Inglewood and South Gate, King Lil G brings massive street cred to his music. Despite the hardships he’s encountered, a sense of optimism underlies his music. He often brings attention to his escape from the street’s traps and how he aims to help others gain the same victory. After signing to Del Records, King Lil G’s fame spread beyond a local LA artist and into Central and South America.

He’s come a long way from hawking CDs at swap meets in Compton, and his strong connection with loyal fans is only growing with each new release. Of his music, King Lil G says, “I’m speaking for people in the ghetto who don’t have a voice,” he says. “I’m trying to bring awareness to people. We have to love each other. The only way we can make a change is to become that change.”

Pacman da Gunman

After a childhood spent immersed in Crenshaw’s gang culture, Pacman da Gunman signed to Nipsey Hussle’s All Money In label in the mid-2010s, turning wisdom won on the streets of South Central Los Angeles into flinty, soulful rap. Pacman’s music shows thoughtful reflection, expert structure, and dedication to his craft as a premier local LA artist and storyteller of the first degree.

His hard-learned lessons from the streets show their influence throughout his music, in tracks like “Zero Tolerance” featuring Mozzy and Hussle. As well as his solo track, “Tha Truth” from his 2021 EP Less Is More, also featuring Wales, Icewear Vezzo, and Blac Youngsta. Along with J Stone and others from the label, Pacman helps carry Nipsey Hussle’s legacy and spirit forward. In describing the album drop, Pacman told Complex, “This is a record I had to be strategic with, and I feel like right now is perfect timing. Long live my brother.”

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