No matter how you feel about Los Angeles as a place to live, it’s impossible to argue that the city is lacking in iconic landmarks. As long as you’re willing to endure eternally congested freeways, there’s a sight to see that’s perfect for whatever your tastes are, with varying levels of excitement, edginess, or relaxation depending on what you pick.
Which, if you think about it, would be a pretty fair way to describe the local hip-hop scene too.
For decades, many of the landmarks as well as the rappers that call LA home have been exalted in their respective categories, but today I’m here to make the case that we’ve kept the two spheres separated for far too long. That as long as you’re willing to close your eyes and open your mind, you could place the current crop of rising talent next to the most notable scenery and find no difference between the legendary Hollywood sign and, say, a certain rapper buzzing out of Inglewood.
Let’s get to it.
Hollywood Sign = Rucci
There aren’t many people in America who would look at the emblematic sign in the hills and place its home as anywhere but Los Angeles. You don’t even have to listen to Rucci’s music to come away with the same idea; the cover art for his Dawgystyle mixtape, heavily influenced by that of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, gives away the secret.
Just like the Hollywood sign has become perhaps the most definitive symbol of Los Angeles, Rucci is now a staple in the city’s underground scene. Several mixtapes into his career, he’s helped shape the new LA movement, while paying homage to the pioneers before him with a classic sound that’s still clean and modern in 2018.
You could say the Hollywood sign has tried to keep up with the times as well -- most recently as last year, when an artist vandalized the sign to instead have it read “HOLLYWEED.” Women, weed and weather indeed.
Roscoe’s House of Chicken N Waffles = 03 Greedo
Since 1975, Roscoe’s has ridden the foolproof sweet and savory combination to a dedicated cult following, serving up full-flavored chicken and syrupy waffles all over the city. More recently, 03 Greedo has found success by working with a similar duality - bursting with energy one moment on songs like “Basehead,” then drowning you in saccharine melodies the next on “In My Feelings.” No matter which one you’re enjoying at the moment, the soulful passion is evident in his vocal delivery, just the same as the comforting nature found in all soul food throughout Roscoe’s menu.
Unfortunately they’re also both dealing with setbacks at the moment, with Roscoe’s battling through bankruptcy in the face of a $27 million dollar debt, and Greedo locked away in Potter County Detention Center for the next 20 years. Still, they’ve got the support of the city as they work their way through it; hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later.
Santa Monica Pier = Kalan.FrFr
The Santa Monica Pier takes the beach to another level. Forget the simple stretch of sand you thought you knew, now we’re throwing arcade games and a light-up ferris wheel just feet above the water. It’s refreshing, it’s energizing, it’s carefree… it’s Kalan.FrFr.
Feel the ocean breeze in the lush production on “Star,” whipping through your hair as you plunge down the roller coasters. Once you’re looking for something more relaxing, stretch out on the sand at the end of the day with “Atlanta.” Listening to Kalan.FrFr feels like enjoying LA at it’s best: posted by the water without a cloud in the sky.
Watts Towers = Almighty Suspect
The Watts Towers are as straightforward as they come. At the core and on the surface, they’re a potpourri of steel, concrete, wire mesh and similar materials, twisted into an aesthetically pleasing arrangement by the hands of a skillful creative. Or basically, Almighty Suspect.
Look no further than one of his biggest hits to date in “WhereYoSafeAt,” where teeth-rattling bass hits form a rock-solid foundation for Almighty’s proclamations. On this song and many of his others, his words hit like bricks thanks to his exaggerated delivery, punching his words into the air more so than speaking them. As hard as the towers themselves, it’s proof that you don’t always need to disguise great art behind unnecessary frills, especially when it’s bare essence is as captivating as it is.
Griffith Observatory = Huey Briss
Huey Briss has a raw lyricism, spilling his thoughts and his story over mellow beats that emphasize the wordplay over the production. Simply put, it’s music that makes you want to smoke a blunt and ponder the marvels and misgivings of the universe. Which is a lot easier to do when you have access to the best telescopes in all of Los Angeles.
The Griffith Observatory is one of the prime hubs for astronomy in the country, with its state-of-the-art planetarium and countless exhibits dedicated to science and space. It meshes seamlessly with the desire for understanding and enlightenment that comes from listening to Huey Briss unwravel wisdom in his verses, as he questions the “Strings of Life” on his recent EP Black Wax. Once you’ve learned all there is to learn in a day, switch your focus from the lyrics to the laid-back instrumentals, soothing your mind as you watch the sunset from the plaza outside the Observatory.
Disneyland = Holland Izz
Fine, Disneyland is technically in Orange County… but from Holland’s home city of Compton it’s closer than driving to certain locations within Los Angeles, so we’ll let it slide. Plus, the comparison is just too perfect to pass up.
Holland’s colorful beats paired with his youthful energy on the mic are the audible equivalent to visiting the “Happiest Place on Earth,” whether you’re there for the thrilling rides or just to see the shows. His squealing, high-pitched vocals on songs like “Summer Love” are akin to the screams you might hear while passing by the Matterhorn, equal parts excited and agitated as he questions his lover’s true intentions. Throw in a parade of beloved characters (features) for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a day (album).
STAPLES Center = Drakeo the Ruler
The STAPLES Center is one of the premiere arenas in the entire country, hosting three major sports teams as well as frequent marquee events. Seating nearly 20,000 people, the building has become a fixture in the Downtown area, with high-profile tours and awards shows affording it that colossal status. Even before LeBron arrived in LA, it was a venue fit for a King… or a Ruler.
The icy grandeur that permeates Drakeo’s music is the perfect parallel to the magnitude of the STAPLES Center, with his atmospheric yet authoritative production increasing the scope of his soundscape. Every moment feels bigger, whether it’s Kobe going for 60 in his final NBA game, or Adele selling out eight shows in twice as many days. Not to mention, his signature “sheesh” ad-lib definitely came from watching Shaq shatter backboards at will with all of his ferocious dunks.
For the plot: AzChike - “That Shit Again”
Starting your song with the delicate voice of a well-trained opera singer, before stretching her final note into an eerie synth made even more menacing by the skull shaking 808’s resonating underneath it? The Phantom of the Opera wishes it could be this sinister.
For the shooters: Bino Rideaux - “Bother You”
“Shawty you should let me bother you,” croons Bino Rideaux on the chorus, making his case for the girl on his mind with a playful confidence. Over classic G-Funk production, Bino uncovers new melodies in his verses, even tip-toeing into falsetto territory to show just how deep his passion for her runs.
For the twerk team: Ackrite - “G-Shit”
The hi-hats are bouncing off the walls on this one, and Ackrite’s infectious flow brilliantly matches the energy. “G-Shit” arrives off the Inglewood rapper’s forthcoming project No Remorse, and his delivery is equally unforgiving, as he details his lifestyle without fear of retribution.