Top 10 Bay Area Hip-Hop Albums
© Jeremy Deputat/Red Bull Sound Select/Content Pool
Here's our list of the 10 essential Bay Area hip-hop albums everyone should listen to — or rediscover.
When people think of West Coast hip-hop, names such as Kendrick Lamar, The Game, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E almost immediately come to mind. And rightfully so.
Southern California, and more specifically Los Angeles, brings instant familiarity amongst casual hip-hop fans, providing timeless classics and iconic figures.
But Northern California, in particular the San Francisco Bay Area, has its own rich tradition of hip-hop history. In fact, some of the biggest names to ever come out of the West Coast hail from the Bay Area. Names such as E-40, Too Short, E-40 and MC Hammer are the most notorious.
It’s time for the Bay Area to get its flowers and in doing so, here are 10 essential albums from the Bay that everybody should listen to.
Too Short, "Born to Mack"
"Born to Mack" serves as Too Short’s fourth studio album but his major label debut under Jive Records and the album that broke Too Short into being a household name. There is no denying the impact of Too Short, who is widely recognized as the godfather of Bay Area rap music, with his influence being traced through many artists who have come from the area after him such as Sage the Gemini and ALLBLACK. When tracing where that influence began, it’s with this album and tracks like “Playboy Short II” and “Freaky Tales.”
Digital Underground, "Sex Packets"
If you were, and still are, looking for some music to dance and have a good time to then Digital Underground’s debut album Sex Packets should be an immediate go-to. The album features their iconic track “The Humpty Dance” which even features a young Tupac Shakur in the music video doing the dance. It was also selected as one of the The Source Magazine’s “100 Best Rap Albums Ever.” That alone should show you the importance of this album and why it is essential listening for anybody looking to take a deep dive into Bay Area hip-hop.
Souls of Mischief, "93 ‘til Infinity"
Sometimes it doesn’t get any better than an artist or groups debut album and that is the case with Souls of Mischief’s "93 ‘til Infinity." This is by far the biggest album of their career and the group showed they were truly to be respected as MC’s with this project. The title track serves as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all-time and it even serves as direct influence on a guy such as Kanye West who has given the group its props, as well as producer Just Blaze. This serves as the pinnacle of Souls of Mischief, but it’s a damn good high to reach.
Mac Dre, "Thizzelle Washington"
If a Mt. Rushmore of Bay Area hip-hop legends were to be erected, it would be nearly impossible to leave off the late Mac Dre. His seventh studio album, Thizzelle Washington, is the home to his iconic record “Thizzle Dance” which serves as arguably the rappers biggest influence. He’s still such a beloved figure that he is still revered and idolized by some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. Drake has referenced Dre and his impact on the Bay Area multiple times in his music, and Thizzelle Washington is the album from him that is an absolute must-listen.
MC Hammer, "Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Him"
Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Him is MC Hammer’s third studio album but it is undeniably his biggest album and one of the biggest albums in hip-hop’s history. The album is certified diamond and helped raise the genre of hip-hop to heights previously unseen. “U Can’t Touch This” is still one of the most recognizable hip-hop records of all-time and is played to this day. Hammer drew the ire of other hip-hop acts such as LL Cool J, Ice Cube, and Digital Underground for his lack of technical skill as a rapper or the repetitive nature of his songs but regardless of how people feel about MC Hammer, there is no denying how impactful this album is.
Luniz, "Operation Stackola"
The debut album from the Oakland rap duo Luniz, "Operation Stackola" houses one of the most recognizable and sampled hip-hop records of all-time with “I Got 5 On It”. The song has been remixed by current generation rappers such as Big Sean and was even used as the unofficial theme song for Jordan Peele’s horror blockbuster Us. “I Got 5 On It” would be more than enough to place "Operation Stackola" on this list but the album itself holds up fairly well nearly 25 years after its release because of tracks like “Operation Stackola” and “5150” featuring Digital Underground’s Shock G.
2pac, "2Pacalypse Now"
2Pac is arguably the best rapper of all-time and his illustrious career begins with his classic debut album "2Pacalypse Now." There are going to be wide-ranging debates until the end of time over what Pac’s best album is but this is undeniably his most important. “Brenda’s Got a Baby” serves as one of Pac’s greatest displays of storytelling in a career full of it and is near the top of any lists about his best songs. The album is also supported by classic records such as “Trapped” and “If My Homie Calls.” Before he linked with Dr. Dre and Death Row Records out of Los Angeles, Pac made a name for himself in the Bay Area and this album is his introduction.
Spice 1, "187 He Wrote"
When thinking of the best artists to come out of the Bay Area, most won’t immediately think of Spice 1 but he is definitely worthy of consideration and it has a lot to do with his second studio album, 187 He Wrote. The album would peak at number ten on the Billboard 200 and features guest spots from E-40 and Compton’s MC Eiht, among others. Ask anybody from the Bay Area and they will tell you that this is one of the best hip-hop albums from the area.
Kamaiyah, "A Good Night in the Ghetto"
It speaks to how good this project is that it can make it onto a list of essential Bay Area albums while being less than four years-old, but "A Good Night in the Ghetto" is that good. Kamaiyah was a fairly unknown artist before this project, which served as her debut mixtape, but there was no denying her after this. The project features the anthem “How Does It Feel” and the banger “F**k It Up” which features YG. 2016 served as a crowded year for music releases, with superstars such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Drake, Kanye West and Frank Ocean releasing albums, but "A Good Night in the Ghetto" managed to not only make an impact but stand out.