Slang City Mail

Click here to get this free weekly newsletter delivered to your e-mailbox! Want to see more? Go back to All the Words main page.

June 15, 2006

Slang of the Week: hyphy (adjective)
crazy in a good way

Once Federation started rapping, Sylvia got hyphy and danced on the hood of her car.

Celebrity quote:
“I’m from the Bay where we hyphy and go dumb

From the soil where them rappers be getting they lingo from.”
—Rapper  E-40 on the song Tell Me When to Go

Hyphy is also a kind of high energy hip hop music from Northern California (and, according to many in the San Francisco Bay Area, a movement that’s going to take over the world!) While it doesn’t sound like Atlanta’s crunk music, it has had a similar effect on highlighting the region since the group Federation came out with the song Hyphy in 2004. Many local hits have used the term since then, including the popular song above by E-40.

His boast that the Bay Area supplies all rappers with good slang may be an exaggeration, but there are plenty of slang terms that have originated there. Though it’s called Tell Me When to Go, it is not an invitation to kick him out of a club. The repeated phrase in the song is “Tell me when to go dumb” which means to go crazy. Though the expression comes from E-40’s neighborhood, the idea is similar to the Black-Eyed Peas 2004 hit Let’s Get Retarded.

But for me, a more interesting cultural note from the song comes when E-40 invites people in the street to ghost ride
the whip. When I was in high school (and long before that) teenagers would perform an automotive move called the “Chinese fire drill.” This had nothing to do with China, but involved the driver and passengers getting out at the stop light, running around the car and getting back in before driving away. Ghost riding is the more dangerous cousin of that move. People get out of the car to walk and dance around it (and sometimes on it) while it’s moving. You can see examples of this in the Tell Me When to Go video.

As hyphy music becomes more popular, people are trying to profit from it. Last month, Hyphy Juice—an energy drink made with ginseng and taurine, rolled out a national campaign. Taurine, as you may have guessed, was originally found in bulls (like the zodiac sign Taurus) and is an ingredient in several other energy drinks as well, including Red Bull. It appears to be good for epilepsy and bad for hypertension. The effect on teenagers has yet to be studied, but presumably, it makes them get hyphy.