To devoted hip hop fans, it is no surprise that Kendrick Lamar, the golden child of the genre, emerged from Compton, on the West Coast. Since the rise of G-funk, this Los Angeles neighborhood has been touted as the place where the “future” of rap music was to be found.
The Start of G-funk
In the early 1990s, G-funk was that future. Considered quintessential California music, G-funk dominated the airwaves and the charts, landing West Coast rappers a foothold in the predominantly New York-influenced hip hop scene. Today G-funk is synonymous with its signature sound, a laid-back and smooth music inspired by the popular funk bands Parliament (P-funk) and Funkadelic. The music has its signature slow grooves, snappy synthesizers, deep bass, and backing female vocals.
There have been various stories of the origins G-funk, with mainly two artists being credited for its birth. Rapper and producer Gregory Hutchinson, a.k.a. Cold 187um, was one of the key figures in getting the genre out into the world. While working on his rap group Above the Law’s second album Black Mafia Life in 1991, Hutchinson took certain grooves from the P-funk catalog, added his own melodic and hardcore street lyrics to them and created the sound he called “G-funk” or Gangsta-Funk.
Compton rapper and producer Dr. Dre is also considered the creator of G-funk. Dre helped pioneer this style of music on his debut album The Chronic by using samples that were smoother and mellower than the popular hardcore rap. Many songs including Nuthin’ But a G Thang and Fuck with Dre Day are considered classic G-funk tracks that remain popular to this day. The album went on to be certified triple platinum and is regarded as one of the greatest hip hop records of all times.
The Rise and Decline of G-funk
Dr. Dre’s The Chronic featured a young rapper by the name of Snoop Dogg who would also go on to help keep G-funk in listeners ears. Snoop Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle was released in 1993 and had the rapper delivering lyrics about the realities of his life growing up in Long Beach, California. The album, produced by Dr. Dre, produced several hit singles, including Gin and Juice. Doggystyle debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts and went on to be certified quadruple platinum. The album is considered an essential G-funk record for hip hop enthusiasts.
Dr. Dre’s stepbrother, rapper Warren G, also ventured into the G-funk style. Regulate…G Funk Era was Warren G’s debut album. Released in 1994, it became an instant classic. The album was propelled to the top of the music charts with its hit song Regulate featuring rapper/singer Nate Dogg. Warren G handled the album’s production, which showed his adept hand at crafting his own G-funk beats. Regulate…G Funk Era went on to be certified triple platinum.
DJ Quik, a rapper/producer/DJ from Compton, released his own G-funk album Safe + Sound in 1995. The album was executive-produced by Death Row Records founder Suge Knight, and reached number 1 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Album charts. The eponymous track and Dollaz and Sense helped to keep the momentum going for the album.
By the end of the 1990s, however, the popularity of West Coast hip hop was in a decline as East Coast rap music made its way back to the forefront. Even so, a number of artists, including Kurupt and Nate Dogg, kept on trying to revive the G-funk beat. Rapper Kurupt, who was a part of the initial G-funk movement when he was signed to Death Row Records, released his now classic album Kuruption! in 1998. The album’s tracks featured production work by Daz Dillinger and have a mellower G-funk sound, especially C Walk and We Can Freak It.
G-funk stalwart Nate Dogg released his debut album G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2 in 1998. Nate Dogg’s album did not have tremendous sells, but included notable hit singles such as Never Leave Me Alone featuring Snoop Dogg, and Nobody Does it Better featuring Warren G.
G-funk’s Influence on the New Generation of Artists
Even though G-funk isn’t as popular as it was during the 90’s, there are several rappers and producers who have incorporated its sound into their music of late. Producer DJ Mustard has created his own recognizable sound that has snippets of G-funk. On his second album, Cold Summer, G-funk inspired synthesizers popped up on several tracks, including Been A Long Time and Ridin’ Around.
Compton rapper YG used G-funk samples extensively on his second album Still Brazy. The album was described by Consequence of Sound as “full of the kind of warm G-funk that never fails to transport you to the part of the country it belongs to.” Still Brazy received critical acclaim and debuted at number six on the Billboard charts. Fellow Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar gained prominent success with his second studio album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,which also had elements of G-funk. The tracks The Art of Peer Pressure and M.A.A.D. City both feature G-funk’s signature whiny synthesizer riffs. “M.A.A.D. City” was described by PopMatters as a song “that feels like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic had a love child with Chronic 2001.” Lamar’s album helped revive interest in West Coast hip hop music.
From its early days, G-funk helped bring not just West Coast hip hop, but also the harsh realities of the lives of black youth in California, to the country’s and the world’s attention.
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