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BTTF# 27b: Straight Outta West SFV: Did West Coast Gangsta Rap Originate in the West SFV?

Image courtesy Wikipedia
This post is part B to the Straight Outta West SFV story with Part A focusing on Can-Am Recorders studio in Tarzana which later became the home of Death Row Records. Part B explores the possible role that the West SFV had on West Coast Gangsta Rap. 

West Coast Gangsta rap officially started through N.W.A.'s "Boyz N the Hood" rapped by Eazy-E in 1987, The N.W.A. group consisted of Eazy-E, Dr.Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince who left in 1988. There was nothing more controversial, explicit, and descriptive of ghetto life for the first time in music history. 

Ruthless Record was formed by Eazy-E supposedly from surplus cash from his drug dealing days who was seeking an exit from the business to start something legitimate. He partnered with Jerry Heller who was an established music manager that gained notreity in the 60's and 70's working with Elton John, Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, and Crosby Stills and Nash to name a few. N.W.A would continue to produce albums unitl 1995 but Ice Cube left in 1989 to go solo and Dr.Dre in 1991 to start Death Row Records with Suge Knight. 

Dr. Dre would introduce Snoop Dogg for the Deep Cover soundtrack single which was Death Row Records first foray into the music business in 1992. Most of America including myself saw Dr. Dre for the first time in the Deep Cover music video as N.W.A. was mostly underground due to the explicit lyrics and additionally, Dr. Dre was mostly behind the scenes producing music at N.W.A. instead of rapping. Eazy-E was the real star so this was the first opportunity for Dr. Dre to step in the spotlight. While Deep Cover got some attention, it didnt really catapult Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg until the next song recorded together got released. 

I distinctly remember the day sitting at home after school in my West SFV home for the first time watching Dr.Dre's "Aint Nuthin But a G Thang" on MTV Raps. I was immediately hooked onto  Dr. Dre and his debut album "The Chronic".  The raw sound and hard raps was fresh and ushered in a new era of music. After "The Chronic",  I purchased practically every album from Death Row Records until their decline in their late 90's. 

Death Row would continue producing hits especially after the addition of Tupac Shakur in 1995. Ruthless Records was also highly successful with the addition of Bone Thugs N Harmony but eventually would also decline after the death of Eazy-E in 1995. 

So what does this have to do with the West SFV? Although it's wildly known that West Coast Gangsta Rap started from rappers living in Compton and the surrounding ghetto neighborhoods, there is still a strong connection to the West SFV which I will explain below.

Ice Cube Taft High School Yearbook Photo. Left Image courtesy Rapper Rewind, Right Image courtesy Cbl62 at en.wikipedia.  
  1. Ice Cube and Eazy-E were both bused from Compton and South Central to Taft High School in Woodland Hills. Ice Cube graduated in 1987 but I believe Eazy-E dropped out. 
  2. Ice Cube wrote the groundbreaking song, "Boyz N Tha Hood" during English class at Taft where he would also write many other songs while there according to an LA Times article. Additionally, Ice Cube was the main writer for N.W.A. where the simple fact of attending Taft may have inspired him to write the rough lyrics based on the following quote from an LA Times article"Think about how you felt at that age," Cube says. "I was mad at everything. When I went to the schools in the Valley, going through those neighborhoods, seeing how different they were from mine, that angered me. The injustice of it, that's what always got me--the injustice."
  3. Eazy-E, Jerry Heller, and Dr. Dre purchased $1 million mansions in Calabasas' Mountain View Estates in 1991 as their careers were taking off. An episode of MTV Yo Raps was filmed at Dr. Dre's home during a pool party. 
  4. Dr. Dre also owned a Chatsworth home in the Monteria Estates and still owns a Woodland Hills mansion in the Westchester County Estates. 
  5. Ruthless Records was located at 21860 Burbank Blvd Woodland Hills. 
  6. Death Row Records would record music at Tarzana's Cam-Am Recorders located at 18730 Oxnard Street #211 in 1994 including all of Tupac's music. 
  7. Suge Knight lived in Tarzana and Encino. 
  8. Tupac lived in a Calabasas rental. 
  9. Ice Cube purchased an Encino condo (located steps away from Michael Jackson's) and mansion in 1996 and also owns a music studio in Sun Valley. But I am not sure where he lived prior to Encino. 
Ruthless Records HQ's in Woodland Hills. Image courtesy Delta Bravo Urban Exploration FB. 
As can be demonstrated in the list above, the West SFV had a partial influence on the origins and rise of West Coast Gangsta Rap despite the fact that there is nothing "gangsta" about the West SFV. Many of the hit records were conceived and recorded in the West SFV that the story cant be told without giving mention to the West SFV. Just to clarify, the influence from the West SFV is from a location perspective and not to suggest that the West SFV is harbinger of gangsta activity which is obviously  furthest from the truth. While many scoff at the term gangsta rap, its hard to ignore it due to its worldwide influence and enormous cash generated which has a link to the West SFV. 

You can read more BTTF series here


Ice Cube Exposed by Rapper Exposed

NWA: Straight Outta Compton by Terry McDermott of the LA Times on April 14, 2002. 

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

6 comments to ''BTTF# 27b: Straight Outta West SFV: Did West Coast Gangsta Rap Originate in the West SFV?"

  1. He was probably bussed just like most of us back then. Don't discredit their story. That escape proved to be a positive in their lives. Let them have their moment. They've earned it.

  2. Ice Cube's son also went to Taft. As did Everlast from House of Pain.

  3. Didn't know Cube and Easy went to my HS. Seems weird that such influential lyrics could be written in one of those suburban classrooms...

  4. Good post. One correction. It's Eazy-E with a "z" not a "s."

    1. Hi Craig. Thanks for the correction. Cant believe I made that mistake. The post is now updated.

  5. I believe Ice Cube had a 2 bedroom apartment on Franklin Street, in Hollywood (walking distance to Hollywood/Highland). Not sure the exact time frame, but definitely before he moved to Encino.


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