Why Small, Beleaguered Vallejo Is Huge in California Hip Hop

A Bankrupt Neighborhood’s Gift of Gab Created Music Rooted in a ‘Sweet, Idiosyncratic, Hustler Culture’

Conventional wisdom is that California’s greatest art is produced by collisions between the different peoples and cultures in the centers of our biggest cities.

But if that’s true, how did Vallejo become the state’s creative capital of hip hop?

The small North Bay city of 120,000, in rolling out generations of acclaimed rappers, makes the case that, in our era of hyper-connectivity, the isolation of life on the outskirts can be an especially powerful and distinctive form of artistic inspiration.

Indeed, most of Vallejo’s long line of rappers—from Mac Dre …