HYPHY IS SCREWED
The news is that Bay Area rap star Mistah F.A.B. is "BEEFING" with the local Oakland Hip-Hop station, KMEL-FM. This is just another chain of events that sparked the creation of this new post, oh my brothers and sisters. Let's investigate the phenomenon of drug-promoting music and its accompanying culture as they relate to specific places on the American map.
Whether I'm a big fan of "Hyphy" music or not, you've gotta admit that it's dead, at least outside of Oakland's ungerground rap scene. As long as we're being honest here (and I don't know why we wouldn't be), most regional sounds that were sold as the next big things a few years ago are all dead.
I mean, look at "Screwed" music, and compare it to what happened with Hyphy. Both of these subgenres of Hip-Hop have been in existence long before some rich white dude decided to cut a mainstream check and put them both on. Representing Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, I can attest to the fact that I've been hearing screwed mixtapes for close to fifteen years via cousins that visited Texas in the summer. It's nowhere near new. But what was new a few years ago was when Houston rappers Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Slim Thug and others started getting major record deals, one after another, all on the strength of a combined 12-month run of consecutive songs - all of which broke the local mold and went from regional to national recognition.
I admit, I was as proud as anybody else from the south that another state was finally getting its just due, as it were. But I also admit this: Screwed music sucks.
I never understood why people liked listening to rap songs that had been "screwed and chopped." Every time I've been forced to listen to any Screwed song for more than 15 seconds, it's always been depressing, sleep-inducing, boring and just... slow. Too damned slow. That shit would drive me to the depths of insanity if I ever got nabbed by terrorists and told that I'd be tortured with a 24-hour private Screwed and Chopped listening session if I don't snitch. I'd confess to all types of shit I've never even thought about doing to get out of that one. And I'd say that Gangsta Rap made me do it.
Once Screwed music got outside of its natural habitat, it was a wrap, because, like Hyphy, it was built upon pillars of salt, or should I say "snow." You can't expect a whole nation to become localized to your city unless the music is that good. Country music comes from Nashville, Bounce music and of course Jazz both come from New Orleans and The Blues were born in the Mississippi Delta. They all spread throughout their regions to national and worldwide ears, but there is a distinct difference: These subcultures are build around actual rhythms, beats, sounds, harmonies and melodies. Without great songs and plenty of great artists down for the artistic cause itself, it just doesn't happen. It's gotta be about the artform more than the afterparty, and both had better be better than anything experience previously if you expect the story to spread. And I'm not saying that Miles, Dizzy and Bird weren't getting loaded on the daily, because we all know how that story goes. But they were still great musicians.
Every city has it's own style that can't (and maybe shoudn't) be made global, especially when you add in the quietly kept secret that - gasp! - Screwed and Hyphy music are both really about doing massive amounts of drugs and being proud enough to sing and dance about it, out loud.
Compare and contrast: As the soundtrack to the lifestyle of codeine and promethazine abusers, Screwed Music was made for Texans who sip "syrup", the mixture of the two drugs combined with Sprite, Big Red soda or any other sweet, carbonated ghetto beverage. Rap artists, taking cues from the "slab rider" culture of Houston, drink it in public and continue to make songs glorifying its consumption, even after it killed one of its most famous rappers - Pimp C.
In Oakland, Hyphy was created as the musical companion to taking Ecstacy pills or "beans", and the subsequent erratic speech, dancing and general behavior. To be high on E-pills, therefore, was to be "hyphy." Some of the Hyphy stuff I heard was nowhere near wack, but it was always a bit too crunk for my blood. And you've gotta be high to want to do some SHIT LIKE THIS. "Go dumb," indeed...
I've pretty much held the same stance against Hyphy since I figured out what it was about. You can't have any type of positive message in a type of music that outright encourages drug use. Now before you even try it ("But what about Gangster Rap?"), I would argue that the social commentary that exists in the Thug Life style of Hip-Hop is necessary to show that people are economically suffering to the point that they would risk their lives and others' to make a dollar. So they pick up a gun and do horrible things.
I've always felt that if you make the terror of the gangster lifestyle look as ugly as it really is, you will save some people from ever wanting to enter it, even if you attract those who would wanted to be gangsters anyway. I never wanted to be a gangbanger after listening to N.W.A. - not once. But it was cool to hear their stories, accentuated by gun shots, excessive swearing and less-than-romantic ideas about women. To me, it's the same as watching No Country for Old Men; it's crazy, entertaining as hell and a great piece of art, even though it's gruesome to the point that I wouldn't have wanted to be in any character's shoes in real life.
The only way I'm convinced that a person can have any positive influence from Hyphy or Screwed music would be to suffer a complete meltdown, go through intensive rehabilitation and emerge from the ashes of doom like the Phoenix. Either that, or the artist just overdoses and dies, causing enough grief from fans and guilt in the hearts of close associates to spark a movement of sobriety, removing all the momentum from the power of the drugs and placing it back in the hands of the people to create things that don't cause mental damage and self-genocide.
It's my theory that the reason why TEXAS MIGHT BE DEAD and HYPHY IS REALLY DEAD is because you can't mix narcotics with your music and expect everyone to follow mindlessly forever like the living dead. Eventually, people wake up and realize they've been drugged. And then what?
But I can't front; THIS SONG is still dope. But if you listen closely, it's not all happy. Just listen to the chorus...