Ghost ride the whip while we dancing on the hood/ I’m ampped, feeling good/ I’m hyphy… (Mac Dre- “Get Stupid”)
In the eyes of young Oakland, Calif., residents, hyphy represents more than just a musical fad that is beginning to put their hometown back on the map.
They say it’s actually a bona fide lifestyle that has taken over Oakland in recent years and claimed its fair share of local followers and participants. Often defined as a cousin of crunk music from Atlanta, they explain that hyphy embodies the ultimate attitude of having fun and letting loose with no inhibitions. It involves everything from wearing extraordinarily large sunglasses, to performing countless donuts in cars.
“It’s several different phases of it,” Bay Area veteran rapper E-40 told http://www.manhunt.com. “It’s the way we talk. It’s wardrobe. It’s however you feeling. It’s energy.”
With the recent release of E-40’s new album “My Ghetto Report Card,” the hyphy movement is starting to gain national attention. The album debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart when it was released in March. Its first video, “Tell Me When to Go,” provides a prime representation of hyphy from the dances to the slang and it has received steady airplay on video channels.
Some Oakland youths say it originated in the late 1990s, but it was Bay Area rapper Keak da Sneak who officially gave it a name.
Jonathan Price, a 23-year-old theater education student from East Oakland, Calif., identified the untimely death of Tupac Shakur as one of the reasons hyphy was formed.
“We needed something to put smiles on faces,” Price said. “At first it was all gangsta rap. But when ‘Pac got killed, the feel-good music came out in the Bay to make us dance and have a good time. It was a breath of fresh air.”
Price said E-40 and Keak da Sneak are some of the biggest artists who depict “going dumb” and “getting stupid” in hyphy songs. But he said Mac Dre, who was killed in Kansas City in 2004, was one of the first rappers to address the newfound youthful energy in his music.
“He switched his style for us,” Price said. “I think if he were here right now, there would be that many more songs, dances and ‘slangonometry’ out than there is now.”
Some that have followed hyphy since it started in the Bay are pleased that it is finally branching out, but they are also concerned that Oakland will now only be known for “going dumb.”
“I’ve been out here for four years and to see it reaching out here is cool,” said Lauren Chambers, a 22-year-old fourth year business administration student from East Oakland. “However, the hyphy movement does portray only one image. So people that don’t know much about the Bay will think that’s all we’re about.”
Dominique Brundidge, a 21-year-old bio pre-med student from Fairfield, Calif., said he is glad people are finally recognizing hyphy because many have taken its style and ran with it.
“A lot of what people say came from the Bay,” Brundidge said. “Popping collars, saying fo shizzle, all that came from the Bay. It’s no animosity, but people need to recognize.”
DJ Skillz, a Chicago native who has DJ’ed in the Tallahassee club scene for four years, said he’s played at least four songs off E-40’s album, but he’s seen split reactions to them.
“I think this could have a strong stand for 2006, but things like this die out,” Skillz said. “Everything goes up and comes down. I give it two years.”
In any case, Price said the fact that people are paying attention to the “little town by the water” is good enough for him.
“Oakland gets skipped over all the time,” Price said. “But we know we’re clean. Even if you have a pond full of fish, that one fish from Oakland is going to stand out.”
Contact LeMont Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org