City of Dope [Excerpt From the Dec./Jan. 2012 Issue]

“What’s up y’all. It’s ya boy T-Dollaz, here on the shoot for the hyphy video. Yo, it’s ’bout to be major!”

These are the words of Odd Future front man Tyler, the Creator, in the intro to a YouTube clip titled simply “Hyphy.” (In fact, it’s the first result you get if you search “hyphy” on YouTube.) To the sounds of an old track by The Pack, the Odd Future crew does stupid dances on and around a car in a quiet-looking suburban neighborhood, which is another way of saying that it looks no different from a number of actual hyphy music videos—except that this one is a parody.

“Must feel so bummy to be from the bay area hahahaha,” reads a recent comment from YouTube user waajahat94.

In just five years’ time, just five hours south of the Bay Area (if you’re speeding and there’s no traffic on the Grapevine), it has become perfectly acceptable, and maybe even cool, to make a complete mockery of what was once poised to be a nationwide craze. “The next crunk,” hyphy was supposed to put the Bay
Area in the spotlight it felt it deserved. Now it’s a punch line—one made that much more offensive when the taunting comes from Los Angeles.

The Bay has lived in L.A.’s shadow for as long as either region has made rap music. And back in the middle of the last decade, it looked like NoCal might finally unseat SoCal as the Golden State’s dominant sound bed. Much to the chagrin of Bay Area rappers—and ecstasy dealers, oversized-sunglasses retailers and used-Buick dealerships all over America—that didn’t come to pass.
By the time the major labels finally descended upon the Bay with contracts, money, big ideas and Lil Jon beats, the charismatic man at the center of the movement, Vallejo’s Mac Dre, had been unceremoniously murdered on a highway in Kansas City, Missouri.

Aside from a movement with no clear center, the majors also encountered a fiercely independent scene that had come to believe the idea that the Bay Area would finally receive its due props. Everyone in the deep-rooted and extremely diverse hip-hop community hopped on the hyphy bandwagon (or, more appropriately, danced alongside it), from teenage backpackers to local legends who’d been rapping for two decades.

This isn’t to say that local artists’ interest wasn’t genuine or that people in the Bay Area weren’t thrilled with the attention. But in the end, the effect was something like a speculative bubble bursting. Rappers flooded the market with hyphy music and silliness like it was going out of style, until finally it did. Everyone had gone dumb, and they ended up looking like a joke.

“It comes off as corny and like a gimmick, when it really wasn’t,” according to Chioke “Stretch Thizz” McCoy, a man who has played the background in Bay Area music for the last decade, from launching Thizz Nation Records with Mac Dre to helping Kreayshawn sign her million-dollar deal. (He’s the wall
of a man keeping the Maybach Music gang from jumping Kreay in the much-watched clip from this summer’s VMAs.) “It was people’s escape from the realities of what they got to deal with
on a daily basis in their neighborhood, but that story was never told,” he explains. “It was never put out there, so it comes off as buffoonery.”

While no one still expects Mac Dre to become a household name these days, though, the Bay Area has regrouped since the hyphy bust—both by turning inward and focusing on maintaining its independent scene and by finding viral, national success via the Internet.


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  • $yk


    this is where XXL fails…you can’t tell a Bay story w/o E-40…but y’all got Lil Brandon and Kreayon up there trying to show these kids they’re the epitome of Oakland…no this tidbit does not make me wanna cop the issue to see of you did either…

  • $yk

    but I will LMAO @ the irony of the title and pictures posted…

  • CaponeMOB

    SMH..along with the stupid soulja boy dance,this hypy shit gotta be one of the dumbest fads i’ve ever it doesnt even surprises me at all that that shit FLOPPED miserably. like they say YADAMEAN? what the fuck is yadamean? that shit is fuckin stupid. i understand alotta slang came out of the bay,but it seems that they were just trying too HARD to come out with new slang. in my eyes the BAY is the west coast version of atlanta. they just come out with pathetic gimmicks…SMH


    Bruh None of yall commenting will make it out here in the BAY so hush ya mouth unless you willing to walk OAKLAND streets

    • $yk

      don’t make yourself believe that everyone who comments is a young cat who don’t know anything and ain’t been nowhere…

      read the comments in whole before you address all

  • Nate

    I’m from the Bay. I’m a real rap fan. (Collect 3000 rap albums covering the entire genre nationwide since the late 80′s to now.) I can say without bias that there are dozens of great artists from here. Some fell into the “hyphy” craze a bit, others were totally original alongside the Thizz camps, etc. But like all movements hundreds of wannabee no talent, all “style” rappers tried to bandwagon from that 2003-2006 era. The good rappers prior to and after went through the ignorant outside labeling even though it may have slowed down their careers. The same independent spirit continues, in fact before the digital craze, we invented the independent game so that hundreds of artists could copy the blueprint across the country. Hyphy was just one element of the many blends of bay music. the downfall had many reasons. Here are a few.
    1. Hundreds of no talent copycats giving people who judge a area by a song or two a bad name for the bay.
    2. Mac Dre’s death. Dozens of artists success followed his, and his charisma and leadership as a pied piper/mentor was something they still relied on. i saw a flier at a huge concert at San Jose the week he died. He was on a bill with the largest southern artists, hewas going to break nationwide. He had the entire west, and midwest out to k.c. on lock already.
    3. Majors trying to “market” hyphy. Not backing top artists like FAB.
    4. BIG VON’s payola of non cali artists, and standoff with FABdropping his airplay entirely- same with la stations- he has sucked for 10 years now-not everrepping the best artists on theradio.
    5. hyphy briefly overshadowing the other aspects of our artists. From the conscius ones, backpack music, mobbmusic, or lyricists, people associated radio songs as the entire representation of the region although our artists probably per capita have more originality, selection, styles, choices, etc than most parts of the country.
    6. Every year the digital edge cut physical copies of rap sales down. This was industrywide,not just bay. So that factor contributed to the overall idea that the music “died”.
    7. Being that we are the most independent, NY record companies always had the hardest time signing our BEST artists to deals. easier to signsouthern artists for peanuts who are used to cheaper costs of living on BS deals. Bay artists (ones making $ and with talent) usually wouldn’t go for these garbage deals. So either cheap deals would be offered by companies who shelved the 2nd rate artists not repping the bay right, and/or with contrived fly by night “hyphy” music, or they would pass altogether and downplay our music.
    There is a reason the dumbed down Southern music has been dominant mostly for 10 years. Cheaper for large labels, more money, and easy to make albums with simplistic lyrics.
    Not at all to talk down on southern rap. There are also dozens of great artists, but less overall in% of total artists that are top notch.

  • Crunkatlanta

    I have to see what they come up with ….

  • kd

    All yall that something to say about the BAY bring yo ass out there and see what happen…dont ever overlook the bay youll get yo ass ran straight through…that hyphy shit was a fad but not get it messed up them niggas be talkin bout some real shyt…pick up a Jacka, J-stalin, album tell me they aint talkin bout some real shyt

  • Itzmi

    i love how Stalin didn’t mention Jay Jonah n he is an original Jay Jonah, shady Nate, n stalin are the three that started livewire. Guess he don’t get mentioned cuz he gas harder then any of them. Also no mention of kiwi the beast. She one of the hardest females n the bay n jus happens to b part of livewire originals. Stalin not tryna let nobody harder then him shine but he won’t b around much longer. But as u can read it says “J Stalin’s Livewire” lmao he jus another rapper that rap about somebody else life n ain’t Neva lived it.

  • raka nation

    i can’t believe XXL would touch on the diversity of the Bay and not even mention the Latino community. one of the hottest and independent-movements OF THE MOMENT is coming from the soul and flavor of the Hispanic community in the bay…LOS RAKAS. NPR even named their debut EP as a ‘Top Release of 2011′ alongside Kanye, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar…get with the times XXL! These guys deserve their own FEATURE!