Known as Nocando in the Los Angeles rap scene, James McCall is our guide to Hip Hop L.A. Renowned as a legendary underground rapper who grew up in South L.A. (on Slauson and Western), Nocando experiences hip hop culture in a very intimate and real way, whether it’s organizing indie rap nights at a club or ghost writing songs for the award-winning TV series, Empire. There are many facets to Hip Hop culture, but Nocando gives visitors and Los Angeles locals alike a quick overview of what not to miss.
Founded by Leimert Park’s wise elder, Ben Caldwell, KAOS Network on the southeast corner of Leimert and 43rd street has hosted L.A.'s longest running open mic/workshop. Project Blowed is known for its experimental environment and street edge born in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Currently KAOS is home to an event called Bananas, a colorful, eclectic night of indie rap and alternative music that happens every last Tuesday of the month. Brimming with local talent and the style and energy of the street, Ben keeps his doors open for many other workshops and community events throughout the year.
4343 Leimert Blvd, Los Angeles 90008
If you love the smell of spray paint in the morning, and/or would like to actually paint on a public wall and not have to worry about felony charges, look no further than the Venice Art Walls. An ever-changing canvas designated for people to (legally) express themselves with aerosol paint (submit your ideas first). Watch magic happen on a beautiful beach located next to the most active skate park in the city, and there’s a sunset worth watching too.
Ocean Front Walk, Venice 90291
Nocando affectionately calls this area “the Tigris and Euphrates of cool”. Fairfax is the home of street fashion in the U.S. that ultimately influences what the hip world wears in sneakers, hats, t-shirts and whatever else. You’ll find Supreme, Pink Dolphin, DOPE, the Hundreds, and Crooks and Castles all make this place a one stop shop to get fresh. L.A.’s own Tyler the Creator opened up his permanent GOLF store here as well. As Nocando says, “this tiny two-block stretch of shops single handed destroyed mall culture in the U.S.”
The O.G. turntablists, the world-famous Beat Junkies recently celebrated 25 years as a crew and have now opened the Institute of Sound, a DJ school in Glendale. On Saturdays, the best mixers, scratchers and selectors in the world of DJing and rap music offer classes, tutorials, and free workshops to students of all levels. Learn your turntable skills from some of the best west coast innovators ever.
5130 San Fernando Rd, Glendale 91204
“The Slauson” is where a lot of rappers, DJs, producers and kids from all over get iced out and laced up. Drake, ASAP Rocky and others who are influential in hip hop culture have had custom pieces made here. Affectionately called the Slauson Swapmeet or just the Swapmeet by locals.
1600 W Slauson Ave, Los Angeles 90047
Delicious Pizza on West Adams is run by the same guys that brought you Delicious Vinyl and launched the careers of the Pharcyde, Young MC, and Tone Loc. Not only can you get a delicious pizza, they also throw and host events, listening parties, screenings and regular community get togethers. Closer to Hollywood? They have a new location on Sunset Boulevard that has live DJs on Friday nights.
5419 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles 90016
Roy Choi is a world-renowned chef who reinvented the food truck as we know it today as well as those delicious Korean tacos. While he's got a small fleet of Kogi BBQ taco trucks, he's also opened an affordable and healthy restaurant in Watts called LOCOL. Roy’s a hip hop head through and through and when he's not serving up delicious L.A. street food you're likely to catch him at a hip hop show being very low key.
1950 E. 103rd St., Los Angeles 90002
Chef Edwin “E-Dubble” Redway, is also known in L.A. for his food trucks and has recently opened Grilled Fraiche, a brick and mortar soul food spot on West Blvd and Slauson. E-Dubble linked up with and cooked up for a laundry list of rap’s elite, like the Game, Drake, and T-Pain. Want to taste food in Los Angeles with the spirit of current west coast hip hop behind it? Visit the restaurant or hunt down one of his trucks via Instagram.
5800 West Blvd, Los Angeles 90043
Amoeba Hollywood stockpiles goodies in every music genre and the film selection is extensive as well. The employees are known in Los Angeles as some of the most knowledgeable and excited about all the sub genres, regional styles and eras of rap. They also buy and consign records right from local and touring artists.
On the other hand, Poo-Bah Records in Pasadena is more of a mom and pop operation than Amoeba but what they lack in size they make up for in genre specifics. This place is the go-to for L.A. avant garde hip hop, indie releases and rare vinyl. The staff at Poo-Bah are very knowledgeable and probably an amazing talent themselves. If you love digging for records, spend some time at Pooh-Bah.
Amoeba Records, 6400 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90028
Poo-Bah Records, 2636 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena 91107
The urban youth of Los Angeles has congregated at World on Wheels, a legendary roller rink, for over three decades. This is where local records are heard first since the days of Ice T and Egyptian Lover. People from all walks, ages and areas from Los Angeles cross paths here and to skate, hang and enjoy music. Even Beyonce and Jay-Z have recently been spotted here.
4645 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles 90019
L.A. is a car-driven culture, so it’s no surprise that its music would be mixed specifically to sound good in cars. And where do you find the best examples of L.A. rides? The Petersen Automotive Museum, of course. Besides the Museum’s ominous place in Hip Hop history, (Biggie Smalls was murdered on the street after attending an event there) within its walls are preserved some of the most exquisite autos ever manufactured and tricked out. Besides Gypsy Rose, the original Lowrider, on permanent display, there’s a cherry Snoop Deville in the vault.
6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90036