Individuals Flop, Masses Don't -- by General Baker, August 2006
It is a chronic problem of hip-hop intellectuals today to be unable to look beyond our own rationalism and into the realm of mass activity. Phayde's March 2006 column is a highly relevant example of such a thing. The task of intellectuals, however, is starting out from activity and basing all conclusions on what people are doing.
Phayde's opinion is based on the premise that Hyphy lacks the organic development of previous West Coast music movements. But Hyphy is just as organically valid as G-Funk, Southern Cal's early-to-mid '90s contribution, which she holds up in juxtaposition as superior.
The Pharcyde is mentioned as a group with roots in some musical movement, but in fact, they had quite an insignificant base of listeners; not exactly the movement Snoop and Dre were a part of. I, personally, am a fan, but that is purely subjective. The observable facts tell us that Hyphy has all the ingredients for "staying power" whether or not it develops beyond its regional constraints. This is simply because it is a movement, not some ready-made, top-down cliche like "the Macarena", but a crystallization of the movement of Bay Area hip-hop.
Phayde is absolutely correct when she states, "Real movements in hip-hop –– the ones with staying power –– spawn from a genuine desire for something new, and then evolve organically." Why then does she situate Hyphy outside of this context? Partly because she places emphasis on its most trivial components; "ghost-riding the whip" and slang such as "fa shizzle". G-Funk had its triviality too, but what is at issue here is Phayde's confusing of form and content. The above mentioned things are the form, the appearance, the shell of what is at heart: its content. The content is the people, Oakland, state-capitalism, drugs, violence, unemployment, and general decay.
Whether or not E-40, or whoever, coined the term "Hyphy", is inconsequential. You can strip away all the surface aspects and you will still have the largely black community of Oakland participating within and expressing a form of hip-hop all their own. You can take away E40, stunner shades, and dreads, and its basis and its energy will still remain.
Oakland, the Bay Area, and Northern California are positing their level of civilization into hip-hop culture. And culture, like thought, must take its cue from what people are engaged in. Before people can pursue politics, art, and culture they must first produce their means of subsistence and survival, which, at this stage, is inherently an undemocratic, mundane, and at many times a non-existent process (unemployment). When the workday ends, our life begins, so to speak, and the way we labor is reflected into our cultural life, i.e. hip-hop.
This movement is an avenue of expressing the hopelessness and decay of modern civilization; of the lack of working people to control when and how they work. That is what hip-hop is. Hyphy is but one organic and independent expression of this "genuine desire for something new."
Artists don't make music which define a movement; on the contrary, the movement defines the music. Lil' Jon is unequivocally the pioneer of Crunk music, but if his music did not express the will, ideas, and energy of the South and, subsequently, the United States, he would not be the figure he is today. He is a product of the movement of previous generations of Southerners. It is, in fact, people who throw up individuals who represent their own activity and ideas.
Sacramento's C-Bo and Brotha Lynch Hung were thrown up as early as the late 80s as the result, not the cause, of Sacramento's activity. So was "krump" and clown-dancing in South Central, LA. To my knowledge, Krump isn't dead, it has actually reached its most mature form. It will, of course, become antiquated just as Crunk will and as G-Funk has, but has that invalidated their existence?
Until we are not reduced to the same semantics that bogs down all progressive conversation we won't be able to distinguish between organic movements and mechanical trends. And we don't have to like the music in order to respect it.
No disrespect to Phayde, just a little principled debate.