14 Awesome Songs Inspired By Los Angeles You Either Forgot About or Never Heard Of

February 3, 2015 by Kelly Silva

Thinking of adding some L.A. inspired songs to your music rotation?

Below I’ve compiled a list that’ll fit the bill, but please note that “I Love LA” by Randy Newman, “Los Angeles” by X, “Under The Bridge” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and similar songs have purposefully been omitted.

[RELATED: Songs You Listen to When You’re Stuck on the 405]

I wanted to dig juuuuuuust a bit deeper than that, looking for some gems that once may have been popular but have since faded from public memory. Or maybe a few songs folks have ever heard of in the first place.

Also, if you’re a Spotify user, check out the playlist already constructed for you on their, and go ahead and follow our Spotify profile for more L.A. inspired tunes.

Enjoy the music!

“405” by Death Cab For Cutie

The 405 freeway. A running joke, a nightmare, a vital thoroughfare, an unofficial landmark amongst westsiders. Even urging a band from Washington to use it as the perfect backdrop for their song about being in a relationship with someone who isn’t clear about their intentions : “you keep twisting the truth, that keeps throwing me askew..”  Much like a lot of our freeways, the 405 is supposed to run in a particular direction (north and south) but doesn’t. It veers northwest and southeast, at certain points actually runs east and west (not for a very far distance, but still!), and hardly any of it actually runs north and south. Kind of deceptive there, 405. Too poetic for a freeway? You must have never missed an exit during rush hour. Oh, the pain….

“Los Angeles Is Burning” by Bad Religion

When it gets hot and dry, there are outbreaks of fires in and around the hills of the greater Los Angeles area. They’re an absolute nightmare for everyone: throngs of people evacuating, causing gridlock on freeways and surface streets,  which sometimes need to be completely blocked off; the tragic loss of homes and businesses; and the air quality sometimes becoming dangerous. “Los Angeles Is Burning” is Bad Religion’s response to the media’s sensationalism of the the devastating 2003 Cedar fire. They believe the media fans the flames so to speak for the sake of ratings, viewership, and gaining more sponsors, and ultimately heightening the sense of fear and panic across the southland.

“Police Story” by Black Flag

There are a lot of songs about the police brutality dished out by the LAPD, but Black Flag sums it up for the youths of the South Bay area: a never-ending, losing war, with no end in sight. But instead of lying down and taking it Black Flag vow to keep getting back up and fighting on.

“This Is L.A.” by The Briggs

“This is L. A.
Our city our home.
Los Angeles,
We never walk alone.
Forever true we’ll stay
In tribute to our city,
No matter where we go
This is our home.”

’nuff said.

“We Are Los Angeles” by The Goon Squad

Los Angeles is proudly called home by many, and both of these songs can inspire such pride, especially at the Staples Center where either are chanted during L.A. King’s games. The Goon Squad’s “We Are Los Angeles” is more of a straight forward and spirited fight song. Like The Goon Squad, The Briggs are proud to live in L.A., and “This Is L.A.” serves as a love letter to a place they are proud to call home and couldn’t imagine leaving. To live here you may have to pay to a price (like anything worth having), but the reward of getting to be here is worth a million times more than whatever that price is. With a LA-positive message, and being fun to sing along with, it’s no surprise it’s not only an anthem for the King’s, but for the L.A. Galaxy as well.  

“Reggae Hit L.A.” by The Aggrolites

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the lyrics of “Reggae Hit L.A.” as a song about Los Angeles, although it’s celebratory and there are a few shout out to some hip local neighborhoods.  But the song as a whole, and its very existence is. It’s a reminder that L.A.’s musical landscape is vast, varied, and goes well beyond mainstream radio. The Aggrolites have carved themselves a nice little niche in the L.A., and international reggae, music scenes by making  music inspired by 1960’s Jamaican reggae that’s heavily influenced by Los Angeles (brown-eyed soul, and Chicano rock and oldies of Los Angeles). They call it “Dirty Reggae”, a self-created a sub genre of LA style reggae, and “Reggae Hit LA” fits the perfectly.

“Hoover Street” by Rancid

Centered around of LA’s toughest neighborhoods, notorious for gang violence, especially Salvadorian gang MS 13, Rancid’s “Hoover St.” tells a story that’s bleak but common in the neighborhood surrounding Hoover Street. It’s centered around two characters, brother and sister, caught in a place where “you either get out, die or go to jail”.  Between the palm trees, and the beaches and the Hollywood sign, Rancid reminds us that there places like Hoover Street that are misunderstood, underrepresented, and too often ignored.

“April 29, 1992” by Sublime

Looking back on the verdict of the trial surrounding the beating of Rodney King by the LAPD, and the riots that resulted, Sublime’s story about a looter became part of the dialogue on the verdict and police brutality. According to the media, either you believed the police were just doing their jobs and the rioters were merely criminals using the verdict as an excuse to loot and destroy property, or the riots were an explosion of anger and frustration pointed at police brutality, and a loss of faith in the justice system. But there were other ways to look at the verdict and the resulting riots, and Sublime’s perspective was of someone who happens to be in the middle of the chaos.

The main character lives in a neighborhood in Long Beach where a lot of people are distrustful and suspicious of police, and struggling to make ends meet. He and his friends see looting not as a political statement, but as a self-serving chance to grab things they need or want but can’t afford otherwise, and then tries to rationalize it by mentioning a mother looting for baby diapers. Whether this song made an excuse for the anarchy, or was in solidarity with those affected by police brutality, this inevitably became a political statement because it brought attention to the condition of neighborhoods like Sublime’s Long Beach.

“City of Angels” by 30 Seconds To Mars

Following your dreams to Hollywood-it’s nothing new, yet it never gets old. Jared Leto won his dream as a critically acclaimed actor, a rockstar, and having the prettiest hair in Hollywood. But he too was once a mere mortal, one of millions among the vastness of La La Land all trying to win the same game. When you’re in a big city, and surrounded by people dreaming the same dream, it can be overwhelming and scary, and make you feel like you’re drowning in insignificance. But “City of Angels” reassures us that feeling lonely amongst millions of people in this big city to fight for your dream is more comforting and exhilarating than being anywhere else.

“S.C. Drunx” by South Central Riot Squad

When punk became a fashion statement again, it spun out of control, landing in the wrong hands. When a suburban toddler is wearing a Ramones T shirt, something isn’t right in Punkville. Luckily, the disenfranchised youth of LA (especially in South and East LA) have yet again made their mark in punk history by putting it back on the right track, by keeping it on the wrong side of the tracks where it belongs. Loud, fast, and clocking in at just over a minute, SCRS breathed new life into the spirit of rebellion with “S.C. Drunx”. With shout outs to neighborhoods that are hotbeds of punk activity, “S.C. Drunx” describes gigs are DIY, and under the radar (meaning backyards and warehouses without permits-gasp!), BYOB (quite possibly underage drinking is involved-gasp again!), and lots of good old fashioned debauchery. Best of all, mom would not approve, much less send her 3 year old to daycare in a South Central Riot Squad T shirt.

“Santa Monica” by Everclear

In Everclear’s “Santa Monica”, a man wants to go back to two former loves, an old flame and Santa Monica, and escape whatever hell-pit he wandered off to (because seriously, most places are hell-pits after being in Santa Monica). He can’t wait to be back under the sunshine and in the comfort the Pacific Ocean. Oh yeah, and get back together with his ex, but probably wants to get back together with Santa Monica more. And you can’t even blame him, because the west coast is the best coast.

“How To Survive In South Central” by Ice Cube

Usually where we hear L.A. song by Ice Cube we are immediately drawn to “Today Was A Good Day”, but “How To Survive In South Central” is a more detailed look at life in 1990’s South L.A. As part of the “Boyz In The Hood” soundtrack, it depicts the violence and survivalism in a part of Los Angeles that was rarely seen. While the rest of the country was equating “Baywatch” with life in southern california, Ice Cube described an entirely different world. A world where your life is at risk everyday, and a specific unwritten code must be followed in order to survive.

“Angel City” by Motorhead

This one is a throwback to a time not that long ago when the Sunset Strip was a legendary haven for good old fashioned sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. The perfect place for a rockstar’s Saturday night (you know the kind that starts Thursday night and crashes Monday morning?). Nothing a little penicillin and rehab couldn’t fix. Back when rock ‘n roll was still dangerous, when Motorhead and Guns N Roses and Motley Crue and such would hold court at the Rainbow, trash hotel rooms, and participate in the backstage antics that were illicit, rumored, and the stuff of legends.

“Whittier Blvd” by Thee Midniters

Escept for a few maniacal laughs, and shouts and yells, “Whittier Blvd.” is an instrumental. A bright and frenzied blend of surf, soul, and rock n’ roll, it captures a time in 1960’s when cruising the main drag of Whittier Boulevard was popular.

What are your favorite L.A. inspired songs that you’d add to a list such as this? Let us know in the comments below and so we can add them to the Spotify playlist!

View Points

7 Underappreciated Aspects of Los Angeles That The Haters Get All Wrong

December 18, 2014 by Kelly Silva

You know those people. The ones that constantly hate on Los Angeles. And you’ve heard their criticisms.

Overpriced, devoid of culture, too much traffic, no public transportation, no seasons, just a flat stretch of concrete with a few palm trees….. and that’s not the worst of it. According to some we all fit into nifty, convenient stereotypes. Categories like self absorbed hipsters, gang bangers shooting up the hood or entertainment industry phonies who think of nothing else but our next kale smoothies and boob jobs.

But as an L.A. native with a fair bit of experience in this town, I take some serious issues with these assertions.  And it starts with how outsiders view the people of Los Angeles.

Hmmm… yeah, let’s start there.


Nickel Diner Los Angeles

Credit: Ryan Vaarsi via flickr

1. L.A. People are Fake? False.

One of the biggest stereotypes about L.A. is this caricature of someone who’s looks and acts status obsessed, works (or wants to) in the entertainment industry and name drops until the point it makes you want to vomit.

According to numbers from 2012 via the chief economist of the L.A. County Development Corp. there are roughly 247,000 entertainment industry jobs in Los Angeles. Compare that to the 10,000,000 residents countywide, and you can do the math. Even if every entertainment industry worker was as phony and shallow as they say, it would still only represent about 2.5% of our population. Health care, retail, and even manufacturing out rank entertainment in L.A.’s top industries.

Moreover, use the eyeball test.

Take a look around anywhere in L.A. and be proven wrong. We’re so diverse in so many ways, it’s impossible for any singular type to personify us. Koreatown, Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Little Ethiopia… the ethnic enclaves, and hip neighborhoods (which often overlap), are perfect examples of what a lot of Angelenos are really like: diverse, hard-working, and totally authentic. You won’t see paparazzi or any TMZ tour buses stalking most of these neighborhoods, because there’s such a glaring absence of the Industry in those parts of town.

2. L.A. Only Does Mexican Food Well? Wrong, wrong, wrong…

Mexican food is only the tip of the culinary iceberg. L.A. is having a food moment, but for generations we’ve had a really wide and varied range of ethnic restaurants that seem like they are only now gaining more mainstream recognition. Anthony Bourdain sums it up really well:  “L.A. is 468 square miles of something, with 114 different neighborhoods–like Venice Beach, Koreatown, Hollywood, etc., known for the people that settled there and the cuisines they serve”.

We’re so close to our food source, and have access to such a variety of ingredients, it’s not hard to achieve authenticity.  We have so much quality at our fingertips, our chefs have no choice but to offer food that is simply good. But it’s not just the ingredients, it’s the innovators who almost rebelliously eschew the old culinary standards in favor of paying homage to their own cultural roots (or better yet, explore a whole other culture’s cuisine), and present something fresh and exciting.

Part of downtown’s reemergence is because of these innovators. More high end operations like Baco Mercat, Church & State, and Bestia have been attracting attention and repeat customers. Casual joints like Wurstküche and The Pie Hole are doing inventive and delicious things by focusing on doing one thing (sausage and pie, respectively), and doing it really well.

Faith & Flower has also been garnering much deserved attention, too. Chef Michael Hung did come from a classical French, Michelin-starred restaurant, but is putting his own modern, and Asian edge to classic dishes. He, and other chefs like Roy Choi, are making food that’s a real reflection of Los Angeles: complex, culturally diverse and, of course, delicious.

3. L.A. Public Transit Sucks? Not Nearly as Much as You Think

There actually are plenty of public transit options in L.A. Our bus system is extensive and reliable. We were ranked third out of America’s ten best cities for commuting on public transit. Our bus system is extensive and reaches throughout the southland. It’s also reliable, making it a convenient and less stressful way to commute. The Metro rail system is expanding, adding yet another option in cutting across L.A. without having to endure traffic.

According to StreetsblogLA, California just awarded CalTrans $550 million for transit capital projects. With about $200 million going to Los Angeles county, we can expect expansions of the Metro system’s light rail and subway systems, and buses. It’s only getting easier to ditch sitting in traffic!

Metro Tracks in Downtown Los Angeles

Credit: Neil Kremer via flickr

4. L.A. Has no Seasons? No, Our Weather is Just Better Than Yours

I heard a comedian say “we have seasons….the ones that don’t suck”. It’s true. Sometimes our summers have unbearably humid, 100+ degree moments, and sometimes it’s so dry, the hills catch on fire, but most of the year LA looks like a postcard. Some years our winters get just cold enough to feel like actual winter.

Except we don’t need to warm up our cars while digging them out of snow. We just hop in, and drive around with the windows down. Top down in December? You bet! Last year social media was filled with images of, and hashtags describing Christmas celebrations at beaches and pools.

But if you do want to play in the snow, the local mountains during winter months can provide that.  In less than two hours, you can be snowboarding in Big Bear or throwing around snowballs in Lake Arrowhead.

And while it does rain here, it’s rarely for more than a couple of days at a time (we could definitely use a bit more), then we’re left with bright blue skies, and drop dead gorgeous views (aka, the usual).

So in all honesty… what are you complaining about?!?!

5. L.A. Has no Arts or Culture? Seriously?

This one basically argues against itself.

Los Angeles is home to literally dozens of world class museums and botanical gardens. LACMA, the Getty Center, the Getty Villa, the Huntington Libary, Skirball Cultural Center, MOCA, ESMoa… the list could go on for days. There are world class music venues like the Hollywood Bowl and the Disney Concert Hall. Unique neighborhoods like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Little Ethiopia.

Plus there’s amazing cultural hubs like Grand Central Market and Mural Mile. And each entry on this list puts our diversity on display front and center, and highlight the locals who really make this town what it is.

Beyond that, Los Angeles is still the epicenter of  what is easily the most popular form of entertainment and culture in the entire country: Film and television. Duh!

So don’t tell me L.A has no culture. On the contrary, it helps shape our culture!

Saigon Plaza Los Angeles

Saigon Plaza. Credit: Ryan Vaarsi via flickr

6. Nobody Walks in L.A.? Not true

L.A. oft gets criticized because everyone is always in their car, but the blanket stereotype just doesn’t fit.

Here’s the thing: L.A. is huge. We’re known for our sprawl, and don’t have a center in the way a lot of other big cities do. But what we do have are a lot of areas that are very walkable.

For one, there’s all the recreation walking that gets done when people are exercising or exploring the city. Hiking trails, free walking tours, and outdoor retail spaces.

But more importantly, the walkability of L.A. neighborhoods is significantly underrated.

According to and Curbed, Los Angeles is the 13th most walkable city in the nation (hey, not terrible!) and this is mostly due to the fact that while Los Angeles is very spread out, there are specific enclaves that are actually a “walker’s paradise” where folks can live self-sufficiently without having to access their cars for essential services.

Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Pico-Robertson, Koreatown, Harvard-Heights… all of these are at or above the high 80’s according to data in terms of overall walkability. Moreover, there’s places to live like downtown Long Beach, Old Town Pasadena, and West Hollywood where you can find similarly high marks, if living in a walkable neighborhood is really a high priority for you.

The truth is many residents are choosing to make travel by foot a major part of their everyday routine, it just goes highly unnoticed.

7. L.A. is too expensive? Yes… and No

I know, I know… it’s tough to say L.A. isn’t expensive when a one-bedroom averages over $1600… and yet you can help offset that cost by taking advantage of the insane amount of free things to do here.

Are you an exercise enthusiast? Hiking is free, healthy, fun, and we have some great places to do it. Yes, there are the touristy spots like Runyon Canyon or the Hollywood Sign, But from Malibu to Diamond Bar, there are countless trails for any fitness level whether you’re looking for breezy easy or perhaps something a bit more challenging.

Museums? There’s more than 30 museums in the county that are free or have free days for you to explore.

Like music? Free or discounted performances are nearly endless in L.A., and with all these hopefuls trying to hit it big, there’s a lot of undiscovered talent out here. Why not check out Mondays nights at Satellite in Silverlake, which have been free since it was Spaceland, or free shows at Amoeba Records, or even just enjoying the Grand Performances that are put on every summer in DTLA.

And if if you need to shake it, free and cheap covers can be found at bars and dance clubs aplenty. One of the best is Dub Club at the Echoplex in Echo Park. It’s a Wednesday night standard, and a reggae institution. Usually free before 10 pm, sometimes there’s a $5-15 cover charge, depending on the DJ or band featured. In September, ska legends The Skatelites played for a mere $15 cover charge.

If comedy is your thing there are literally dozens of free monthly and weekly shows, including Upright Citizens Brigade and the iO West, which have multiple shows nightly that range from $10 to free. And while you’re watching someone who could be the next Jack McBrayer, Jack himself may just pop in and take his turn at the mic!

The point is, free stuff is abound… if you know where to look. And finding things to do that truly enrich your life doesn’t have to empty your bank account.

Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover

The bottom line… L.A. is more than just a pretty face.  In fact it’s more than any one thing.

It can be overwhelming at first, but once you settle in and take a look around, you’ll find out that we have substance and depth… more than most would give us credit for.

And the best part is the fun you’ll have peeling the layers and discovering it for yourself.

So peel away. 🙂