The South and West Coast have a long history of collaboration, a connection that was solidified throughout the 1990s. While East/West associations have often received the spotlight, (at least partly because the bicoastal cultures feel so different), the South and the West Coast have always been on something a little different.
Relatable in culture and vibe, the sound coming out of both places was familiar, especially in the 90s, with both leaning heavily into slow-rolling soul and funk sounds to craft their production. And lyrically, the similarities were also evident, particularly in terms of slang, style, and the overall approach to songs. Big figures from both the West and the South, including Scarface, Devin the Dude, Eightball & MJG, E-40, Ice Cube, and Too Short regularly made it a point to connect across their respective regions.
In 1998, E-40 and B-Legit took it a step further, dropping Southwest Riders, a compilation that shined light on artists from both the South and the West. Three Six Mafia, Celly Cel, Three X Crazy, Mean Green, and Tela were among the artists bringing the similarities to the forefront for listeners, and further proving the South/West connection runs deep.
From New Orleans to Long Beach, from Oakland to Atlanta, we take a look at 15 of the best south-west collaborations of the 90s.
His career is so long, sometimes it’s easy to sweep past Snoop Dogg’s No Limit era. While at the time it seemed that he was finding his footing post-Death Row, Snoop’s time on P’s label did produce some notable gems (The Last Meal is especially noteworthy). One of the biggest hits that emerged from that time was the chant-heavy, “Down For My N’s” with C-Murder, from Snoop’s 1999 project, No Limit Top Dogg. The song was passed around the No Limit camp, also showing up on C-Murder’s Trapped In Crime a year later.
The second track to drop from Scarface’s classic 1994 album, The Diary, “Hand Of The Dead Body” finds Face and Cube bothered by people’s tendency to blame rap music for the ills that were actually created by a country with a history of disenfranchising Black folks. As Face declares, “Gangsta N-I-P, Spice-1, or 2Pac never gave a gun to me…” The Face and Cube connection made sense— both rappers had a lot to say, and the west coast and southern rappers seemed to be taking the brunt of mainstream media scrutiny at the time. Their laid-back, annoyed angst gelled well on the track, with Face’s Rap-A-Lot labelmate, The Odd Squad’s Devin the Dude smoothing things out on the hook, a precursor to the style he’d deliver on his own solo album a few years later.
Mystikal was in his prime when in 1997 when he dropped Unpredictable, and one of the album’s bangers came when he collaborated with E-40 and B-Legit for “Here We Go.” The album is a cornerstone in the No Limit roster, and succeeded in showcasing the deep roots of west coast and southern rap.
Fresh off his classic 1998 self-titled debut, Devin the Dude was one of the most respected artists in rap music. His witty, comical, yet wise story telling, coupled with his unique rhyme-style and natural charisma made him a natural choice to plop on a feature, which is exactly what Dr. Dre did for 1999’s 2001. A clear favorite on the six-time platinum album, “Fuck You,” tapped into Devin’s penchant for weaving comical sex tales on his memorable verse and catchy hook.
After supposedly retiring back in 1996 with Gettin It (Album Number 10), Oakland native Too Short decided laying low wasn’t for him, and dropped his eleventh studio album in 1999, Can’t Stay Away, which still stands as one of his best outings to date. A good portion of the album was recorded in Atlanta, and you can hear it in the production, which features Atlanta natives, Lil Jon and Craig Love, as well as Jazzy Pha, and Eric Sermon, who were both living in the city at the time, soaking up the sounds and the culture which surfaced in their funk-soul production. “Don’t Stop Rappin” featuring Memphis duo Eightball & MJG was an easy standout on the album, as the three rappers trade bars about why rapping won’t ever get old.
Released months after Tupac’s tragic murder, “Smile” became an instant classic. Featured on Scarface’s stellar 1997 album, The Untouchable, the song seemed like it was a long time coming, especially when you consider the topics Face and Pac regularly spoke about in their music—spirituality, mental health, and racist systems, in particular. Soulful and honest, “Smile” remains just as relatable and poignant as it was when it was first released. The Untouchable also finds Face linking with another west coast heavy weight, rapper/producer Daz Dillinger on the standout “Money Makes The World Go Round” also featuring Devin the Dude.
By the time he produced one of the most notable songs in Ice Cube’s catalog, “Pushin’ Weight” from 1998’s War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc), New Orleans producer N.O. Joe had already approached legendary status, anchored in his classic work for Geto Boys, Scarface and UGK (he has production credits on the entirety of The Resurrection, Til Death Do Us Part, The Diary and Ridin’ Dirty). “Pushin’ Weight” achieved gold status, and is a high-mark in Cube’s lengthy catalog.
One of the best south-west connections happened in 1995, when Memphis and New Orleans met the Bay Area for one of the most underrated posse songs ever, “Friend Or Foe.” Featured on Eightball & MJG’s third album, On Top Of The World, “Friend Or Foe” remains a fan favorite and one of the best songs in Ball & G’s catalog. It opens with nostalgic bars from E-40, who at the time, was just coming off his major breakthrough album, In a Major Way. From there, Mac Mall continues the “watch out for snakes spirit” with a high energy delivery, while Big Mike closes out the top half of the track with a recitable, gospel-tinged, singy-songy verse about trusting no one. But it’s Ball & G who steal the show, with MJG in particular delivering one of his best verses, brilliantly detailing the ups and downs of dealing with shady people with his signature rapid-fire delivery. “Friend Or Foe” is one of the best illustrations of the magic created when the west and south linked up.
In the early 90s during the TRU era, it was nothing to catch Master P hollering out Richmond, sometimes even more than his hometown, New Orleans. P doesn’t shy away from his history with the Bay, where he picked up business savvy from rapper/businessmen like E-40 and Too Short. “This is How We Break Bread” from Tru’s 1995 album, True, featuring Sacramento’s C-Bo only further showed his connection to coast.
By 1997, it was no secret that the south and the west coast had love for each other, and Memphis’ Eightball & MJG frequently managed to connect with their rapper-friends from the Bay Area, in particular. So was the case when they linked with Yukmouth and Numskull for their underrated second album, Lunatik Muzik. Together, they delivered one of the best songs on the album, the slow-riding, “In My Nature,” produced by Suave House’s in-house production team, Smoke One Productions. The track finds both duos in tip-top lyrical form.
For his debut solo album, 1996’s Wicked Wayz, Houston native Mr. Mike leaned heavily into his love for G-funk, so it’s not surprising that more than one Cali rapper shows up to throw him an assist. Bay Area rhymer/producer, E-A-Ski shows up on the properly titled, “Southwest,” but it’s Ice Cube who throws the high-profile alley-hoop on the title track.
West coast vet Spice-1 linked with Houston’s Devin the Dude for his self-titled debut in 1998 on the mellow, bass-heavy “Don’t Wait.” Of course because it’s Devin, the storytelling on the song was the draw, especially on the first two verses, before Spice-1 shows up for the final verse, delivering quick-fire bars.
Another track from Too Short’s often slept on 1999 album, Can’t Stay Away, “Good Life” is Memphis native Jazze Pha doing what he did best in his prime—crooning over his smooth production. Too Short didn’t have to do much besides show up on the track to make it a winner.
For his 1999 album, Charlie Hustle: The Blueprint of a Self-Made Millionaire, E-40 furthered his southwest connection when he called on New Orleans’ Hot Boys, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, and BG, along with Baby for “Look At Me.” With its snappy synths, the song’s production is agile, and could easily have been shown up on a Hot Boys’ album. Either way, it’s a standout on one of 40’s best albums.
The most recognizable song from Face’s 1998 compilation, My Homies, “Fuck Faces” joins him with Tela and Too Short to deliver detailed, explicit bars about meeting and hooking up with a woman.
*HEADER CREDIT: Snoop Dogg and Master P during Super Bowl XXXVI - Jam Sports All Star Celebrity Basketball Game Hosted by Jermaine Dupri at University of New Orleans Human Performance Ctr. in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)