Hyphy Thoughts Pt. 2

Posted August 10, 2006 10:01 pm (about 4270 days ago)

Comments and reflections from a recent panel on "The Hyphy Movement" at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club.

View Part 1

Positives of hyphy:

As one of hyphy’s biggest supporters it was no surprise that Eric Arnold was all over this one. He stressed how it put the Bay back on the map. People have always been taking words and slang such as “pop ya’ collar and fa’ sheezy” but the Bay wasn’t getting credit.

This has been a discussion that I’ve constantly had with my students, pointing out that shows like "My Block: The Bay" bring in millions of dollars through advertising dollars and news stories and journalists get more attention by reporting it. Performers such as Ying Yang Twins make entire songs based on Bay Area slang/dances (“Get Low”) and F.A.B. pointed out Atlanta based groups making songs about stunnas. I was watching singer Letoya on B.E.T. and she credited Texas rapper Paul Wall with the term “What it do?!” However, with the spotlight on the Bay many locals are taking advantage of the attention.

During the Q&A session someone asked F.A.B. who he thought was the fakest in the Bay and F.A.B. just chuckled, basically responding “I know where you’re trying to go, but I’m not getting into that. I’m willing to discuss that on a personal level, but this is about the big picture. We all need to unite!” I was checking out his radio show one night and he was chopping it up with Turf Talk and it was a big mutual admiration society meeting with F.A.B. repping Thizz Entertainment and Turf Talk repping E-40’s Sic Wid It. Both focused on uniting the Bay and everyone making paper.

Arnold went on to discuss how hyphy brings pride to the Bay, keeps teens out of trouble, encourages creativity via dance, and a business ethic. This was seconded by F.A.B. who talked about “families being fed” and the movement being so powerful that the Bay was getting shine all over the world as he just returned from a tour of Europe. F.A.B. also stressed how hyphy can bring people together. He noted that there were people in the crowed who he’d never seen before and who probably would never see him if it wasn’t for their common interest in the music. They were able to overcome their differences, even generational. He pointed out one of his former teachers in the crowd, who repeatedly called him by his given name Stanley while beaming with pride.

F.A.B. said he appreciated the panel because it allowed people to get know the other side of artists. He said people made assumptions about him and that they need to look deeper as radio only pushes his hyphy songs. He emphasized that he also had political songs and songs to his mother that never get play. In a nutshell, he said that the radio doesn’t promote informative songs and that’s why kids are hyphy. As someone with a radio show on one of the Bay’s most powerful stations he said that it puts him at risk to be political. He couldn’t interview Davey D but could interview legendary pimp Filmore Slim. I thought that this was an interesting point until someone else at the panel felt that it was an oversimplification. While it was obvious why Davey D couldn’t be on the show (he was fired by the Wild 94.9’s sister station KMEL for his political views), their point was that there were other ways that he could put more positivity into his show.

While briefly checking out his show a couple of weeks later I was intrigued. I caught his “Book Report” segment when he proclaims that not only can he “go dumb” but he can also “go smart.” He had an author on the radio who was speaking about her new book on Black Panther founder Huey Newton. While she didn’t do a good job of selling the book, I was impressed with F.A.B.’s awareness of Newton. I checked out his Yellow Bus Radio website and he had some books listed, including 48 Laws of Power and The Coldest Winter Ever. Nice. I wonder how many people actually check for that list. He also had How to Make Love Like a Porn Star on the list, which dampered my enthusiasm a bit. Sex isn’t the problem, but it’s all about presentation and context!

I found F.A.B.’s seeming contradictions to be quite intriguing, but I’ll get more to that later. As if reading my mind, he talked about his latest album, "Son of a Pimp." He claimed that it wasn’t to glorify the lifestyle, but rather to say where he came from and what he had to overcome. I can’t say that I was totally sold, but I appreciate the explanation. The point was made that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but does that mean that the cover doesn’t matter?

Would you let someone wearing a Klan robe advise a panel on diversity? Would you date someone with three teeth and scabs all over their body? In terms of F.A.B., I remember his “Nig-Latin” album and the title was enough to turn me off. When I saw the title and cover of his next album, I lost interest as well. To continue with the book metaphor, if you have to sort through thousands of books you don’t have time to open and read all of them. When you present an image, you get a certain response. Yet, beyond his radio hits, F.A.B.’s name kept popping up amongst my friends as someone I should take a close look at and it was even suggested that I should try to work with him as a manager (note that I’ve still never had a proper conversation with F.A.B. so he wouldn’t know me from Adam). There were references made to his album title and how like Mac Dre, F.A.B. was highly intelligent and trying to figure out how to be a positive force without alienating his core audience. All of these thoughts ran through my mind as he spoke.

To sum it up, he reiterated the point that he set goals for himself at the age of 15 that he’s met and he shows the possibilities open to young people no matter their situation. He said that he’s a 24-year old Black male with no criminal record, which is quite a feat considering his background. He drew plenty of applause in agreement.

During the Q&A portion, Korise from the group Boogie Shack asked the panel’s take on “going dumb” and wasn’t it negatively affecting youth views on education. Of course the panel said that it was just a saying and Korise talked about the power of words. Trax shot back that back in the day people talked about “going retarded and stupid” and asked Korise if he had ever called himself “dope.” Although Korise said no, the point was made that today’s youngsters are doing nothing new. Yet, F.A.B. did acknowledge that many kids can’t always differentiate wordplay and fantasy from reality and might take sayings such as “go dumb” too literally. Interestingly enough, some on the panel argued that hyphy wasn’t powerful enough to affect kids in these ways, even though much time had just been spent arguing how powerful it was to bring people together and create opportunities. We can’t have it both ways, can we?

Taking a step back, a few months back a group of 9th and 10th students at my school had a roundtable discussion for film maker Rico Speight. One of my questions for them was to explain “going dumb.” They were quite articulate and said that for them “going dumb/stupid/dummy” wasn’t a literal term. To say that something “goes” was a compliment and “going dumb” just meant doing something to the extreme and that people had to know how to control it. The example they gave was that “going dumb” didn’t necessarily mean to be out of control. Someone going dumb on their books meant that they studied hard and took care of their grades. School wasn’t the place to wild out. One said that while it could be seen offensive to call people retarded and the whole “yellow bus” concept could be seen as making fun of the mentally challenged (her words) it actually just meant to act like you don’t care what other people think and you essentially let go of all your inhibitions.

Finally, there was a lot of emphasis on dancing and how it requires talent and work. If you’re busy practicing, you’re not out causing havoc. Adisa pointed out the bi-monthly dance battles at Youth Uprising that attract hundreds of youth with relatively few problems. I do have to point out for the sake of intellectual honesty that of the battles that I’ve been to, they’re highly controlled with tight security and rules. The adults provide a safe, structured place. I remember being at YU once for an event by an outside group and they tried to start up a spontaneous battle. The YU staff instantly killed that idea. A heated debate took place about how to best support the youth and the YU staff emphasized that there weren’t enough adults on hand to manage hundreds of hyped up kids that would end up gathering on site or out in the street (having that many teens with alcohol and weed floating around, in addition to cars speeding around is not a good mix). As an adult responsible for youth, I could appreciate that. The kids may love this whole hyphy business, but there still need to be boundaries. It's not about hatin'. It's about safety!  


1. Maya said at January 18, 2007 2:34 pm:

Thank you for reporting back from this event with your thoughts. I would have loved to have gone to something like this or taken my youth. I teach video production at an afterschool program to middle school students and in order to get them excited I let them express themselves however they want which includes making videos about hyphy. I am always trying to figure out ways to make them question and critique while letting them express themselves and learn the technology but its hard for me because even as a hip hop fan and probably because of my generation I can't get into much of the music they listen to. Im not sure how much I succeed at the getting critical part with them. I often times think I should get more into their music because its important to figure out how to open it up to larger discussions. Its a struggle with this age group and it being an afterschool program with the requisite lack of support. I often ask myself "I'm trying to do what? With all this equipment? Im crazy."

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