Tupac & Dr Dre – California Love


Gangsta-rap songwriting



California, knows how to party
California, knows how to party
In the city of L.A.
In the city of good ol’ Watts
In the city, the city of Compton
We keep it rockin’, we keep it rockin’

Verse 1 – Dr Dre

Now let me welcome everybody to the Wild, Wild West
A state that’s untouchable like Eliot Ness
The track hits ya eardrum like a slug to ya chest
Pack a vest for your Jimmy in the city of sex
We in that sunshine state with a bomb ass hemp beat
The state where ya never find a dance floor empty
And pimps be on a mission for them greens
Lean mean money-makin-machines serving fiends
I been in the game for ten years making rap tunes
Ever since honeys was wearing Sassoon
Now it’s ’95 and they clock me and watch me
Diamonds shinin’, lookin’ like I robbed Liberace
It’s all good, from Diego to the Bay
Your city is the bomb if your city making pay
Throw up a finger if ya feel the same way
Dre putting it down for Californ-i-a Yeah


California (California) knows how to party (knows how to party)
California (west coast) knows how to party (yes they do)(that’s right)
In the city of L.A. (city of L.A.)
In the city of good ol’ Watts (good ol’ Watts)
In the city, the city of Compton (city of Compton)
We keep it rockin! We keep it rockin’ (come on, come on, come on)
Shake it shake it baby
Shake it shake it, shake it baby
Shake it shake it mama
Shake it Cali
Shake it shake it baby (that’s right, uh)
Shake it shake it baby baby, shake it shake it mama, shake it Cali

Verse 1 – Tupac Shakur

Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreaming
Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearing hoochies screamin
Fiendin for money and alcohol
The life of a west side player where cowards die
And its all war
Only in Cali where we riot not rally to live and die
In L.A. we wearing Chucks not Ballys (that’s right, uh)
Dressed in Locs and khaki suits and ride is what we do
Flossing but have caution we collide with other crews
Famous ‘cause we program worldwide
Let’em recognize from Long Beach to Rosecrans
Bumping and grinding like a slow jam, it’s west side
So you know the row won’t bow down to no man
Say what you say
But give me that bomb beat from Dre
Let me serenade the streets of L.A.
From Oakland to Sactown
The Bay Area and back down
Cali is where they put their mack down, give-me love !


California (California) knows how to party
California, knows how to party (come on baby)
In the city (south-central) of L.A. (L.A.)
In the city of good ol’ Watts (uh, that’s right)
In the city, the city of Compton (yup, yup)
We keep it rocking! We keep it rocking (yeah, yeah now make it shake, c’mon)

Shake it shake it baby (uh)
Shake it shake it, shake it baby (yeah)
Shake it shake it mama
Shake it Cali (shake it Cali)
Shake it shake it baby (shake it Cali)
Shake it shake it, shake it shake it mama (west-coast) shake it Cali

Outro – Dr Dre / Tupac

Uh, yeah, uh, Long Beach in the house, uh yeah
Oaktown, Oakland definitely in the house
Frisko, Frisko
Hey, you know L.A. is up in this
Pasadena, where you at
Pasadena, où vous êtes
Yeah, Inglewood, Inglewood always up to no good
Even Hollywood trying to get a piece baby
Sacramento, Sacramento where ya at? yeah
Throw it up y’all, throw it up, Throw it up (I can’t see ya)
California Love
Let’s show these fools how we do this on that west side
‘Cause you and I know it’s the best side
Yeah, that’s right
West coast, west coast
Uh, California Love
California Love


California Love!…

Sometimes things are clear straight away. Take any hip-hop fan before 1995 and play the sample of these two words sung in this sharp, mannered voice, and ask him whether it’s gangsta-rap, and the answer will be a sarcastic laugh: “Rap sending love, hm ??” will retort any gangster among your friends.

In short, Dre and Tupac have announced the color: this song will establish a new style, freed from the depression and heavy negativity of black ghettos, and they will party under the same Californian sun as the hippies of the previous generation.

In other words, already well enriched at the time by their activities in show business, the two rappers have decided to get social, and not to let anyone at least in California ignore that they are now part of the musical scene and that they are happy to celebrate the American Dream, equal with the whites.



California, knows how to party

Straight away, we can see that this song defines a new style of rap:

  • All previous songs began on the verse, the voice of a gangster who tells the essence of his message in a chorus-slogan. But here, we open on a chorus.
  • Straight away, the voice is tampered with electronics, and reminds very mainstream styles like the Dance music of the time.
  • This chorus is super catchy, dancy, positive, funky, and invites the audience to party. We are far from the hostile, aggressive, or sinister choruses of gangsta-rap before its breakthrough to the mainstream.

California : as often in songs, the singer defines his audience by naming it and adressing it directly.

  • This definition of this rather wide audience shows how hip-hop has made progress in pop culture, because we remember that the angry guys from STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON only claimed their streets of Compton – despite their ambition they were far, Dre said later, to imagine that they would have a success other than purely local; yet, 7 years, many hits and millions of dollars later, from Los Angeles Tupac & Dre now aim to seduce all of California. They have become more confident and ambitious than the original little street gangsters.
  • But California, people know what it is all over the world. California makes the Americanized masses dream, long-time prepared by a century of Hollywood cinema and California culture, largely to the glory of local icons :
    • Cowboys and sheriffs
    • Mickey Mouse and the rest of Disney and cartoon culture
    • Beat Generation writers
    • Hippies
    • Serial-killers
    • Cops (LA Police Department is one of the most famous police of the world, through movies and series…)
    • Gangsters
    • Rappers
    • Geeks.
  • Evoking California is an easy choice for a Californian artist, it’s a safe bet, because the public has already been conquerred for generations by the many charms of the Wild West. Compare: Could the criminal lives of young Pakistanese or Algerian or Russian males have touched the world as much as those of young Californians? No, because the world audience would not be prepared to take it into consideration.
  • In fact, this song marks the entry of hip-hop into cultural capitalism, the moment when it asserts itself as a mass product, the moment when the gangster, withdrawn from dangerous business, prefers to bank his public image, and the bank of the time in the world of music is MTV, the main prescriber. Conquering the world via MTV, robbing the whites with seduction, using the gangsta spirit to make it a super sexy ad for the American Way of Life, reviewed and corrected by the new black elites – because Dre and Tupac are already Millionaire stars, gangsta studio, far from the misery of the street – this is more or less the landline of this song.

California, knows how to party

In the city of LA

He will mention LA, then two neighborhoods or peripheral cities marked with a black majority or identity, knowingly forgetting a big city like San Francisco, or obviously, the rich cities like San Diego, Santa Monica…

In the city of good ol’ Watts

In the city of Compton

We keep it rockin’, we keep it rockin’

This line sounds surprising in the mouth of rappers. They rock, they do not rap ? This illustrates the choice to expand the audience of this song to make it an indisputable hit, a strategy that worked very well. The American audience of the time still runs on rock. So, Tupac and Dre play it rock.


Verse 1 – Dr. Dre

Now let me welcome everyone to the Wild, Wild West


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Gangsta-rap songwriting
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