Hip-Hop to the Nth Degree: Hyphy

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Two young men goof around on a battered red car, one wearing a Hyphy T-shirt. i

Hyphy proponents aren't afraid to use goofy lyrics or to "go dumb" (act foolishly). Hong D. Hoang/Youth Radio hide caption

itoggle caption Hong D. Hoang/Youth Radio
Two young men goof around on a battered red car, one wearing a Hyphy T-shirt.

Hyphy proponents aren't afraid to use goofy lyrics or to "go dumb" (act foolishly).

Hong D. Hoang/Youth Radio

Hyphy is a rap style out of the suburbs of San Francisco, defined by its fast pace and intricate wordplay. It's now getting national attention, as rapper E-40 has an album in Billboard's top 100. Youth Radio's Tapan Munshi explains.


Styles of rap music are often associated with specific cities or even particular neighborhoods. Old-school hip-hop came out of Brooklyn and the Bronx. In the 1990s, gangster rap moved from Los Angeles into the mainstream. More recently, Atlanta has been fertile ground for new talent. Now, add to the cities that grow their own hip-hop styles Vallejo, California, outside of San Francisco. This new style is called hyphy, and it's been popular in the cities east of San Francisco for a while.

It's just now getting national attention. The godfather of hyphy, the rapper E-40, has an album in Billboard's Top 100. As Youth Radio's Tapan Munshi explains that hyphy is defined by its fast pace and intricate word play.

(Soundbite of hyphy rap music)

TAPAN MUNSHI reporting:

I see it as a relatively new sound out here in the Bay area, and hyphy means to be hyper, crazy or wild. It's different from a lot of other rap in that the beats are generally faster, and where a lot of rappers try to be too cool or too tough, hyphy rappers aren't afraid to be goofy with their rhyme style. A perfect example of that is Mac Dre's Feeling Myself. Check out the way he over-annunciates in his rap.

(Soundbite of Mac Dre's Feeling Myself)

MAC DRE (Rapper): (Rapping) He ain't doing it right, she's after your scritch, and I'm after hers, with the macking words near. I thought squares stayed sharp, you're nothing but a mark in the bucket skylark, I'm playing my part, I'm Mr. Furly, quit interrupting, I'm talking to your girly. I'm in the building, and I'm feeling myself.

MUNSHI: Mac Dre and a lot of other rappers who've come after him have really set the soundtrack to the lives of young people, likely on sites who grew up in Oakland, and hyphy is like gospel to them.

MAC DRE: The hyphy movement is an act of free living. It's like having the Holy Ghost. Something just comes over you. You just start moving, your body just comes over you. You can't stop, you hear a song, we get hyphy to Mary Had a Little Lamb, so you're doing stuff in style, you could say, energy with style.

MUNSHI: Along with the music, there's a whole bunch of terms associated with being hyphy, and just walking down the street, you can hear teens, like Ashley Jones, saying hyphy slang.

Ms. ASHLEY JONES (Bay area resident): Go dumb, get stupid, just all these terms for like ignorance or whatever.

(Soundbite of hyphy rap music)

MUNSHI: Now that hyphy music has blown up, I'm always talking with my friends, like Jason Valerio, about what it all means.

Mr. JASON VALERIO (Bay area resident): Yes, hyphy is a movement. I wouldn't necessarily say that it's a political movement. It's more just energy that is kind of constant with youth culture in general, so you had the punk movement back in the late '70s, early '80s, where music was very hard, and it's pretty much all about the energy.

(Soundbite of hyphy rap music)

MUNSHI: If you're in New York, rural-town Kansas, if you're in Detroit, Michigan, and you're not understanding what hyphy is and you haven't heard the music yet, you will soon.

BLOCK: This story was produced by Youth Radio. Tapan Munshi is a DJ in the San Francisco Bay area.

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