2Pac ft. Dr. Dre – “California Love” (Singles Going Steady Classic)

"California Love" is what you get when you mix one of the greatest West Coast rappers with West Coast's greatest producer, and then bring in funk legend Roger Troutman for safe measure.

Emmanuel Elone: “California Love” is what you get when you mix one of the greatest West Coast rappers with West Coast’s greatest producer, and then bring in funk legend Roger Troutman for safe measure. On this single for his double album All Eyez on Me, 2Pac’s verse is an ode to the state that raised him, the same one that gave rise to NWA and the G-Funk hip-hop that Dr. Dre both created and mastered. Twenty years later, Kendrick Lamar, who actually was at the shooting for the “California Love” music video as an infant, continues to carry the West Coast torch that refuses to die out. On “m.A.A.d. City”, Kendrick raps about his life in Compton (particularly Rosecrans) and how he almost died when he smoked his first blunt that was laced with Angel Dust. It’s similar to much of 2Pac’s catalog, with a social message that’s carried through a gritty, G-Funk banger. Like 2Pac did in his heyday, Kendrick Lamar is revitalizing and evolving West Coast hip-hop, and one can only wish that 2Pac were still alive to see it all unfold as it has. [10/10]

Pryor Stroud: 2Pac had just been been released from prison when “California Love” was released in 1995, and his verse, the second in the track behind Dr. Dre, is a jail door blown off by sheer lyrical pressure. He doesn’t glide over the beat, or even interact with it, he stomps straight across it, his muscular, fist-clenching flow dictating the song’s direction rather than the other way around. [9/10]

Ian King: With all due respect to Nastradamus, it has come to pass that Tupac Shakur is, as The Source pointed out last year, the more prominent hip hop prophet. In addition to The Source‘s examples, Shakur’s time-tested and spot-on assertions about current presidential candidate Donald Trump have been making the rounds recently. Let’s add “California Love” to that unfurling scroll. Not only did this enduring West Coast anthem predict the nation’s shift between the ’90s and now from morbid fascination to fondness for the Golden State, Shakur’s own geographical history — his childhood in Harlem to his family’s relocation to the Bay Area when he was in high school — reflects the current migration of the young, hip, and creative from New York to Los Angeles in particular. [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: A lot of hip-hop fails to age well after a decade or two, but fortunately, this mostly holds up; if anything, it’s an accurate snapshot of the mid-‘90s. Pairing contemporary rhymes with Roger Troutman’s retro talk-box sounds like a shaky concept, but it works, and 2Pac’s expert rhyming is a painful reminder of a potent voice silenced too soon. [8/10]

Chad Miller: Roger Troutman’s Talk Box melody was super infectious, and I loved that alien sound in the back. The rapping here is excellent too. Some of the references might not have aged well or maybe I’m just especially uncultured, but either way it didn’t detract much for me. A wonderful party anthem. [9/10]

SCORE: 8.60

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