When we’re talking about hip hop subgenres, there are so many to choose from. Each with a different tone and texture, subgenres can form in several ways and have a rich history. In fact, some subgenres become so far removed from their predecessors that they actually become new genres in their own right. However, G-Funk is most definitely a subgenre.
Hip hop always sampled funk, so some may ask, “How is G-Funk any different to just regular hip hop?” And it is an intriguing question and comes with a complicated answer. For the sake of this quick example, we’re going to look at ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’.
Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang samples funk however, the bass riff was fast and ‘Good Times’ by Chic was composed with the intention to make its listeners dance. Before anything, it was a party record that made people want to move and with regards to the chords used communicated a feeling of positivity. Hence it was named ‘Good Times’.
Similarly, with ‘Rappers Delight’, the cadences and flows used were relatively fast and skippy. It was a positive record and was made to make people at the block parties dance. It was also devoid of any type of electronic instruments. It was merely a repurposed funk record.
With G-Funk, things were a little different. For a start, it was much slower and laid back. It was sonically relaxing and was not made with any intention for people to dance to. Instead, it was made for people to listen to in their cars, mostly because a big difference between LA and New York, even today, is that in L.A., to get around the city, you have to drive a lot. Lowriders and flashy cars were a big part of L.A. culture during the ’90s, whereas it wasn’t in New York, so it was made for people in L.A.
Furthermore, New York has a population that is three-fold that of Los Angeles and with an extremely high population density, plus a huge financial district, the city has a bustle and moves at a much faster pace than L.A. This was reflected in the music that came out of the city. Los Angeles moved at a slower pace, and that was similarly reflected in its music.
G-Funk fused synthesisers and vocoders with funk to also create a laid-back feeling, evident on ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ and other tracks such as ‘Gin And Juice’. The main difference is to do with speed, intention, delivery and production. The two different cities had different aims and different cultures. One resulted in a slightly faster dance-evoking kind of rap, and one resulted in a slower and smoother kind of rap that sounded very different.
Dr Dre and Warren G are undoubtedly two of the most prominent figures with regard to the spearheading of G-Funk as a genre. However, Dr Dre is considered the sole pioneer of G-Funk as he is the figure that managed to get it to the masses. Although ‘Deep Cover’, released in 1992, was his first release as a solo artist, it doesn’t possess the qualities of a stereotypical G-Funk record. It is more akin to an East Coast boom-bap record such as Nas’ ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’.
The first G-Funk record to be released by Dre was the 1992 lead single for The Chronic, ‘Nuthin But A G-Thang’. It was the first stereotypical G-Funk record to ever be produced and heard by the masses. The Chronic is considered the most important and influential album of the 1990s, so much so that In 2019, the album was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry. That is the impact that the album had.
‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ is undoubtedly the first ever G-Funk track to see the light of day and is respected as such. You can watch the music video for ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ below.