Sunday, March 26, 2006


People really want to know about hyphy, a particularly vibrant strain of Bay Area hip-hop youth culture. What is it?

At its heart, hyphy is just an expression of energy. And it's captivating: Maybe that's why vets like E-40 and Too $hort are helping introduce it to the rest of the world.

The day before Too $hort shot the video for his new single, "Blow The Whistle," we talked about hyphy (among other things, for a future interview on AllHipHop).

"That’s the part I’m trying to explain," he said, "Hip-hop is always evolving and it’s always mutating and it just mutated into hyphy. It just took on another leg, another arm, and it’s not really saying that this [alone] represents the Bay. From my experience, in the last 12 months a lot of people are uncomfortable with the hyphy. It’s not for them. But what I say is whoever’s doing it, whoever’s endorsing it, I’m not trying to put it down anyone’s throat. I’m just saying I like what all these youngsters are doing, and let 'em do it. That’s all I’m saying. Let 'em do it, and let 'em go as far as it can go. It’s just a dance, it’s just an attitude, it’s a movement. It’s just a certain musical sound emerging from it that makes you do the dance.

"Just this past week I talked to a lot of little white kids. I did a show in Santa Rosa [Sonoma County suburbs] and I’m like, what do you guys know about the hyphy movement? And they’re like, 'Oh we love it.' And I’m like, well can you do the dance? 'Nah, we can’t really do the dance.' Well, do a lot of people out here in Santa Rosa do the dance? 'No, not really but we like to dance to it. That’s all we listen to.' So they’re listening to the music because they didn’t hear about the actual hyphy dance, they don’t care about that. All the thizzing and stuff like that. They just love Keak Da Sneak and Mistah F.A.B. and all the songs they put out.

"To me that’s the most important part of it, the dance is what brought the whole movement about, but an actual musical sound came up out of it and that’s where I step in and go whoa, you’re on to something. There’s a sound and if you hear that sound it makes you do that dance, now you onto something. So basically as it becomes more of a movement people like me gotta step up and say here’s the music here’s the dance--you want any part of it? You like it? You don’t have to do the dance to like the music.

"It’s an endorsement, that’s all. I don’t think 40 would say, 'I’m about to stand up on a pedestal and take this movement to the masses, everybody follow me.' That would be wrong. Cuz me and him sat around and talked about the youngsters and how much our songs influenced them, but . . . me and 40 don’t jump out of cars and ghost ride the whip and go stupid hanging out of windows. We don’t do that shit. Somebody who does that needs to lead it. Mac Dre did that stuff. Keak da Sneak does that stuff. Mistah F.A.B. does that stuff, they need to lead the movement.

"40 and me just need to be the Bay Area ambassadors we are, just stayin up on the throne or whatever and just overlook the masses and just say, handle your business. I’m trying to be a guiding light, I’m like, man, don’t make the wrong decisions. Don’t sign stupid contracts, don’t let nobody else get your money and jack it off. I’m thinking like that. I’m like turn this into a business. Don’t turn the hyphy into a dance that comes and goes. Turn this into a business that families and kids and generations, try and get some money out of it. It’s somebody’s kids going to go to college because of crunk music. Somebody’s kids are gonna get a trust fund because of crunk, you know what I'm saying? Let’s do that with the hyphy."

I am learning that I can always count on $hort for some tight analysis. But, since pictures are always so much more descriptive than words, here's some "hyphy in action" shots I got on the set of "Blow The Whistle." I wasn't allowed to use a flash, which led to some of these great abstract shots, where the blurs really tell the story of the motion.

One of my hobbies that ties into my work is photographing people dancing, and I've had the opportunity to snap people in some of the funkiest cities in the world (Detroit, Atlanta, London, Berlin). So I can't say that I haven't seen this kind of spirit before, but hyphy is definitely a Bay Area thang.

Keak Da Sneak's "Super Hyphie (That's My Word)"

Federation feat. E-40's "Hyphy" (poor quality, but just to get the idea)


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