January 22, 2007

AtD Feature: Better Know A Genre - Hyphy

Welcome to our second installment of "Better Know A Genre." Following up on part I, which dealt with shoegaze, we're going to change gears quite a bit and explore an emerging Bay Area trend coined "hyphy."

MTVNews.com has a special report on the movement, wherein they refer to 'hyphy' as:

To paraphrase Humpty Hump from Bay Area legends Digital Underground, these kids are doing what they like, how they like; getting "dumb, stupid and retarded" — and the thing that's getting them so worked up is a jittery, sped-up, synth-powered strain of hip-hop they call "hyphy,"...
MTV goes on to explain some of the customs associated with the movement, including one called "gas-brake dippin'," in which you hop into your car and alternate hitting the gas and hitting the brake in a rapid succession. And to raise the stakes, sometimes all the doors will be opened, and the music blasted to it's most blaring.

But it doesn't nearly end there. The Wiki covers more of the slang and ritual associated with Hyphy:
  • "Ghost ride the whip" - Driver walks alongside slow-rolling car with the door open, giving the appearance that the car is driving itself. Passengers ride with all the doors open and sometimes leap out of the moving cars, sometimes dancing on top of the hood.
  • "Going or getting dumb/stupid/bananas/silly/ignorant/retarded/hyphy/Ridin' the yellow bus" - is the main concept, which means having a good time while ignoring society's negative opinion of "uncivilized" behavior.
The term started, it seems, as many slang terms do, as a negative. Hyphy could be used to describe picking fights, knocking someone out, or even shooting up a block, but it's meaning quickly evolved to include things like this:
To wit, if you see a hip-hop head doing an insane, nonsensical dance—eyes rolled back, arms akimbo, looking like an epileptic zombie—he’s hyphy. If you see someone so beautiful you stop and do a blatant double take, you’d call her hyphy
But hyphy had to be something more than just behavior or language:
"It's like back in the day with the breakdancing, it's evolved into a culture," says Rick Rock, who is credited as being the king of hyphy like Lil Jon is the king of crunk. "It's like the new generation, the crack-baby era: the dreadlocks shaking, riding with all four doors open. It's how the kids are feeling these days. There was a time when northern California [music] was more mild and slow and laid-back. I came and brought this super-fast hyphy sound. I put the music to the culture."
Hyphy is also notable for originating in and being specifically tied to the "Yay Area." However, hyphy might be ready for prime time across the country. Whether or not that gets hooked up, I'll leave to MSNBC to speculate. One thing is undeniable, though: hyphy is the Bay Area's own breed of lively insanity and it will hopefully put the locale back on the map as an epicenter of hip-hop trend setting. (Tupac and Master P among many others hail from here).

For much more on Hyphy, check these resources:

Alphabetical list of hyphy artists

The Hyphy Show

AllHipHop.com Feature: The Bay's Hip-Hop Revenge

Hood Check: Hyphy: California Crunk

And of course, The Federation featuring E-40 with "Hyphy":

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