East Coast vs. West Coast has been the most storied rivalry in hip hop bar none. Since the start of the golden genre, numerous names have come from east side of the US, emerging as the best talent in the game only to be seemingly one-upped or challenged by the other coast. The 70’s/80’s saw New York’s Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim amongst a host of other legendary names rise to fame and claim hip hop as a New York staple. But the back end of the 80’s saw NWA, De La Soul & Ice-T lay claim to be hip hop’s home.
The 90’s are well documented in any hip hop, or even just a general music, fan’s knowledge. Names like Biggie Smalls, NaS & Wu-Tang Clan repped the East Coast in full force whilst NWA member’s Ice Cube & Dr. Dre took the game by storm, the latter creating the classic G-Funk sound. Mobb Deep came, West had Snoop. East brought the underground names of R.A the Rugged Man & Company Flow, West brought out the big hitters like Kurupt & Nate Dogg. It was seemingly a stalemate. Then after Pac’s shooting, Biggie dropped Who Shot Ya? Was it a dig at Pac or was it just a song with no relation to him? Nobody knows for sure but Tupac took it bad and responded with the greatest diss song of all time in Hit ‘Em Up. Unfortunately the feud between the two ended in red as both rappers died from shooting, and since then there’s been no real East/West beef.
But what if there was now? 20 years after the legendary East/West rivalry really cooked up, who’d be able to take hip hop home?
Both coasts have respected artists who have made names for themselves and equally seem to have a counterpart on each side. I’m going to weigh in my thoughts on who is winning now by comparing rappers to others, seeing who comes out on top.
With East Coast always having the grittier, darker sound than West Coast, it does seem quite hard to compare. But with the ability of most rappers being able to jump on whatever beat now, it’s not too bad. Let’s take Joey Bada$$ first, fronting the new age of chill hop from New York back in 2012 with the modern classic 1999 he jumped on beats from MF DOOM, Dilla & Lord Finesse showcasing his smooth flow that seemed to match every beat. Around this time, other members of the Pro Era 47 collective/Beast Coast movement also rose to prominence. Household names like Flatbush ZOMBiES, Underachievers & Capital Steez started to come up and get noticed, getting props from a range of names all over the hip hop world. Their drug infused, 90’s sampling, easy listening styles seemed to pave the way for so many similar rappers all over. Ranging from the likes of Alex Wiley & Chance The Rapper to Japanese rappers Kid Ash & G2 of Project: Brainwash. This isn’t to say that the West Coast can’t jump on any beat and make their own sound though, as seen with Ab-Soul & ScHoolboy Q, both of their Druggys Wit Hoes are easy listening, drug fuelled songs, and they’re able to show how good they are throughout.
The collectives of the Coasts vary though. East have the loved Pro Era 47, World’s Fair & A$AP Mob. West have Cutthroat Boys, Black Hippy & Odd Future. All these collectives hold similarities and differences, but in terms of star power you have to give it to the West Coast. When you have the big hitters like Kendrick & Tyler alongside up and comers like A$ton Matthews & Vince Staples you can’t deny them. Of course the East have big names but they’re just not as established as the other side, this isn’t to say they don’t link up though. OF member Domo Genesis was on a Flatbush ZOMBiES song whilst Da$h & RetcH hooked up with Larry Fisherman (Mac Miller), Vince Staples & Ab-Soul on Amen. Whilst A$AP Mob can boast two of the bigger names in Hip-Hop at the moment in Rocky & Ferg, and Joey Bada$$ is on a roll, the truth is Kendrick, ScHoolboy, Tyler & even to an extent Vince Staples are more globally recognised. No criticism to any other rappers in the collectives, it’s just how the music world is. Lesser known groups like The H’z from New Jersey have cult followings due to the dark stylistic tones of their music and are on the come up so maybe in a couple years it’ll be a different story.
The mainstream success between the two coasts is again not too dissimilar. Whilst TDE ruled the hip hop world for a year, 2015 has seen several East Coast artists drop big albums to critical acclaim. A$AP Rocky, Action Bronson & Joey Bada$$ have all had very good commercial success this year with the release of their albums respectively. Kendrick’s album was arguably the biggest out of the two coasts but nobody else from the West Coast really got much hype for their albums unfortunately, Mac Miller and Jay Rock did have some good albums but they just weren’t as loved as the other coasts. In terms of mixtapes, I’d give it to the East again. Da$H, RetcH & Tan Boys all put out some really dope mixtapes, whilst the West stayed quite quiet. 2015 has been an exciting year for releases but it seems that the East have taken it.
Whilst no shots have been thrown like back in 1995, Kendrick claimed back in 2013 to be the King of both the East & West Coast, a very bold move which caused a stir in hip hop amongst it’s fans, but not as much as you’d expect/like with the rappers. Joey Bada$$ did respond with Killuminati 2 but it wasn’t as good as people expected, and like that the beef died down that summer. Due to the companionship between the two coasts, friendships have been formed with members from both sides: Ab-Soul and Pro Era, ScHoolboy & Rocky, A$ton Matthews & Bodega Bamz are just a few to mention. Now whilst this is all good, a little friendly competition here and there wouldn’t be too bad.
To the untrained hip hop ear, the East Coast & West Coast are seemingly at a stalemate at the moment. But that doesn’t seem to be the case when you take into account the underground success. Whilst West have Funk Volume, some OF members and a host of other underground – or less commercially successful if you will – names, East just seem to have bigger & better names. It’s somewhat ironic that the bigger names of the underground seem to win it for the East, but aforementioned names like Flatbush ZOMBiES, Underachievers Da$H, Retch, Bodega Bamz as well as Ro Ransom, Dillon Cooper are just too good in comparison to the west. Also to add to their legitimacy of winning the coast battles, their older names are also still hitting hard; Ghostface has dropped two stellar albums this year, DOOM has been doing bits, Raekwon released a good album and alongside all this Scarface, GZA & R.A The Rugged Man have also been laying down sick verses and albums. Whilst Dr. Dre did drop Compton this year, one album can’t match all that.
So in my opinion, the East Coast are winning the illustrious battle. Who knows though, West may reclaim it in the near future! Be sure to listen out for anything noteworthy and send it to us at our Facebook here.
Have you got different opinions on who’s winning? Let us know below.
Words by Rohan Parmar.