Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hyphy 101: An unofficial introduction

I just thought this picture was hella funny

Savvy readers of "The Beat" will note that I have devoted a generous amount of blog space to the impending "Hyphy" national phenomenon. Now, don't get it twisted: by no means am I trying to get my Nostradamous on, nor my Walter Mercado on. It's just something I have noticed bubbling on the surface, and especially since the Yay Area is only an hour and a half drive away from Salinas.

But it looks like the Hyphy movement (why do rappers insist on calling any sort of trend a movement?) is getting some legs. You can see the first end to end burner here, in the form of the new video for E-40 and Keak da Sneak's mega-single "Tell Me When to Go."

The video, filmed in stunning black and white with black cinema screen borders, is a winner: stoic shots of 40-water and Keak on some true artsy ish, along with slo-mo treatment to the popular dance and car maneuvers that have been the ground work for the Hyphy movimiento.

Probably the best article pertaining to the hyphy movement is available on MTV.com. Go here to check it out. MTV VJ Sway, a Bay Area native who hosts the legendary "Wake-Up Show" on behemoth radio station KMEL, helped produce the piece, so it's pretty legit.

So at this point in the article, half of you are probably following along in full command of this ever-evolving movement I speak of. The other half are probably wondering aloud "What the heck does hiffee mean? For those of you that know it is pronounced high-fee, you can skip the next few paragraphs. The rest of you, come with me:

"Hyphy" is a form of music and dance, along with allusions to car club culture, originated in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area. The term was coined by Oakland rapper "Keak da Sneak," a gravel-toned turf-rapper who originally belonged to a group called 3XKrazy. It is short for "Hyperactive," and used in a sentence, might sound like "That kid was getting hyphy all up in the club, fashizzado (another superlative meaning "For Sure.").

The dance is pedestrian,and the more the merrier. Folks who "Get Hyphy" (see also "Get Stupid," "Go Dumb," "Do the Yellow Bus") display spastic, uncontrolled body movements not unlike those seen by someone experiencing a seizure. Theirs is a mishapen rhythm, usually in tune to the thunderous bass that is the metronome for most of the music.

Attached to the hyphy movement is an underground car culture that has existed in the Bay Area for several decades that is both extremely popular and extremely dangerous. Known as "Side Shows," folks take their customized cars (usually late 70s-80s American-made models) and in random intersections, dead ends, and parking lots, begin doing donuts, spin-outs, and other dare devil stunts.

Others, beit folks off the street or fellow cruisers, will gather around and egg on the drivers. This will sometimes result in great bodily harm and, in some extreme instances, death to those who stand idly, as these untrained stunt drivers lose control of their vehicles once they careen into crowds. It's not uncommon for folks to sustain serious injuries, be they drivers or on-lookers, at your typical Side Show.

But the music is the focal point: while the standard Roland 808-bass thump permeates throughout most hyphy music (songs that fall under the hyphy genre are often referred to as "slaps," signifying the way the heavy bass "slaps" the listener), the signature is in the sometimes chaotic, urgent basslines, punctuated by sonic computer bleeps and other high-tension noises.

The music is different from most of the slow rolling g-funk that was previously popular on the West Coast. It sounds like a mix of G-Funk synth patterns and early 1990s Bomb Squad production, the sound that was popularized by Public Enemy and Ice Cube at that time. It also has some liking to the Neptunes early production sound, with lots of grinding electronic bass chords and a wall of drone underneath it all.

One of the more alarming elements regarding hyphy is the assertion that it is "crack baby music." This music is inspired by the generation of crack babies that are now in their late teens in the Bay Area. Alot of them suffer from such conditions as ADD and have problems with coordination and various learning disabilities. The movement's themes of "going dumb" and "Getting stupid" fall in line with those conditions. No attempt is made to hide this fact.

Now, folks will invariably compare "hyphy" to "Crunk," and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The energy is the same, all machismo and hard-party style. But the dancing is what drives hyphy over the edge.

Crunk was like all-out war, mosh-pit style thrashing inspired by punk rock and skater attitude. Hyphy is driven by the Bay Area's underground dance music/rave scene, where hard partying, staying out all night and dancing with reckless abondon is a given. There is also a tinge of trance and drum and bass mentality in some of the music, although I'm not one to try and detail that.

It's yet to be seen whether "Hyphy" can get some national attention, at least not in the way Houston's syrup and Cadillac culture caught on at about this time last year. Hyphy is very much a regional phenomenon, and because all of the rappers are independent artists who shun the corporate record label system, the theory is that they aren't likely to get much national attention.

But that could soon change. Last year, the song "Super Hyphy" by Keak got spins outside of the Bay Area, most notably in Los Angeles, a major music market. When music gets play in other regions, it's a good sign.

And possibly by the end of this year, we'll see little kids in Harlem going dumb and getting hyphy. Or thugs in Atlanta doing tight ones in their scrapers, pimpin' a white tee and stunner shades. Or maybe not.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's how we do in the town, son, thought you knew--
Oaktown's finest +

Anonymous said...

once again, you have laid it down in a way that works for both those who know and those who don't (yet). brother you are well on your way to knocking off Patricia Rose as Hip Hop's top scholar.

Anonymous said...

once again, you have laid it down in a way that works for both those who know and those who don't (yet). brother you are well on your way to knocking off Patricia Rose as Hip Hop's top scholar.

Dee said...

Wow!! I've never seen a funny pick like this b 4?

Anonymous said...

IT HAD TO BE A WHITEBOY GETTIN STUPID!!!!!