Editor’s Note: In “The Verdict,” two writers with opposing viewpoints on a topic will face off, each defending his or her side of the argument. A third writer will moderate the argument and make a final Verdict on the winning argument. The opinions of each writer are distinguished by text font, with a key at the bottom of the page. Today, Nick and Nick argue the relative merits of East Coast and West Coast rap and hip-hop. Arguing the relative greatness of two artists is difficult enough – comparing two diverse movements within a genre is a monumental task. That being the case, I’ve decided to abandon any attempts at decorum and/or nuance. East Coast rap is obviously better than West Coast rap. I mean, like, sooo much better. If A Tribe Called Quest and Wu Tang Clan were the only groups to come out from the Eastern seaboard, it would still be better than the accumulated West Coast offerings. It’s worth mentioning that I’m a lifelong West Coast inhabitant (except for an odd, hazy period in Lake Effect Central, i.e. South Bend. Curious aside: did you know that the train station code for South Bend is SOB? I don’t even think I need to finish that joke), and so there’s a large part of me that is pained to admit this coastal discrepancy. But admit it I must, for we are not here concerned with our hopes and fears, but the facts so far as our reason can discern them. First, a list of rap artists from the East Coast: Mobb Depp, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Jay
Z (I think Jay Z is awful – but he is a business, man.), Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Black Sheep, Gang Starr, Eric B. and Rakim, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Main Source, Brand Nubian. You’ll probably notice a preponderance of old school groups in that list. That’s important. The East Coast is where rap grew up, with artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Master Flash, and Run D.M.C. taking disco and funk influences and turning them into what we now call hip-hop. This genesis was followed by a collaborative, alternative rap scene with artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, and De La Soul developing a socially conscious, lyrically elaborate style. Sure, they had their West Coast counterparts, like The Pharcyde and Del tha Funkee Homosapien, but in terms of broad appeal and success, the East Coast again here has the advantage. A representative example, from ATCQ’s “Electric Relaxation”: “Honey, check it out, you got me mesmerized / With your black hair and your fat ass-thighs / Street poetry is my everyday / But yo, I gotta stop when you trot my way / If I was workin at the club you would not pay / Aiyyo, my man phife diggy, he got somethin’ to say.” If your head isn’t bobbing at this point, check your pulse, and make sure your head isn’t accidentally wedged between racks in the refrigerator. Because, hoo nanny, those are some lyrics. The East Coast has also unleashed some remarkable producers, from Pete Rock to Q. Tip to RZA, whose influences have been broad and lasting. Q. Tip is so transcendent he performed a song with Norah Jones. Norah “Come Away with Me” Jones. This flexibility can only indicate the superior quality of East Coast rap. RZA brings me to another trump card in the East Coast hand – Wu Tang Clan. Wu-Tang Clan is more of an empire, really. Not only do they have stellar business acumen (Ol’ Dirty Bastard, after he was released from his final stint in jail, immediately signed a $1,000,000 recording deal. Ocean’s Eleven style walked out of jail into a pile of cash. So much for needing penal reform.), but they are also lyrical geniuses. For example: “M- E-T
H-O-D Man, M-E-T-H-O-D Man, M-E-T-H-O-D Man.” For a moment, I’ll abandon the braggadocio – I like Snoop Dogg. I think he’s great when I can understand his lyrics and hilarious when I can’t. G-funk is cool, too. But in terms of influence, appeal, dope-tasticity, originality, and pioneering-ness, East Coast rap is where it’s at. And now to the West, Mr. Anderson.
Coast its sound, Tupac is the spirit. If the gansta-poet is a cliche, it is only because Tupac did it so well. No other artist before or since can transition from the crime ridden rhymes of “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” to the heart felt-ode to his mother of “Dear Mama.”