Refined and Fly

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Have you ever heard of the following terms?

"Hyphy," "Go Stupid," "Go Dumb," "Thiz Face, "Stunna Shades," "Ghostride the Whip"

Are you drawing a blank?

How about: "Hella," "Playboy," "You Smell Me?" and "Wassup Pimpin?"

Still no dice?

The abovementioned phrases originated from where I'm from...the Bay Area, CA. A lot of people still think that the Bay Area is just a place for hippies, and there are still some around. When I tell people that I'm from South Berkeley (if they have heard of Berkeley at all), they automatically assume that I live near the campus, or the infamous Telegraph Avenue where you'll find a lot of, I'll say, unique people, and yes, some hippies, tie dye, vendors, smoke shops, college students, rockers, and naked folks (and yes, I have seen them...not pretty).

But the part of Berkeley that I am from is closer to North Oakland, where there is more of a significant Black, and now Mexican and Asian population, who live out more of an "urban" way of life (this seperation of sorts was due to boundaries being placed on the African American population in the mid-20th century which prohibited them from moving beyond a certain point, hence a concentrated Black population residing away from the campus area...not so utopian and liberal is it?). This is the part of the Bay Area that many people don't see due to their overarching ideas of what they've heard about Oakland (isn't that where the Oakland A's are from?), the Castro in San Francisco (a predominantly homosexual area), or U.C. Berkeley (the renowned institution of higher learning). The Bay Area has the hood just like many other places, that is just not the image that is projected across America.

But there's a movement goin' on, and I ain't talkin' bout Niagra or Black Power. I'm talkin' bout the Hyphy Movement. Rapper E-40 (from Vallejo, CA) breaks it down like this:

"Hyphy music is like Crunk, but in a more up-tempo way. The culture is a way of life for Bay kids. We got the side shows, the muscle cars, we ghost ride the whip, we got the invisible driving, the music, the go dumb get stupid dances, we just actin' a fool expressing ourselves...We were smokin' up the block, turning donuts and figure 8's. We had the hyphy train crackin'. Just imagine 300 cars riding back to back after a party with every car, van, camper or truck with all they doors open, shakin' their dreads, showing their grill, sporting stunna shade glasses, dancing on top of the roofs and hoods of the whip, campaigning like the president, like a big parade. It's just a whole bunch of super energy. You gotta see it."

And when you hear the music, it can be infectious. You might get extra agressive or drive your whip a little faster and bend some corners, so I can see the similarities to crunk in that sense. And it can be fun, depending on your interests and how you grew up. "Hyphy, in my white T, and my Black jeans, and my Nikes," is part of the hook in a song called "Hyphy," by newcomers, the Federation, who helped usher in this movement. That one phrase tells you just how people, particularly young males, act and dress, which is important when looking at the identity of a group of people and how they represent themselves.

Now, am I an advocate of goin' dumb? No. It doesn't send the best message to the babies and being amongst a whole lotta people goin' dumb can be dangerous or just wild as hell, depending on what's going on. And it ain't just Black folks (although we're leading the way)...White people are goin' dumb, Mexicans, Chinese, Vietnamese...the hyphy movement is not bound by ethnicity, and if that way of life is applicable to you and your experience, you go for it, no matter what you are. However, I gotta give it up to my folks in the Bay for creativity and style. We have a lot of flavor in the Bay (partly due to the influence of a heavy pimp culture), and unfortunately, a lot of people have not been exposed to Bay Area music (besides, Hieroglyphics, Goapole, Too Short, E-40). And finally, we have Keyshia Cole, who is from East Oakland, CA.

The Bay is also a space where you can really eat off of having a local fan base. If 50,000 people buy your album, and you're selling it independently, you're not struggling, and a lot of Bay Area artists who have been out for a decade plus are living off of their music, without national exposure, i.e. Mac Mall, San Quinn, C-Bo, and Mac Dre (R.I.P.). Truthfully, I am not sure if the hyphy music translates to the rest of the country (although much slang has come from the left coast) because the culture is so insolated. You almost have to grow up out there to really get it and appreciate it. However, a new song out by E-40, featuring Keak da Sneak called, "Tell Me When to Go," seeks to take the Hyphy Movement nationwide. When one of my students in my program came in singing, "Tell Me When to Go" (as in, "Tell Me When to Go Dumb"), I had mixed feelings. First, I was elated that a song fromthe Bay Area with Bay Area artists is getting some national airtime in 2006. Then, I thought, is it a good thing for kids who already are not into knowledge for knowledge's sake to repeat that affirmation? It's tricky, especially for me, cuz I love my people and am loyal to where I'm from (still have my accent after 4 and 1/2 years in Power Born). But for all that it is and all that it is not, this video provides a clear representation of the Hyphy Movement, and how a lotta folks kick it in the Bay.

Let your myths and previous ideas about the Bay Area, CA fall by the wayside...

P.S. You may not be able to understand Keak da Sneak; just try to feel him :-)

R.I.P to Mac Dre. He would be proud.


  • At 8:40 PM, Blogger Aymara Islasia said…

    Peace Queen!!!
    You introduced me to a whole new world. I checked out the video...very interesting :)
    I must point out though, what i LOVED was that for once in a very long time i got to see a video that didnt include any nearly-naked women in it shaking something i dont want to see shaking. that was Peace.


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