FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Although hip-hop culture has gone global, artists and fans often guard their local hip-hop scenes with fierce pride. The new MTV series airing on MTV2, My Block, profiles everything from small town music styles to big city slang and fashion. It's all about local talent doing hip-hop their own way.
Mr. SWAY CALLOWAY (Host, My Block): Snap music, the latest sound coming out of Atlanta, ain't no krunk.
LIL' JON (Rapper): (Rapping) What?!
Mr. CALLOWAY: At the forefront of this scene is the group D4L.
FABO (Rapper, D4L): I got a mom and I got a sister. I don't want her to hear guns and this and killing that, you see what I'm saying? But, you know, you want to say something sweet to the ladies, ‘cause her whole body's sweet. So everything that's still shaking when her body stop, that's her laffy taffy.
(Soundbite of “Laffy Taffy”)
D4L (Rap Group): (Rapping) Shake that laffy taffy, that laffy taffy…
CHIDEYA: So far, My Block has covered five U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Memphis and Oakland. This Sunday, the show makes a stop in Puerto Rico. Joining me now to talk about the My Block series are co-creator Ocean Mac Adams, vice president of MTV News; and the series host Sway Calloway. Thanks for joining me.
Mr. CALLOWAY: Thank you for having us.
CHIDEYA: All right, well, I'm excited…
Mr. OCEAN MAC ADAMS (Vice President, MTV News; Series Co-Creator, My Block): Thank you…
CHIDEYA: Back in the day, I used to work for MTV, back when I was young…
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHIDEYA: So I guess this is kind of trying to reclaim a little bit of what was. So, Ocean, you and I actually worked together. How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Mr. MAC ADAMS: You know, it actually was a group effort. One of our producers, last year, was in a meeting and he was talking about Houston. And he was saying, You know, there's a whole new scene bubbling under in Houston and maybe we should be taking a look at it. And when everybody sat down and started talking about all the elements that were out there, all the things that were happening in the Houston scene, it kind of started to sound like a show. And so we went down and Sway and the crew just came back with such unbelievable, amazing material that we knew we were onto something.
Mr. CALLOWAY: In Atlanta, they get crunk…
LIL JON': Yeah!
Mr. CALLOWAY: …but in Houston, folks ride to a different beat.
(Soundbite “Still Tippin”)
SLIM THUG (Rapper): (Rapping) Gucci shades up on my braids when I escalade…
Mr. CALLOWAY: That's the sound of screwed and chopped, one of the strangest hip-hop styles ever.
(Soundbite “Still Tippin”)
MIKE JONES (Rapper): (Rapping) I'm shaking the block with four 18s(ph), candy green with a leather screen.
SLIM THUG: Screwed and chopped is when you slow a record down…
DON P (Rapper, Tritville): …and it makes you sound slow.
(Soundbite of “Some Cut”)
Unidentified Man #2: (Rapping) What it is yo, ah what's up…
Mr. CALLOWAY: That psychedelic sound was invented by the late DJ Screw, back in 1991. Reppin' for Houston's south side, he made mix tapes, screw tapes, by slowing down popular rap records.
Mr. MAC ADAMS: The thing about hip-hop is, you know, in rock and roll right now, the fact of the matter is that most rock sounds pretty much the same around the country. You don't really talk about local scenes that much. Hip-hop is the last place where there is true local differences in music.
CHIDEYA: Now, Sway, you are native of Oakland.
Mr. CALLOWAY: Mm hmm.
CHIDEYA: And hyphy is growing and growing and growing into national prominence. Tell us about what's going on in Oakland right now and are you surprised by the way it's starting to come on the national scene?
Mr. CALLOWAY: Well, the hyphy movement is nothing new to the people of Oakland or the Bay Area for that matter. If you look at when they had the song, Humpty-Hump Dance and you had to act stupid-like crazy. You know, that was the beginning origins of hyphy. Now the new generation has just gave it a label. It's really about attitude. There's a lot of components to hyphy. Ghost ridin' your whip, which means you step outside of your car and dance alongside of it, which is something we don't advise.
CHIDEYA: Kids, don't try this at home.
Mr. CALLOWAY: Not at all. You know, and shaking your dreads, stunner shades is something that you've gotta wear in terms of fashion. One(ph) of the type of shades that are oversized a la Elton John. I mean, the Bay Area always had a certain swagger about it, including the slang that people tend to be attracted to and follow behind.
MASTER FAB (Rapper): …own language. I mean, for years, we don' heard people say, the Bay Area language, the Bay Area lingo. When we say something, we like yadadamean?
Mr. CALLOWAY: Mm hmm.
MASTER FAB: Yadadamean means, do you understand?
Unidentified Man #3: Yadadamean? Yadadamean?
MASTER FAB: Shaboo(ph) bala(ph) boopy(ph), that's just like, man, I don't really know what it is. Shaboo bala boopy, man.
Mr. CALLOWAY: (Laughing) Shaboo bala boopy?
MASTER FAB: You know what I'm saying? I did a line, man, in the song, man. It's called, I do the dummy retarded and rock the yellow bus.
MASTER FAB: (Rapping) I do the dummy retarded and rock the yellow bus.
MASTER FAB: You see somebody, you like, ooh, he going yellow bus. What it means is, hyphy, go dumb, all that, all at once. And…
CHIDEYA: So aside from Oakland, what was the favorite place that you've been to so far?
Mr. CALLOWAY: We just recently went to Puerto Rico and had a chance to speak to some of the biggest stars, like Daddy Yankee, who right now is the frontrunner in reggaetone. And this is a guy who's been putting out music for quite some time. You got a lot of artists like Tego Calderon, who's very respected in that movement.
Sir TEGO CALDERON (Rapper): I like to talk to people on Tego's point of view. Hate me or love me, I really don't care.
Mr. CALLOWAY: …which is actually a combination of dancehall music, hip-hop, and Puerto Rican culture, as well as Dominican culture all rolled up in one.
Sir CALDERON: We really in a place that not even Puerto Ricans come. This is the hottest, the roughest. This is me, this is my block.
Unidentified Man #4: (Spanish spoken)
(Soundbite of guitar)
Sir CALDERON: The history of blacks down here. They feel ashamed of the color of their skin. You know, constantly on TV, they trying to make us laugh about us.
Mr. CALLOWAY: Mm hmm.
Sir CALDERON: You know, they paint their faces and all that (beeping). That's why I talk about it. And I'm not down with that (beeping).
Sir CALDERON: (Rapping) (Spanish spoken)
CHIDEYA: I guess what I would ask you guys, in closing, you know, first of all, is the question, what next? You know, what other places are you going to go, domestically and internationally. But also, MTV, you know, started as this fledgling station, then grew into a big presence in the U.S., then grew into a big presence around the world--and kind of wrapped up youth culture in this network of what people saw and how people wanted to dress and what people wanted to listen to. Is this just an extension of that idea of bringing people together? I guess Ocean first and then Sway.
Mr. MAC ADAMS: Yeah, I mean, I think--this comes from the MTV News Department--we firmly believe that we are in touch with our audience in a way that nobody else is. Our viewers want us to bring them, you know, what's next. And, you know, My Block is a perfect example of that.
CHIDEYA: So where are you off to next?
Mr. CALLOWAY: We throw some cities I would like to go to. There's a big grind movement in the U.K. We still haven't covered Los Angeles, Chicago, New York. All of these places would be a real challenge for us to cover, because there's so much culture and so many prominent artists that are coming out of those regions. I even believe there's a scene in Japan that needs to be uncovered. You know, when you go to Japan today, you see Japanese kids who are very heavily involved in hip-hop culture. You know, there's many places where you have a fledgling scene that's starting to bubble. And that's where we go when it comes to My Block.
Mr. MAC ADAMS: People are actually really lobbying us now. You know, wherever Sway goes now, people are like, Hey, you've gotta come to my city. You're not going to believe the scene we've got going on here.
CHIDEYA: I'm sure they are and you know what? Just put me in your suitcase. We've been talking to My Block series co-creator Ocean Mac Adams, vice president of MTV News; and the series host, Sway Calloway. Thanks so much for joining me.
Mr. CALLOWAY: Thank you.
Mr. MAC ADAMS: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: The next My Block installment, My Block: Puerto Rico, airs this Sunday on MTV2. You can see clips from previous My Block shows at NPR.org.
(Soundbite of rap group)
Unidentified Man #5: (Rapping) Now let me direct traffic for a minute.
Unidentified Man #6: (Rapping) Talk to ‘em.
Unidentified Man #5: (Rapping) Let me tell y'all about this hyphy movement we got going in the back. When I say something, you say it right back at me, you feel me? We gon' do it like this…