What makes an L.A. party an L.A. party? Start with this syllabus written by the homies


This story is part of Image issue 9, “Function” a sonic and visual reminder that there ain’t no party like an L.A. party. Read the full issue here.

Music is one of the few things that can transport us — to another place, another time. Some songs remind you of your youth. Others, of the first time you fell in love. And then there are those tracks that when you hear them out in the wild elicit an almost involuntary, full-bodied reaction. An “Ayyyyyye” comes out of your mouth like a reflex. The memories come flooding in: Being at a smoky house party in the early 2000s and locking eyes with your homie from across the room, meeting on the dance floor and two-stepping in unison. You’re rapping along word for word, at the top of your lungs, while making eye contact with anyone doing the same. Your index finger is stabbing the air every time that chorus hits. You feel a part of something bigger than yourself for the three minutes the song lasts, connected with everyone else around you. There’s a category for this kind of track, especially in this city. We’re talking, of course, about the L.A. Party Anthem.

What makes an L.A. celebration? There‘s the venue: a house, a club, a park, a freeway underpass, a warehouse. The people: no lames, no wallflowers. The vibe: a regional glint in the air, cultivated by the locals. But more than anything, what truly cements these gatherings as core memories is the music. We asked producers, promoters musicians, artists, DJs and others to give us their favorite L.A. Party Anthems of the 21st century, the memories surrounding them and their thoughts on what makes a party hit.

What resulted is a syllabus for everything an L.A. party should be: rowdy, sweaty, energetic, warm.

the greatest L..A. party anthems of the 21st century

“My Type of Party” — Dom Kennedy [2012]

“My Hitta” — YG featuring Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan [2013]

“Like Whaaat” — Problem featuring Bad Lucc [2013]

“Drop It Like It’s Hot” — Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell [2004]

“Wrong Idea” — Badazz featuring Snoop Dogg and Kokane [2001]

“Cali Iz Active” — Tha Dogg Pound [2006]

“G’d Up” — Tha Eastsidaz [2000]

“Mayor” — Pac Div [2009]

“Topdown” — Channel Tres [2018]

“Toot It and Boot It” — YG [2010]

“When I Come Around” — Dom Kennedy [2011]

“You’re a Jerk” — New Boyz [2009]

“Boss Ass Bitch” — PTAF [2012]

“Teach Me How to Dougie” — Cali Swag District [2010]

“Cat Daddy” — The Rejectz [2010]

“Paranoid” — Ty Dolla Sign [2013]

“Ballin’” — Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch [2019]

“Vintage & Adventurous” — Conradfrmdaaves [2019]

“Gang Bang” — Joe Moses featuring YG [2013]

“m.A.A.d City” — Kendrick Lamar featuring MC Eiht [2012]

“Big Bank” — YG featuring 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj [2018]

“Thotiana” — Blueface [2018]

“Last Time That I Checc’d” — Nipsey Hussle featuring YG [2018]

“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar [2015]


What makes an L.A. party

An ideal space is a house — or at least a space where we feel safe. Not a colonized venue. A lot of spaces that are opening up in our neighborhoods, they’re not respecting the culture. They’re not respecting the arts, the practice. They’re just coming in and wanting to make a buck. So that’s first and foremost: Where we at? We’re in Leimert, in a Black-owned venue. We’re in a house. That’s our grounding more than anything. Then the obvious things, like having natives in the building — the DJs that actually are from L.A., that know records to play. Folks are on the dance floor, busting the right dance moves that we recognize as ours. If I can say anything beyond that, it’s just energy. It’s all love. It’s feeling like home. There’s no pretentiousness, there’s no extras. For me, L.A. parties are people coming through, able to truly be themselves. — Fred McNeill Jr., event producer, DJ, co-founder of Just Be Cool

A smiling man in an orange cap and white socks.
Fred McNeill Jr., event producer and DJ, on what makes an L.A. party: “It’s all love. It’s feeling like home.”
(Angella Choe / For The Times)

The L.A. party actually has an energy to it. It actually has people who are enjoying themselves, who don’t care who you are or where you work at. That means you’re actually dancing, that means you’re actually talking to people. Back when we were younger, we would get in those dance circles — like early 2000s. You actually have a circle of people dancing and everybody’s watching you to see who’s going to challenge you. — DJ R-Tistic

Our sound. A good, real California party, not a Hollywood party. You’re going to hear our street legends: YG, Problem, Joe Moses, the Game. All the new kids: 1TakeJay, AzChike, BlueBucksClan. Our music has tempo to it. — DJ Carisma

It’s not an L.A. party if we can’t smoke no trees in there. It’s gonna be hot — when I used to party a lot as a teen, you would come with a dry shirt and you would leave with your shirt soaked and drenched. — Six Sev, musician


Four guys pose for the camera.
Norick Curl, Tawaun Cargill, musician Six Sev and Te Manuel.
(Angella Choe / For The Times)

A classic L.A. party is probably a pool party, where everybody’s big-stepping to “Ain’t No Fun” by Snoop Dogg [feat. Nate Dogg, Warren G and Kurupt], “You” by Lucy Pearl [featuring Q-Tip and Snoop Dogg], and “Last Time That I Checc’d” by Nipsey Hussle and YG. Meanwhile, somebody’s cooking hot dogs and burgers in the back and you’re bound to run into your ex from high school that you can’t stand. — Duckwrth, artist

The DJ has to have range but also have the right records and read the crowd. Food — you go to an L.A. function and you need to have somebody who is pouring the drinks. You either have tacos or the hood spaghetti, with the ground beef, sauce and noodles all mixed together. — Thurz, musician, 1/2 of U-N-I

Definitely the music. The location. Just the vibe. I think most importantly, aside from the music, it’s the folks who are there. It’s just what you make of it, you know? — Que Madre, DJ

If you ask anybody from L.A. — they could be Bloods, it don’t matter. Bloods usually don’t listen to Crip music, but [Tha Eastsidaz] was so hard. Any time it came on, it was either gonna be a walk fest or somebody’s gonna start grappling. — Mibbs, Pac Div

We used to bump the unmixed version of “Toot It and Boot It” before it was mixed down. We used to wear them songs out before they even came out. — BeYoung, Pac Div


A room full of people that have the common goal to just have a good ol’ time, sing, dance, drink — those that don’t drink liquor, sip on some fruit juice. Weed inside and out. Bomb ass music. I grew up in South Central L.A., so I love when you go to parties and you see people from different neighborhoods that you normally wouldn’t see in the streets. In L.A., growing up in gangbang culture, don’t nobody go visit anybody in certain areas because you can’t sometimes. At that time for me, it was going to a party in Culver City and seeing Crenshaw Mafias, Inglewood Families, Rolling 60s, Denver Lanes, Hoovers — everybody just having a good time, nobody trippin’. Those are the kind of parties I grew up going to. My real young party days, the DJ for me, when I first was understanding and getting into a lot of music, was Big Boy. [At Culver City Middle School], he was the DJ for all of our dances. — Terrace Martin, musician, producer

There had to be a theme. A common theme was like, “Booty Shorts versus Cargo Shorts.” Very ratchet. Like, “Hollister Sweatpants versus Aéropostale Sweatpants.” It’s definitely on the complete opposite side of town that you live. You heard about it through word of mouth. You run into people on the bus going to the same place as you. You definitely solicited alcohol. The music and the dance go hand in hand. It’s so specific to L.A. culture. For instance, you’re liable to see a dance called the Squabble. Squabble is another word for fight, and it’s made into a dance: The Squabble. Then you have the really greasy, sweaty, nasty slow R&B grind on the floor. That’s 100% a big part of what made L.A. parties. Kazi, musician, artist

People assume that L.A. people, we don’t dance. That’s the furthest from the truth. What dictates an L.A. party is people actually dancing, people having fun. And there’s certain dances that are prominent in that community — whether that’s just a regular two-step or you know, some walks. (I don’t want to say which kind.) And just that turnt up factor. There’s a specific bounce that comes with L.A. music, and when you hear that bounce, it makes everybody want to dance. (l’ve even seen videos of grandmas Crip walking). The typical L.A. function is definitely everyone laughing, everyone dancing. If people come here and they actually take the time to get out of Hollywood and meet L.A. natives, they’ll see that our communities are really fun. — Annessa De La Cruz a.k.a. DJ Nameless

Diversity plays a huge part. I think having an L.A. party, a true L.A. party, is something that feels genuine and almost like home. You see so many different kinds of faces, so many different ethnicities. — sammi G, DJ, co-founder of Ladies of Sound

The weather. Whether the party is day or night, if it was a sunny day, we’re all going to step into the party just ready like we just had a beautiful sunny day: greased up, lotion, everything just ready to go. The weather makes it. — Polyester the Saint, rapper


A man in a white hoodie and cap sits with folded arms.
When it comes to a function, “The weather makes it,” says Polyester the Saint.
(Angella Choe / For The Times)

House parties? They meant everything. They meant everything to me. Growing up as a kid, a house party was where you could show your dance moves, pop-locking moves, the break dancers came out. All the parents knew each other on the street. We couldn’t wait for the house party to jump off so we could see our friends, meet new friends, DJ that real popular stuff. We had radio stations like KACE back then, the original KDAY. Back when there weren’t that many rappers out here, we had Mixmaster Spade and Too Short. As they started to grow, it was fun watching that happen. The P-Funk music — Parliament, Funkadelic, Zapp & Roger — when you play these records, it’s like a perfect puzzle piece. It makes you want to low-ride and put your best dance moves on. Listening to the songs with the reverb, with the echo in the back — it’s our thing. The reverb thing was our thing. The sound that we have, that’s ours. — Suga Free, artist

An L.A. party, at least for me being with Mexicans, there’s always Coronas and Pacificos, there’s always one or two cousins that bring a bottle of whiskey or tequila. There’s tamales, if it’s Christmastime and there’s no sun out. My family is also from Puebla, so we’ll have mole. [The] music could be cumbias — at least me and my friends, we listen to cumbias. Then [we] play some salsa music while we’re setting up everything, if we’re doing carne asada. Later in the night, playing a lot of 2000s music. — Cuco, musician

First word is community. An L.A. party, you’re going to pull up, you’re going to see your people there, and you’re going to catch a vibe. It doesn’t have to be a big party, it can be intimate, but if it’s an L.A .party it’s really rooted in the community. And then the music is the soundtrack to the night. — Nneoma Akubuilo, DJ, curator and founder of African Video Club

There’s a beautiful bevy of different cultures in L.A. To go from the diaspora and play Afrobeats, then to go to the Caribbean and play reggae and then bring it back to L.A. and play Dom Kennedy, some Snoop, some YG, some Roddy Ricch. That’s something that I think is really beautiful about L.A. — just how much of a melting pot it is. You could really travel around the world on a good night in L.A. — Earry Hall, DJ and event curator

It’s literally a melting pot. There’s so many different people that go to an L.A. party and everyone is real. In L.A. your parents put you on to the old-school, the classics. So what I love about attending and DJing L.A. parties is that everybody knows classic West Coast anthems. If you’re in L.A., brown people, Black people, Asian people, white people, everyone is vibing to that one Dr. Dre anthem. They absolutely know all the words and you can just never go wrong. You feel so proud to be from L.A. when you’re in one room with people that are vibing to that dog whistle sound that Dr. Dre puts on his beats. It’s just so L.A. — Bella Ferrada, DJ


The venue is always the center for L.A. parties. The promoters — when you have local guys who throw your party, it’s gonna feel more L.A. And of course, do you have a local DJ who knows the actual scene and what’s poppin’? Or do you have an out-of-town DJ who’s going to come in and play all the typical L.A. tracks they think they should play, like “California Love”? — Dre Sinatra, DJ

[An L.A. party] — that’s what inspires us. That’s what feeds us. That’s where we can meet like-minded people. That’s where we can be ourselves and feel seen, feel represented. — Joyce Wrice, artist

Artist Martine Syms talks about her most recent installation “HelLA World,” why ‘Black speech is a hypertext language,’ and more.

My fondest memories of L.A. parties — true L.A. house parties — are from high school, 2005 to 2009. The thing about L.A., you grow up knowing people from so many different places. You might have gone to school with somebody, might have played on the sports team with somebody, your parents might know each other. But you fall in and out of contact with them. So sometimes these classic L.A. house parties end up becoming a big reunion of sorts. — Hugh Augustine, rapper and chef

We always gotta hit that two-step. Being a Black woman — being Black as a whole — that’s just something that’s natural to us. It’s a bonding moment with no force. To be able to feel that and understand that without saying anything, and be able to dance, that’s definitely [an L.A. party]. — Storm DeBarge, dancer

Memories of parties past

I was at my auntie’s house on 109 Place, where on any given day they [had] the radio blasting, drinking beer and smoking. There was this girl I liked, and I [saw] her at my auntie’s. She was from Belize, and I’ll never forget, man — she just walked up to me and kissed me. I didn’t know what to say, but I was like man, I love L.A. I love L.A. — Suga Free

The best L.A. parties were the Just Be Cool parties. Everybody wanted to be at that, and everybody was. — Polyester the Saint, rapper

I grew up in Boyle Heights, off of Soto Street, and my grandma’s house is right there. Any family gathering, party, occasion, holiday is always at my grandparents’ house. That’s what I think of when I think of the best L.A. party: My family parties. More specifically, my grandma’s birthdays. She’s going to be 94 this year, so for the past couple years we hire mariachi; one of the last ones, we had my friends DJ. We have really good food. — Que Madre, DJ

One of our homies was a DJ at a few of the poppin’ nightclubs in the L.A. scene. I remember he put on “Mayor” — the dirty version before the label cleaned it up and put the massive mixing and mastering on it — we had a dirty version that slapped. The bass was crazy. The jump was crazy. The vocal sounds gritty. When they heard it in the club and we heard it, I was like, Ooh, we got one. I think Kevin Hart was there. He was chillin’ on the wall and was like, “Y’all look like rappers.” — Like, Pac Div

When I was in high school, the best parties used to be at this house in View Park on a street called Kenway. It has this beautiful view of Hollywood, the whole city of L.A. DJ Kenway used to DJ those legendary parties. I also used to throw these backyard boogies. DJ Mustard — who was the poppin’ party DJ before he was a world-famous producer — used to DJ those parties in my backyard. Hugh Augustine, rapper and chef

A Just Be Cool party, to go way back. It was so special because all these amazing artists were attending, their music is being played. They’re from the same community — maybe they’re cousins, maybe they’re relatives. To have the opportunity to have your music be heard or channel whatever gift that you have — that’s what was so beautiful. Gavin [Mathieu] and, Fred [McNeill Jr.], they put [Just Be Cool] together. Dom [Kennedy] was an independent rapper along with Pac Div and U-N-I. There’s Drew Byrd and Sean G, who are providing the sounds. It was just a community, a space where we could have fun, be ourselves and celebrate our lives. — Joyce Wrice, artist


Mustache, a party birthed by the late Los Angeles legend, Nacho Nava. It was the underground rave haven, ran by — and for — the dolls. — Mia Carucci, artist producer and DJ

A woman leans against a man.
“You feel so proud to be from L.A. when you’re in one room with people that are vibing to that dog whistle sound that Dr. Dre puts on his beats,” says DJ Bella Ferrada, photographed with Lalo Trejo.
(Angella Choe / For The Times)

The best party I have ever gone to in L.A. is definitely a classic Los Angeles warehouse party. My favorite is one that my friend Guadalupe Rosales, who runs Map Pointz and Veteranas and Rucas, threw. She’s from an L.A. party crew, and they’ve been doing that since the ‘90s. But I didn’t experience that — I’m 25. So she threw one in 2019 and it was just everything I ever wanted. DJ Irene played an amazing set. She’s one of the West Coast DJ legends. Richard Vission was dropping the K-Rock jams. It was like a perfect blend of West Coast music, house music, all the K-Rock classics. — Bella Ferrada, DJ

We were putting on shows for all of Dom Kennedy, U-N-I, Pac Div’s first concerts in L.A. Our first festival show, Global Coolin’, was with Kendrick Lamar. It’s funny if you look at that bill, he’s at the bottom of the list. He rose to the top but he was at the bottom, like under Casey Veggies. — Fred McNeill Jr., event producer, DJ, co-founder of Just Be Cool

I do a party called Thank God It’s Monday, and at the time it was at a venue called Shoo Shoo Baby (now it’s at a venue called Apotheke in Chinatown). Six hundred people would come every Monday and the energy they brought into the space was so beautiful. One night, Janelle Monáe comes in. I started playing gospel music. I start playing Kirk Franklin, “Stomp” and everybody is singing. Then I started playing this other gospel song and you see the entire room turn into a choir, including Janelle Monáe! I give her the microphone and she starts to riff with the entire room. It was this beautiful moment of people feeling and experiencing their community, fully. Earry Hall, DJ and event curator