The history of the West Coast Get Down, LA’s jazz giants

Los Angeles in the 1990s wasn’t considered the safest place to grow up if you were young, Black, and working class. When there was a spike in homicides at the start of the decade, city officials placed the blame on rising tensions between the Bloods and the Crips, ignoring the social inequality and institutional racism that led to young people joining a gang in the first place. “There was a lot of turmoil and there really wasn’t much opportunity,” recalls Tony Austin, a teenager in LA in the 90s. “Most of the kids that I knew would join a gang and get drawn in by violence.” To stay out of trouble, Austin and his friends turned to music. “Jazz was an outlet for us to express our anger,” he says. “Some of the other kids we knew spoke with a gun, but we used music as our language.” The friends that Austin refers to make up the West Coast Get Down, an immensely talented, LA-based collective that has grown from a group of school friends using jazz as a form of escapism to become one of the most influential forces in contemporary music…

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