Almost 20 years after the height of the East and West Coast rivalry, we take a look at where things stand now for the two pioneering sides of the culture.
In case you're living under a rock and missed the story, Suge Knight caught a few strays the other night at a VMA pre-party. This raises a few burning questions that need to be answered. First, who's still inviting Suge Knight to these parties? Clearly where he goes, so do hella bullets. Second, if we're reminiscing about Suge and award show violence, why not talk about a little East Coast versus West Coast?
Obviously the rivalry isn't violent in nature like it was almost two decades ago, but that doesn't mean we aren't all still keeping score and taking sides. It's far more difficult today to differentiate between the two stylistically than it used to be. The internet has allowed people from across the country to collaborate more freely, which helps to blend styles, break molds and evolve the overall sound. Back in the 90's, the hip hop music from out West was generally slower tempo, heavy on keys, melodic and hook heavy. East Coast rap was darker, far more aggressive and raw, more focused on lyrical technicality than melody. Regardless of how the genre has become a melting pot of different styles across the country, there are still underlying influences in each artist's music that are rooted in loyalty to their side of the map.
It's impossible to declare a true "winner" between the sides, as there's so many artists from each side winning in their own respective lanes. While one artist may dominate in sales categories, another may be buzzing among hip hop heads on the blogs, while both are reaching their own personal goals. Though other regions of the country like Chicago and the South are heavily influencing the game right now, there's a lot of heat coming from the left and right coasts, throughout all tiers of hip hop.
To see which team is moving more units, we'll look at the most recent Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart and see how many representatives each coast has making appearances. This is subjective, as sales don't tell the whole story, but it paints the picture as far which coast has the most mainstream airplay. Among the top 25 spots, we uncover some really interesting data about who's running the charts. While the East had more representatives among the top 25 with 11, the West had the generally higher charting songs with their 5. You can see the breakdown in the chart below:
So we can gather that, albeit from an extremely small sample size, the East Coast is generally more consistent in their hit-making abilities, and the West makes the individually "hotter" songs. This starts to make more sense when you think about the nature of the hip hop landscapes on each side of the country. The East seems to have a higher volume of artists, as well as different markets that cultivate new artists, while the West has smaller pockets of buzzing artists. The difference is those small pockets in the West have some of the hottest artists in the game, including chart-topping blue chip spitters like Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore. This experiment can change on any given week very drastically, because impact artists like Jay Z transcend coasts and always dominate sales regardless of where people's loyalties lie.
The Next Crop
Sales numbers don't tell the whole story when it comes to who the hottest artists in the game are. We all know that just because someone isn't buying music, doesn't mean they aren't listening to it. While the current leaders of the genre are already established, it's the next crop of artists coming up that will carry on the legacies for their respective home turfs. Both sides have extremely bright futures laid out in front of them with camps like TDE and A$AP poised to make long successful runs in the industry. Artists like YG out West and Wale in the East have proven commercial success, while also appealing to hip hop purists with their authenticity. While Chicago has dominated the internet realms of hip hop the past year or so, the left and right each have legitimate shots at retaking the crown in the coming years. The East Coast has future heavyweights like Logic, Joey Bada$$, and Action Bronson ready to jump into the mainstream. As much as their music may lead you to believe otherwise, the West Coasters aren't just laying back, as they boast guys like Vince Staples, Casey Veggies, and Dom Kennedy that seem ready for their shot at the top.
All in all, both coasts are striving and producing classic music that will stand the test of time. While the rivalry was venomous and divisive in the past, the game has transformed culturally. Where beefs between rappers used to materialize into real life situations, most altercations these days settle themselves digitally, whether it happens via diss track or Twitter feud. This has gone a long way to create a much more collaborative atmosphere where the artists, and fans for that matter, are solely focused on great music, and care less about the peripheral drama behind the scenes.