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What Is Hyphy?

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  • Written By: Y. Chen
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 31 July 2014
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Bay Area rapper Keak Da Sneak took credit for coining the term “hyphy” as a shortened version of the word “hyperactive,” though other sources simply consider it a portmanteau of “hype” and “fly.” The word “hyphy,” pronounced high-fee, is an adjective that originated from the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s. It is primarily used to describe a style of dance and music mainly associated with the Bay Area hip hop culture. The word is also generally used to define something dangerous and irrational, or amusing and uninhibited.

The “hyphy movement” came into prominence in the early 2000s, led by Bay Area rappers who felt that commercial hip hop failed to acknowledge the Bay Area for setting trends in the hip hop industry. Though the hyphy movement is centered on the San Francisco Bay Area, its capital lies in Oakland, California. Other key areas of the hyphy movement include Vallejo, Richmond, and other various locations in Northern California. Some Bay Area hyphy producers are Traxamillion, Rick Rock, E-A-Ski, Sean T., and Droop-E.

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Hyphy is discernable by its gritty, pounding rhythms and uptempo beats. Hyphy culture is widely analogized to crunk culture in the South, since both hyphy and crunk movements emerged in the late 1990s and found their way into mainstream popularity in the 2000s. However, the musical aspects of the two movements actually have vast differences. For one, hyphy is more upbeat with elements of bass, keyboard, turntables, and rapping, while crunk typically employs the use of electric bass and drums, and is considered lyrically unsophisticated.

A dancer is said to “get hyphy” when acting in an overstated and uninhibited manner. Like much of rap culture, hyphy culture is largely associated with dancing and partying. Participants of the hyphy movement describe their dancing behavior as acting “stupid,” “retarded,” or “going dumb.” The main concept behind these phrases is having a good time while ignoring society’s negative view of crude behavior. Unlike popular American culture where these phrases generally have negative or offensive connotations, hyphy dancers take them as a compliment.

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