Is there a place more mythical in modern America than Southern California? Like the mighty Big Apple, it's one of those rare locales whose myriad landmarks and landscapes are known intimately even by those who've never stepped foot. There's the towering palm trees lining Hollywood Boulevard, the sprawling suburbs smothering Orange County and Compton's working class bungalows. It's a mythology that rests in large part on the area's inextricable ties to mass media: movies, television and, of course, music. Which is why Google Play has plucked from our SoCal State of Mind album collection the five titles that best capture a region No Doubt famously called the "Tragic Kingdom." After all, how much more Southern California does it get than Gwen Stefani's glamorous sass? Or Ozomatli's funky Latin grooves? So get ready as Snoop Dogg and others put the top down and take us for a ride from Long Beach to Del Mar and beyond. See the full SoCal State of Mind album collection on Google Play now. – Justin Farrar, Google Play
No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom
Released in 1995, the multi-platinum Tragic Kingdom not only transformed Anaheim's No Doubt into a household name, it also helped make ska-punk from the sprawling Cali 'burbs the hottest commodity since sliced bread. Nearly every song here, from the hard-bopping "Just a Girl" to the Blondie-tinged "Happy Now?," is sickly-sweet ear candy. A powder keg combo of riot grrrl defiance and Mouseketeers' radiant innocence, Gwen Stefani exudes so much charisma and straight-up sex appeal that the singer would've been a pop star even had she joined a struggling polka band from Youngstown, Ohio.
See also: Gwen Stefani, Sublime, Fishbone, The Go-Go's, The Black-Eyed Peas, Goldfinger
If you want 21st century Los Angeles bottled into a single album, then uncork Ozomatli's superb debut. The multi-racial collective's unique brand of dance music contains just about everything under the California sun: cumbia, G-funk, ska, salsa, Indian classical, turntablism, even a dash of punk rock energy for good measure. Amazingly enough, the band's search for the perfect groove never collapses from the weight of all this heady fusion. In fact, Ozomatli's ability to blend radically diverse sounds, cultures and ideas is downright alchemical. Just one thing: be sure to bring your party dress!
See also: Flying Lotus, Slightly Stoopid, Jurassic 5, DāM-FunK, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Los Lobos
Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle
N.W.A. bloodied their gangsta rap with menace: crack addiction, drive-bys, broken homes. Dr. Dre's G-funk cool (with its all day picnics, smoked BBQ and house parties) softened this image considerably. Then Snoop dropped Doggystyle. Darkness still lurks around most corners. "I'm on my way to Chino, rollin' on the grey goose, shackled from head to toe," the rapper croaks in "Murder Was the Case." But what really stands out is his Parliament-inspired knack for detailing the tragic comedies that come with ghetto life. Though he was a gangbanger in his youth, Snoop quickly became hip-hop's court jester.
See also: Dr. Dre, Warren G, N.W.A., Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Tha Dogg Pound
Black Flag, My War
Unleashed in the midst of the Reagan years, My War was a brutally ugly rejection of everything mainstream America had become in the '80s: slick, superficial and drunk on greed. The fact that Black Flag hailed from sunny SoCal made the group's fear and loathing only sound that much more desperate. Even their doggedly loyal fanbase struggled with the harrowing music. After all, the band had scrapped the well-oiled hardcore of the much beloved Damaged in favor of sludge-soaked tantrums spotlighting guitarist Greg Ginn's nails-across-the-chalkboard solos and Henry Rollins' gnarled shrieks.
See also: Minutemen, Rage Against the Machine, Bad Religion, Queens of the Stone Age, Social Distortion, The Locust
The Go-Go's, Beauty and the Beat
After a decade of L.A. kowtowing to the swathed beards and denim of narcissistic troubadours, The Go-Go's exuberant debut ushered in a pop revolution, one that helped the city (and the rest of the country) embrace its love of sun, fun and the delicious joys of cruising with the top down and the radio blaring. Of course, a big part of the music's charm revolved around the band's savoir-faire: they might've played the role of carefree girls bopping about but always with a wink of the eye. And, of course, they happened to write incredibly catchy tunes: "Our Lips Are Sealed," "We Got the Beat," "Tonite"—all so good.
See also: The Bangles, Best Coast, The Knack, Weezer, The Runaways, blink-182