DAR Hip Hop: 7 Important Sophomore Albums From The West Coast
West Coast hip hop would be one of the biggest things through the late 80's and 90's, as gangsta rap took over and brought legends like NWA, Ice T, Ice Cube, Too Short, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre to the forefront. Their debuts were impacting and important in many ways, making them instant hip hop stars, but one thing that has always been valued in hip hop is avoiding the sophomore jinx. Have there been instances where artists don't avoid it? Yes, and today we are here to talk about some of those instances on the West Coast. Here are 7 of the most important sophomore hip hop albums to come from the Left Coast.
*The Game- Doctor's Advocate (2006)
-I'm sure many people prefer his debut to this project, but if you ask me, the second album from Game is his best work, if only for one reason: the sound is tailor made for him. While his debut had clear inspiration and influence from 50 Cent, his sophomore release sees the Compton MC utilizing the West Coast sound while finding a bit more of a lane for himself as an artist. Simply put, out of all of his albums, his sophomore release seems to be most genuine in terms of his sound and style (he doesn't imitate his guest features like he has made a habit of on later albums). Features on this album include Busta Rhymes, Nas, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, and more, while songs like "Wouldn't Get Far", "Why You Hate The Game", "Too Much", "One Night", "One Blood" and "Ol' English" are absolute gems. Game does his thing from beginning to end on this album and I will always believe that this is his best overall work.
*Ice T- Power (1988)
-At one point, Ice T was caught in a feud with LL Cool J and seemed ready for whatever static came his way. That was during the very late 80's around the time of this album, which is honestly his best project. With an iconic cover to go along with the music, Ice stakes his claim as the gangsta rap pioneer by delivering some of the best music of the time. Aggressive, straightforward, and raw lyricism atop the booming production makes tracks like "Soul On Ice", "High Rollers", and "Radio Suckers" true standouts on this excellent release. Sometimes Ice T doesn't get discussed enough as far as his impact on the game, and this album is a central piece of his impact and legacy.
*E-40- In A Major Way (1995)
-I have gone on record to state I'm not the biggest fan of E-40, but I respect his legacy and there isn't an album in his catalog that's better or more important than his sophomore project. The album features solid production with that Bay Area sound, and has guest appearances from 2Pac, B-Legit, Spice-1, among others. All in all, the album delivers some of the 40's best songs like the well known classic "Sprinkle Me", "Feds", "Dusted N' Disgusted", and more. While I'm not a huge fan of his work, if there was one album in his discography I had to pick to listen to, In A Major Way wins by a mile. The album would go on to be a success as well, and it is certified platinum, which was well deserved.
*The Pharcyde- LabCabinCalifornia (1995)
-There are some Cali legends that don't seem to get their just due. Pharcyde is without a doubt in that category. They might be a top 5 West Coast hip hop group ever and IMO, they are top 3. Their style was different, bringing a playful creativity and lighthearted lyricism in a time where gangsta rap and bravado was the way. After their classic debut, the group came with this album, which features better production and a slightly more serious tone in spurts alongside their usual lighter sound. The result? An album that's on par, if not better than ther debut. With production from J Dilla and Diamond D, the sound for tracks like "Group Therapy", "Bullshit", "Drop", and of course the classic "Runnin" was top notch. To me, this is the better of their two first albums and one of the best West Coast albums ever, sophomore or otherwise.
*Kendrick Lamar- good kid, M.A.A.D. City (2012)
-While some feel that TPAB is the second album from Kendrick, it is really the third. Section.80 is his debut album, full of original production and music, and honestly, it's a classic. However, it was this album that brought him the acclaim and love that he carries today. Kendrick delivers a well crafted and cohesive story through this album, his first major label release with Interscope. With top tier production from Sounwave, Just Blaze, Pharrell, and of course Dr. Dre, Kendrick floats over every beat with poise and brings memorable verses every song. My favorite songs on this album will always be "Money Trees", "M.A.A.D. City", "Real", and "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst", which are all classics in their own right. GKMC isn't my favorite Kendrick album, but it is a true moment in time for Kendrick and the West, as well as TDE and easily one of the best sophomore albums out of the Left Coast.
*Ice Cube- Death Certificate (1991)
-N.W.A. is one of the most legendary groups of all time and a big reason for that is Ice Cube. The man behind the pen of some of their biggest hits, when Cube decided to go solo, no one knew exactly how it would work. After his classic debut, Cube returned with an even more aggressive politically charged album that remains his best work to date. Not only did Cube avoid the sophomore jinx, he shattered it honestly. There aren't many albums in hip hop history that are as important as Death Certificate, and the subject matter on the album still unfortunately resonates today. With production from Sir Jinx, the album was apparently highly anticipated and certified platinum within two months, a huge feat for a hip hop album of that kind. I'm sure as years have progressed, this album has sold at least a million more, but for some reason, the certification hasn't been updated officially. Regardless, this is a classic, as tracks like "Steady Mobbin", "A Bird In The Hand", "I Wanna Kill Uncle Sam", and of course "No Vaseline" are some of Cube's most memorable tracks. Death Certificate is special and it is quite possibly the greatest sophomore album ever, East, West, Midwest, or South. Period.
*Dr. Dre- 2001 (1999)
-It's very rare in hip hop that a sophomore album drops seven years after the debut, but when you're a legend like Dr. Dre, I guess that's an easy feat to pull off. While Dre had been around for years as an integral piece of N.W.A., his solo aspirations never seemed to be his biggest focus. After his debut album The Chronic revolutionized gangsta rap and gave the West Coast a different style and feel, Dre would focus more on producing and developing artists until he realized the level of success his name carries. He went in the studio with Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and familiar faces from the Death Row days while also bringing artists like Xzibit and Eminem to the table as well. The result would be the classic sophomore album 2001, which is really a sequel to The Chronic in so many ways. With the aforementioned features, as well as the animated verses from upcoming artists (who wrote the majority of Dre's verses) Hittman and Sixx-Two, 2001 is full of gems and classics throughout. It might be my favorite album on this list, as I listen to this a lot more than the rest of the projects here (including GKMC). Tracks like "Xxplosive", "What's The Difference", and "Let's Get High" are highlights, but the entire album is amazing from start to finish.