Since the ’60s, Los Angeles has served as home to several of the most eccentric-sounding and influential acts in the history of American pop. The Sunset Strip was the psychedelic rock capital of Southern California, giving birth to bands like the Doors and the underappreciated proto-punk group Love. Above the Strip looms Laurel Canyon, where musicians like Joni Mitchell, British bluesman John Mayall, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash hung out together and developed their folk-rock sounds (author Michael Walker wrote about the Laurel Canyon scene in his 2006 book, Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood). Over in East L.A., a Chicano rock scene arose (and has been kept alive by the likes of the Plugz, Los Lobos, and in more recent years, Ozomatli).
The next two decades for L.A. saw the emergence of punk (X, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies), modern rock (the Go-Go’s, Oingo Boingo, Jane’s Addiction), metal (Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, the more funk-influenced Red Hot Chili Peppers) and the short-lived “paisley underground” sound—a psychedelic revival movement that begat the Bangles and Mazzy Star. Meanwhile, over in South Central L.A.—where the area’s most noteworthy pre-’80s contribution to pop was the funk band War—the gangsta rap scene exploded, thanks to acts like Ice-T, Cypress Hill and N.W.A., whose gritty, profane albums angered media watchdogs and politicians but sold like pancakes (remarkably without any airplay on top 40 radio). Two N.W.A. members—Ice Cube and Dr. Dre—grew disenchanted with the group and found greater success as solo artists. The laid-back “G-funk” sound of Dre’s solo albums redefined West Coast mainstream rap. Alt-rock also grew to prominence at the same time as gangsta rap’s explosion. Singer/songwriter Beck, the now-defunct, politically conscious metal group Rage Against the Machine and critics’ darling (and music supervisors’ favorite) Rilo Kiley are examples of popular alt-rock acts who hail from L.A.