A List Of 2023’s Best Rappers From The West Coast
The west coast has long been a hub for innovative and influential hip-hop, with a rich history of talented rappers who’ve left an indelible mark. From the legendary origins of N.W.A, 2Pac and E-40, to innovative rappers of today like Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator, the west coast continues to produce some of the most talented rappers around.
With the west coast’s deep history of innovative hip-hop in mind, I thought it was time to compile a list of some of the best up-and-coming rappers from the region. From young MCs at the start of their careers, to established stars still on the rise, these 10 west coast rappers are making exciting new music that showcases their distinctive voices, styles, and creative visions.
Here’s a run down of some of the most exciting rappers that have emerged from the west coast in recent years.
The West Coast’s Top Under-The-Radar Rappers
AJ Suede is one of the most prolific west coast rappers working today. He’s released more than 30 albums since 2015, including four in 2022 alone. One of Seattle’s most multifaceted artists, Suede is a boundless creator and constant innovator who’s molded a sound that’s continually evolving and becoming more diverse, yet retains its core identity. He’s unpredictable, highly creative and not afraid to step outside the box with his music.
Suede’s music catalog is a tremendous journey through the many different sounds he produces; from the brooding intensity of early tapes like Gotham Fortress, to the signature cinematic sounds of more recent work with rising producers like Small Professor and Televangel, to his experimental self-produced albums, he’s always pushing musical boundaries while staying true to his core sound. Variations in tempo and subject matter abound, but whether he’s rapping about psychotropic apparitions or making sociological observations, you can count on the quality and signature cadence of his flow to hold it all together.
Milc is one of west coast hip-hop’s best-kept secrets. As a teenager, he spent time on the playgrounds of Northeast Portland honing his rapping skills and in the years since he’s been putting in work to turn his freestyle skills into a budding music career. As a rapper, Milc’s style is all his own—a mix of oddball sports trivia, blunted tales and autobiographical tidbits that flow in an endless stream. His delivery is smooth, his lyrics are fresh, and he also seems to be on 24/7. He has a nearly superhuman work ethic, dropping a new project of some sort seemingly every few weeks. He tweets songs at all hours of the day, some in the form of freestyles over well-known beats, others of new tracks he’s working on with Portland producers like Calvin Valentine or Andy Savoie.
In a short time, Milc’s shown an ability to consistently release quality music, and a talent for dense bars that has turned him into one of the west coast’s most promising rappers. For a good starting point into his catalog, check out Milc’s 2022 album with producer Televangel, Neutral Milc Motel— a dense, vivid and compulsively listenable record that was one of the best rap releases of the year.
YUNGMORPHEUS is a Los Angeles rapper who makes music that is at once easy to enjoy, with its mellow rhythms and spoken-word flows, but also full of insight and experimentation. While many rappers’ songs paint a picture of their hometowns and communities, YUNGMORPHEUS has always been one to speak his mind. He’s known to be very real in his lyrics and views on the world and his lyrics are crafted with a conversational, stream-of-consciousness approach, which renders them equally introspective and earnest, sometimes all within one song.
YUNGMORPHEUS is known for his quick and prolific release schedule, which has included a string of mixtapes, EPs, and full-lengths. He’s been releasing music—EPs and full-lengths, solo or with a variety of collaborators—at a breakneck pace for most of his career. And as that pace has increased so has the clarity of MORPHEUS’s writing. Case in point: his 2022 collaborative album with producer Thereveda, Up Against The Wall; A Degree Of Lunacy, which showcases Yungmorpheus’s smooth flow over some of the most soulful, laid back production around.
Oakland rapper and producer Stanley Ipkuss is one of those artists who doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves. Ipkuss has been laying down some of the best beat and rhymes in the Bay Area since his 2014 debut. He is a growing force and his talent is undeniable. He tells stories with vivid imagery and hooks that stay with you long after the track ends. His carefully crafted lyrics flow like molten lava, gliding through complex rhymes schemes with ease and placing him at the very top of the Bay Area’s underground scene.
Ipkuss’s production is also top notch, adding soulful layers and intricate details to his tracks that take listeners on a journey through the world of his vision. With a diverse range of production, his songs are never boring, jumping between chilled jazzy sounds to soulful boom bap that you won’t be able to get out of your head. His music is both soulful and tough, with his clear voice matched by lo-fi basslines and sharp hi-hats that sound like they’re turning inside out. No doubt he’s one of the best rappers on the west coast right now.
The music of AG Club is an enigma. A Bay Area rap collective composed of nonconformists, the music they make is uncompromising and authentic, echoing their iconoclastic spirit and championing their individuality. AG Club is a group whose organic vibe is completely unshackled by genre restrictions. With an energetic sound and their own unique style, their brazen, genre-bending sound creates an exciting new landscape for west coast rap music. Known for their irreverent sense of humor and ability to generate wild energy on stage, they’re also well-respected songwriters and lyricists who inject their bars with braggadocios metaphors.
As transcending as they are unconventional, AG Club doesn’t acknowledge any clique or movement, and for that reason, they’re a staple of independent music in the Bay. They’ve only been actively recording for a few years, but the group is quickly gaining traction on the music scene for their energetic sound and vibrant personality. With an anything-goes creative freedom, AG Club is sure to leave a lasting impact on the rap scene.
With his signature voice and lyrical prowess, rapper Mic Capes is a force to be reckoned with. Born and raised in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, Mic Capes has found his home in the city’s thriving hip-hop scene and has been steadily building up his fan base with forceful delivery and intricate bars. Using his lyricism and raw delivery, he creates thought provoking songs with the ability to make you think while simultaneously keeping you nodding your head.
A west coast rapper who has been building his name and reputation throughout the Rose City since first stepping onto the scene, Capes began writing raps at the age of 11 and has since released several mixtapes and EPs, building a loyal fanbase through organic word of mouth and consistent hard work. Capes has also collaborated with many other artists in the region, and continues to create music that grows with each listen and brings something new to the table with each project released.
VRITRA is an alt hip-hop artist from Los Angeles and founding member of the rap collective Odd Future. As a solo artist, he’s a rising force in the underground hip-hop community. VRITRA is an artist who’s found success in Los Angeles through a willingness to experiment. His music is a vibrant tapestry of sound, texture and vision. Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, VRITRA creates sonic exploration that is as complex as it is catchy, lending to a range of influences across hip hop, jazz, pop and electronic. From the jump he has been lauded for the way his work has the ability to transport listeners into another world, creating an immersive experience like few other artists operating today.
VRITRA’s music is enigmatic—inspired by the west coast rap scene of the early 21st century while remaining predominantly soul-searching. For those uninitiated to VRITRA’s signature style, his album Grotto is a melancholic jazz rap collaboration with producer Wilma Archer that was one of 2022’s best.
Compelling and loyal to his San Francisco roots, rapper Larry June is a west coast rapper with an Atlanta upbringing. Drawing on elements from both the west coast and the south, Larry June delivers his own brand of laid-back rap over sunshine-tinged beats. His raps vibe between both of his hometowns for inspiration—embodying the relaxed energy of summer nights in the south while also evoking the fog-glazed foothills of the Bay Area. His raps are smooth and dreamy, decorated with lush instrumentals inflected with that signature Bay Area g-funk bounce.
After relocating to San Francisco as a kid, June became enamored with rap culture, and discovered he had a knack for rhyming. Making mixtapes as an early teen, June began performing live shows and prolifically releasing projects throughout the 2010s, slowly building up a cult-like following in the Bay Area and beyond. In 2022, he released Spaceships on the Blade, an album that featured production by Herm Lewis and The Alchemist (to name a few) and features verses from Curren$y and 2 Chainz.
Rexx Life Raj
Rexx Life Raj has emerged as one of the Bay Area’s leading lights in a new generation of homegrown, post-hyphy rappers. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, he fell in love with music at an early age, but went on to play collegiate football at Boise State. After graduating with a communications degree, he spun his passion for music into a career as an independent artist.
As an artist, Rexx Life Raj has been a prominent presence in the Bay Area since his breakout 2016 album, Father Figure. Since then, he’s generated a body of work that speaks to his years of experience and maturation as an artist. Moving from party-focused rap bangers to more reflective records, he continues to innovate and create great music. Though he might not be a household name yet, Raj’s influence has reached far. He’s been an integral part of the evolution of the Bay Area sound with his soulful melodies, catchy hooks and resonant lyrics. A prolific artist, he’s also released music across several styles – showcasing a deep understanding of contemporary rap and r&b sounds. Reaching new heights and breaking the mold of Bay Area hip-hop, Rexx Life Raj remains one of the most exciting rappers on the west coast.
PAINI is a heavyweight rapper bringing some boom bap flavor to the Sacramento valley. With an aggressive, rugged rhyming style, PAINI represents the real hip-hop in every sense of the word and shows no remorse for any wack rappers out there. His vivid lyricism and steadfast delivery make him a formidable force in the Sacramento hip-hop scene. His bars will knock you into next week, but it’s the gritty feel and emotional resonance that truly makes him stand out from the crowd.
Through his work with Sac-Town producers like Mon$rock, PAINI has already started to make a name for himself—showing his versatility as an artist while keeping it hot with his signature flow and becoming one of the most respected spitters in the region. As he continues to rise through the ranks of Bay Area rap, PAINI is poised to take the helm for real hip-hop in Sacramento.