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The 6 Greatest Bay Area Rappers Of All Time

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This article, like all the other great articles written about black music and culture, is written by a white guy who doesn’t make music. In other words, my opinion is ABSOLUTE FACT AND IF YOU DISAGREE… YOU’RE WRONG! This article is also being written during the anniversary month of the darkest moment in Bay Area Hip Hop history: The murder of Andre Hicks, better known as Mac Dre. In this article I’m going to do my best to give a brief bio explaining why the rappers I’ve selected for this article are the greatest rappers from the Bay. Period!

Mac Dre: (Vallejo, California)

You can’t mention Bay Area Hip Hop without mentioning MAC-MUTHA-FUCKIN’-DRE (please excuse the use of my hyphy hyphens) If E-40 is the Jesus of the Bay Area rap scene, then Mac Dre is the Holy Ghost or Furly Ghost for the initiated. Mac Dre was born in Oakland and raised on the other side of the Carquinez Bridge in the Country Club Crest neighborhood of Vallejo. While generating a buzz throughout the Bay Area and the greater West Coast rap scene, Mac Dre’s ties to the Vallejo-based Romper Room Gang got him in some trouble and he ended up doing 5 years in prison… FOR NOT SNITCHING.

In the age of Tekashi 6ix9ine, it may be hard to imagine, but before Instagram, rappers were actually gangster, well, not all of them, but certainly some of them and Mac Dre was definitely in the latter category. Once released from prison, Mac Dre’s music took a more fun-loving approach. He moved to Sacramento, started Thizz Entertainment, made some of the most iconic songs in the history of Bay Area music.

You can go to any house party in the Bay… Actually, don’t. We’re in the middle of a fucking pandemic, moron, but before Covid-19 cramped our collective ability to do the Thizzle Dance without PPE gear, a face mask and 6 feet of distance, you could literally go to any party in the Bay, play “Feelin’ Myself” and the entire dancefloor would explode. The moment Mac Dre doesn’t liven up a dance floor is the day the Bay is dead. Mac Dre is one of the greatest, if not the greatest Bay Area rapper of all time. If you don’t agree, you’re just fucking wrong. Mac Dre unfortunately passed away due to a drive by shooting in 2004, but his spirit lives on to this day.

E-40 (Vallejo, California)

E-40 is Hip Hop’s king of slang and he also happens to be a Bay Area native hailing from the Beverly Hills (Hillside) neighborhood of Vallejo, California. E-40, like many of the people mentioned in this list, started out in the ‘80s. E-40 borrowed Too Short’s indie rap blueprint and sold tapes out of the trunk of his car and drove all over Northern California, handing out his tapes to anyone he saw with a loud stereo system for free.

At first, many criticized E-40 for his unorthodox style, but 40 had the last laugh when he released “Captain Save a Hoe” in 1993 and since then he has arguably been the most prolific rapper in modern Hip Hop history. E-40’s relevance and longevity is unrivaled. This man has been rapping so well for so long that your grandma probably has a favorite E-40 song. Just like Too Short, after a successful indie career, he signed to Jive Records for 3 million dollars and had what many view as one of the most profitable record deals in major label history.

E-40 then went out to bring the Hyphy Movement to a national audience with “Tell me When To Go” and he’s still putting out records to this day. He’s 52 years old and still out rapping most of his youthful contemporaries. He’s basically the Hyphy Movement’s Mick Jagger. E-40 is one of the greatest in the Bay. OOOOUUUU!


Too Short (Oakland, California)

The Bay Area rap scene is known for its independent spirit, and this out-the-trunk hustle was created by Too Short. Too Short got famous with his “Freak Tales,” but it didn’t happen overnight. He essentially created the independent rap scene, not only in Oakland, but the entirety of the United State. Without Too Short’s blueprint, most of the independent rap scene in places such as Detroit, New Orleans and Atlanta wouldn’t exist if Too Short didn’t show them how to do it in Oakland.

He sold his cassette tapes out of the trunk of his car and even made personalized songs for neighborhood drug dealers and pimps. In the late ‘80s he signed to Jive Records and Born to Mack went gold. Ever since then, Too Short had several platinum records and made hit, after hit, after hit. In 2006, after more than a 20 year career, Too Short released “Blow The Whistle,” which was massive, not only in Oakland, but nationwide. The song even got a remix by Jay-Z and like 11 years later Drake stole the lyrics because he’s a cunt. But yeah, Too Short is one of the greatest Bay Area rappers ever. If you disagree, you’re probably his favorite word… BIIIIITCH!

Andre Nickatina (San Francisco, California)

Andre Nickatina AKA Dre Dog is probably the most underappreciated rapper on this list, but for those of us in the know, Andre Nickatina is one of the best who has ever blessed the mic in the Bay. Andre Nickatina is from Frisco’s Fillmoe (Fillmore District) and raps about all kinds of weird shit. Have you wanted to know a Pisces cokelord from San Francisco raps like, I suggest checking Andre Nickatina. He’s behind numerous underground hits such as “Ayo For Yayo” “ A Train With No Love” and the infamous “Smoke Dope and Rap.”

2Pac (Marin City, California)

You fucking knew I was going include 2pac in this list, so don’t act surprised. Yes, the cities 2pac repped may have changed from time to time, but he got his fucking start in the Bay. He’s ours. Also, while Oakland tends to steal the majority of the 2Pac clout tokens, but his first stop in the Bay was in Marin County’s infamous “Jungle” housing project in Marin City. He even went to fuckin’ Tam high, which is low key hilarious to imagine.

Seriously, imagine your dad is like a fucking stockbroker or some other rich person shit, and your sitting next to 2Pac in science class. Kind of wild if you really think about it. Anyway, like the song, “I Get Around” 2Pac got around. In his tragically short life, he repped New York, L.A. and Baltimore, but he got his start with Digital Underground and changed rap forever.

2pac is one of the great in Hip Hip. He’s also objectively better than Biggie. I’m sorry. Biggie Smalls wanted to fuck hoes and drink Cristal while Diddy danced around in a shiny suit mumbling about how he’s a bad boy, 2Pac was gearing up to overthrow the US government… Which is honestly the most Bay Area thing ever. Sorry Los Angeles, you’re too fucking content with life to claim Pac. RIP!

The Jacka (Pittsburg, California)

Yes 925ers, you’re included. The Jacka, hailing from what used to be the last stop going east on BART before Antioch got that weird tram thing, also known as Pittsburg, or P-World, has a legitimately interesting and underrated rap scene and The Jacka was at the forefront of it. The Jacka started his career with C-Bo, an already successful underground rapper from Sacramento, was in Pittsburg for some reason.

Maybe he fell asleep on BART, who knows? Either way, history was made when he introduced Jacka and the rest of his Bay Area-based group, The MobFigaz, to the West Coast rap scene. The record is rumored to have gone gold, which is an accomplishment for any artist, but an even bigger one if you’re a dude trying to make a name for yourself on the outer edge of the East Bay. The Jacka, like literally half of the people named on this list, was senselessly as a result of gun violence in East Oakland. RIP Jacka!

Do you agree with this list? If not, tell me why I’m a moron with your own list in the comment section.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Andre “Mac Dre” Hicks

7/5/1970 – 11/1/2020

Thizz in Peace


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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground is available now!


  1. Kit
    November 12, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Great memories and honoring of certain male rappers.
    Wondering if you’d consider doing a story on womyn rappers from daBay?

  2. Muzz
    November 14, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    No Hieroglyphics, Boots / The Coup, Paris, Souls of Mischief?

    • December 2, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      Awesome list! Literally all my favs. Cough Nut needs to be included though #imp

  3. Sucka-free
    December 3, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Bruh this article is so on point. I wanna help ya out with some shit tho. Too Short’s favorite word is BIIIAATCH. Also I think you accidentally wrote 2020 instead of 2004 for Mac Dre’s death year and the end. Thanks for these sick articles tho! YEEEE!

  4. adam
    December 3, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    This is a really, really tough list. But what’s interesting is how Mac Dre is one of those people that’s gotten more popular, and music seems to get better, with age.

    But Dre also did his best work after he started attending raves at the big late 90s Oakland spots. Remember, that scene then was *not* commercialized. It was a crazy strong UG culture, and his music and style became an amazing mix of Bay Area hip hop with the Bay’s rave influences. And that combination, along with a very Bay vibe in his lyrics, produced someone that was a portrait of local culture, fusion, and fun.

    Work with me here: we rename it the Mac Dre Bay Bridge