Monday, March 3, 2008

Hyphy Article

I wrote this for my school newspaper in October of 2006

I'm From the Bay, Where We Hyphy and Go Dumb…or Am I?

How the Hyphy Movement Tears Me Apart.

As the commercialization of hip-hop kills the concepts of the true MC and DJ, our radios are being besieged by simplistic lyrics over droning and monotonous beats. Today's rap music makes old people mistakenly condemn the music I grew up with, calling it unoriginal, abrasive, and idiotic. However, after hearing what is being played on the radio, I can understand why.

At the same time, though, people generalize about how rap has always degraded women and promoted violence, they neglect to remember the messages of old school artists such as Grandmaster Melle Mel, Rakim and KRS-One. I almost laugh when ignorant critics disparage the synthesizer-ridden and simplistic beats that have become the norm in rap songs today, even though they probably don't have a clue who DJ Premier, Marley Marl, or Pete Rock are.

With all this criticism, people are saying that hip-hop is officially dead, and being a hip-hop fan ever since I could crank Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" to full blast on my Walkman, it's hard for me to let rap go. But when listening to new acts like Yung Joc, Young Jeezy, and Rick Ross, I feel as though hip-hop has committed suicide.

This whole death thing is making me depressed. I've listened to rap for so long and now it's going to straight-up bounce on me?! What do I have to look forward to? I guess I'm going to have to find some gold in this pile of garbage. And as I look though the muck, I have stumbled upon the local rap scene: Hyphy.

Over the past few years, the Bay Area has produced a new sound. Using less thought-provoking and more party style, simplistic lyrics accompanied by bass-heavy beats, Hyphy has put our community on the hip-hop map. Hyphy rappers such as Mac Dre, E-40, Mr. FAB and Keak the Sneak are finally beginning to get the attention they deserve. Besides the music, Hyphy has become a social movement in a sense. It has created its own culture, with crazes like sydeshows where people gather together to throw their scrapers (a flashy yet cheap car that is suped-up to show off performance) into donuts. Hyphy has also invented a new dance style called "going dumb", which is basically the act of jumping up and down to the beat of the music, and the Bay's unique swagger is portrayed by stunna-shades and grills.

But I know what you're thinking: aren't Hyphy's unsophisticated lyrics what you just criticized in the rap of today? Well, to a degree, yes. It is hypocritical to show respect to this form of hip-hop and deem others as garbage. However, to really understand why Hyphy is somewhat appealing to an old-school-hip-hop-head, like myself, one would have to look back to hip-hop's true roots.

"You could put this in the hip-hop Bible"- E-40

The origins of hip-hop are sketchy, but records show that the music form was born in the Bronx during the mid 70's. Its true intention was to keep kid's minds off of gang violence. Block parties were set up by rap pioneers like DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, whose goals were to keep hostility out of the 'hood through the power of music. Soon, hip-hop block parties spread all over New York, and kids began to drop their guns to battle on the mic. Accordingly, the mentality of rap was to promote one's culture and have a good time doing so, which is what Hyphy does. "Hip-hop started out as a way to party, for kids to put down the drama and pick up the microphone," said's Urban Music Editor Brolin Winning, "Hyphy is super popular with the youth out here and it gives them something more constructive to do." In its essence, Hyphy stays true to the meaning of hip-hop, and through this we also gain a place to showcase the Bay's unique culture.

"Bouncing up and down like the floor is a trampoline"- Mr. F.A.B.

Even though it sticks with the Bambaataa motive, Hyphy is still a sign of how the quality of rap has declined over the years. With uneducated lyrical attempts and a penchant of self-deprecation with the "go dumb" dance, Hyphy just doesn't seem to compare to previous hip-hop cultures such as the Native Tongues and the Juice Crew. Acalanes graduate and current Bay Area hip-hop producer Jordan Diaz explains that "if you like E-40 and Mac Dre, that great, but if you really know the roots of hip-hop, then you would realize that Hyphy is kind of a dumbed-down, watered-down music." Losing my brain cells while bouncing my dreads isn't my style, so it annoys me that this is what represents the Bay in the hip-hop World.

"Sitting in my scrapper, watching Oakland go wild... Ta-dow"- E-40

And that is the true quandary; this is my community that this music represents. Aren't I supposed to embrace whatever my community puts out there? At least Hyphy gets us noticed on TRL as that hot Asian chick retires the E-40's "Tell Me When to Go" video. It has taken a long time for that to happen. Too $hort has been in the game before Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Jay-Z put out their first solo, and Mac Dre has more records than Jerry Rice (think about it). "I think it just helps people not from here get some idea of the things going on," Winning said, "there hasn't really been many local artists to blow on a national level since Tupac died, and personally I'm happy to see the Bay getting attention and love from other regions" So finally, for once we are being noticed.

"Go stupid, that's what we do good"- Mac Dre

However, what is the Bay's hip-hop scene being noticed for? The Hyphy trend today is to look as immature as possible and act like a 5-year-old during a tantrum. Also, Hyphy symbols like the thizz face, (a facial expression related to the use of Ecstasy) and sydeshows (mentioned before) display the illegal actions which Hyphy promotes, which is in no way what Bambaataa wanted. Hip-hop has gone from the graffiti-tagging, break-dancing, b-boying style of the golden era ('87-'94), to the gun-coking, female-discriminating, bling-bling rap of the mid 90's to early 21st century, and now the club-bumping,, dumb-acting, unintelligible lyricism of ATL's Crunk and Bay Area's Hyphy. The problem is that people are forgetting what hip-hop is supposed to be, and where all this came from. Diaz said that, "we should always respect the hip-hop forefathers, and we should remember when hip-hop was hella pure." If anything, Hyphy has done a good job creating new vocabulary for the hip hop dictionary, so I have to give mad props to that.

"The soil where these rappers be getting their lingo from"- E-40

In the hip-hop world, the Bay Area is known for its inventive and immense vocabulary. Without the Bay Area's inclination for code talk, the hip-hop dictionary would have stopped at "dope". The vernacular that the entire Bay has produced over the years is prolific. For instance, the word "shizzle" is synonymous with Snoop Dogg, but it was actually coined by Mr. Hyphy himself, E-40. In fact, a Bay Area rapper named Seagrams created an entire song using the "izzle" language, with an exception of one line: "White folks trynna get up on the convo". Another term that belongs to the Bay is "yadidamean", a condensed version of "you know what I mean" with a rolled "d" probably stemming from a Hispanic influence. It has been colloquialized even more into many forms (yadidabooboo, yadidimsayin, yadida, and my favorite: Yarla-damean). Other words found in the Hyphy dictionary include "flamboastin'" (flaunting your possessions), " adoobadabbadeeba" (a verbal agreement; yes), "gerbazll'n" (to act foolish; stemming from the verb to gerbazlle), and "gouda" (money; cash). So now when someone asks you "hey-yo, can you hook a partna up with some gouda so I can get my flamboastin' on, homey, and don't gerbazlle on me, yadidamean?!" you can kindly respond by saying, "why adoobadabbadeeba, sir". Now Hyphy-followers have a distinct language that they can use, which is another attraction to Hyphy for me to consider.

I don't know what I'm going to do if hip-hop dies out anytime soon, but at least I got communal patriotism…yadidamean?!

Are you like me and don't want hip-hop to die like disco? Check out these up-coming releases
that try to bring a hip-hop Renaissance:

Rakim- Seventh Seal

Nas- Hip-Hop is Dead

Raekwon- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

Redman - Red Gone Wild

(haha only two of those four albums have come out and Redman's was the only good one)

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