It's been overshadowed by all the controversy surrounding violence within the video games, but the music in the Grand Theft Auto series has always been an essential element, and it came to a head with the grand soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto V. On Welcome to Los Santos, hip-hop producers the Alchemist and Oh No create new music inspired by the game, and while that may sound like a reach or a marketing gimmick, if crass motives created this awesome album then so be it. This kinetic mash of genres captures the excitement of flipping the radio dial in the game, a virtual experience that beats its real-life counterpart as one inspired track after another flies by. MC Eiht, Freddie Gibbs, and Kokane recast jazz-rap as thug music on the title track, while Gangrene and Earl Sweatshirt bring the scratchy, vinyl-era funk on "Play It Cool," and that's with Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands in tow. The closing and eerie "Bad News" is probably as close as Action Bronson and Danny Brown will ever come to recording a Dark Carnival-styled ICP track, and then there's "Lock and Load," with MNDR and Killer Mike sounding both angelic and tough as nails at the same time. Appearances from Popcaan and Vybz Kartel prove that GTA is always way ahead of radio when it comes to exposing dancehall to America's youth, and with selections from Wavves, Phantogram, Ariel Pink, and Dam-Funk dotting the track list, the virtual DJs win over the real-life ones when it comes to hip as well. You don't have to play video games to appreciate how alive, inspired, and awesome this album is, but chances are you'll want to, as the best radio stations all beam their excellence out of a tower located somewhere in Los Santos.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Tunde Adebimpe
feat: Vybz Kartel
feat: King Avriel
feat: Little Dragon