Hyphy vs. Thizzin' 

A Yay Area slang update and tutorial.

For the uninitiated, Bay Area slang terms can be hella confusing. While mid-'90s phrases like "pop ya colla" and "fa sheezy" have only recently caught fire nationwide (perhaps you've seen the car commercials with "Lee Iacizzle"), we've gone on to invent a whole new chapter of street dialect -- turf talk, you might say. Terms like "scraper," "fa shaginaw," "go dumb," "put that on something," and "trainwreck" rose to power mainly via local rap tunes; so far, it's a toss-up between Keak da Sneak's I don't think they know that's my word and late Vallejo emcee Mac Dre's I'm in the building and I'm feeling myself as the Yay's most memorable phrase of 2005.

And while "hyphy" continues to outlast its predicted shelf-life -- actually gaining momentum a year after the Federation's "Hyphy" symbolized the rise of the New Bay sound -- make way for thizzin', another slang-as-lifestyle contender, popularized by Mac Dre, that has skyrocketed in popularity while coinciding with a rise in ecstasy use by urban youth.

So, hyphy and thizzin'. Are they competing or complementary terms? Two sides of the same coin, or completely different? Positive or negative? Furthermore, while hyphy is definitely a "sound" -- linked to the epic "slumps" of New Bay producers like Rick Rock, Droop-E, and EA-Ski -- can the same yet be said of thizzin'?

To put it more succinctly: What it do, man? What it do?

First, let's define our terms. Hyphy: an Oakland-borne amalgamation of "hyper" and "fly." Thizzin': a North Bay creation that, according to RapDict.org, means "To be under the influence of the drug Ecstasy." To do the "thizzle dance," then, is to dance around while making the "thizz face" -- a Bay Area variant of the Jamaican "screwface" that mimics the facial gesticulations of a person on Ecstasy.

For more in-depth analysis, C2tE turned first to Ruckus magazine editor Krishtine de Leon, representing the New Bay. "It's a little problematic," she admits. Hyphy and thizzin' are "in a different category," but "not polar opposites." Hyphy, she theorizes, "is an energy," while "thizzin' is a movement." DJ Sake One (representing Mid-Period Bay) adds that thizzin' "is a mindstate," while "hyphy is a worldview."

But while hyphy has a healthy head start, thizzin' actually predates it. In the Tupac era, folks used to say "I'm doing my thug thing," which later became "thug thizzle" or just plain "thizzle." It's unclear, however, when thizzle -- a vague term that could refer to almost any action -- became thizz, which has a much more specific, drug-oriented meaning. Both Sake and de Leon claim that E has only recently become popular in the 'hood, years after middle-class ravers first discovered it. Mac Dre, in fact, might've been first to comment on the phenomenon back in 2002, when he released the Thizzelle Washington album, whose cover artwork featured crazy psychedelic swirls.

The downside of hyphy is that its hyperaggressive behavior doesn't exactly promote vehicular safety. A "scraper full up a rippers" smoking "purple" and "gone off that liquor" (to quote Mistah F.A.B.) is probably more likely to participate in sideshows, or be involved in traffic accidents, than an un-hyphy, completely sober driver. And the "gas, break, dip" maneuver might get people's attention, but it's not great for a car's brakes or engine.

Nevertheless, hyphy's energy translates well in a club context. Sake One -- who cohosted a one-off party, "Hyphy vs. Crunk," with DJ Extra Classic -- feels that "hyphy is sort of a compromise sound," noting the similarities between Old Bay and Down South rap. He appreciates hyphy because "from a DJ perspective, it mixes right in with the crunk stuff." Its popularity, he surmises, reflects a change in stylistic approach for local rappers: "People used to have albums with one club track. Now, you're hearing more albums that are full of club stuff, top to bottom," signified by faster tempos, hookier choruses, and more danceable beats. (Interestingly, Sake adds that for whatever reason, SF rap is "not very hyphy," with the possible exception of Messy Marv's "Get Off My Hype.")

Despite the obvious Thizz Nation anthems -- Mac Dre's "Thizzelle Dance" and Doonie Baby and Laroo's "Thizz Face" -- it's not so easy to classify thizz as a sound unto itself; indeed, the sheer number of song titles that mention hyphy make it the clear-cut winner, comparisonwise. Though maybe it isn't a battle after all. "It's really a unifying thing," editor de Leon explains. Far from being mutually exclusive, "You could be hyphy and you could be thizzin'" at the same time. Indeed, look no further than Mistah F.A.B.'s current album Son of a Pimp -- a highly representative example of the hyphy sound released on Thizz Entertainment -- as an example of how the two can coexist.

Regardless, the hyphy phenomenon can only get more intense with the much-anticipated release of Keak da Sneak's "Super Duper Hyphy," a follow-up to "Super Hyphy," itself a response to the Federation's "Hyphy." (Incidentally, "Super Hyphy" provoked its own answer record: F.A.B.'s "Super Sick wid It." See? Told you it was confusing.)

The impact of hyphy may well transcend regional boundaries. "Hyphy will be like 'pop ya colla' and 'fa shizzle,'" de Leon predicts -- a Bay-originated phrase that catches fire nationwide. Already, her East Coast friends are hounding her for Yay Area slang updates. Meanwhile, the emergence of what can rightfully be dubbed the Hyphy Generation -- an army of white-T-shirted, dreadlocked ghetto kids with jeans more expensive than their cars, who are known to ingest prodigious quantities of both "purple" and "yak" in addition to thizzin' -- has resulted in a flowering of regional pride, as local music becomes more welcome on club and radio playlists.

When a bomb-ass local tune (like EA-Ski's "My Bad") comes on in the club, "We put a little extra on it, because we've been ignored for so long," Sake says. However, socially conscious dude that he is, he wonders if the result of "going dumb" is that you "stay dumb," noting that he generally isn't one to thizz, preferring the less-dubious buzz of herb. Pointing out that the hyphy sound "doesn't represent all of the Bay" -- it excludes artists like Goapele, for example -- he also questions the wisdom of "being hyphy for the sake of hyphy."

Thizzin' for the sake of thizzin' is even more problematic. "With any kind of movement, there are positive and negative things," de Leon says. "Drugs can't be separated from hip-hop, just like hip-hop can't be separated from crime, just like crime can't be separated from the inner city." And, like any slang term, as thizzin' becomes more widespread, its meaning changes, becoming more of a symbolic act than an actual act: "If you make a thizz face, it's not always gonna be because you're thizzin'." One more thing she'd like to emphasize: At the end of the day, hyphy and thizzin' represent "a dichotomy we need to unite."

Or, to put it another way, it's absolutely imperative to keep it "treal."


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