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  • Writer's pictureLarry Madrigal

Metro Silicon Valley | Picks from Cinequest’s online Cinejoy festival


We Were Hyphy

First-time director Laurence Madrigal opens his love letter to Bay Area hip hop with three distinct images: the Bay (viewed from Oakland), the “RIP Mac Dre” mural at Fremont High and the rising trails of smoke—vesper-like in the evening light—of a donut-spinning Oakland sideshow. From here, Madrigal and crew drop viewers right into hyphy, the “movement that almost was,” tracing the lineage of the bouncy Bay Area sound from Too $hort and 808s, through its 2000s heyday to today.

Described most simply as a hyperized, playful update to Oakland’s mob music, hyphy celebrated self-expression, creative linguistics and, most important of all, going stupid (it’s about “how beautiful dumb could be,” says one contributor). The movement is represented from all sides with interviews including producers and rappers, KQED personalities and historians, label heads, photographers, dancers and sideshow drivers.

One notable scene sees Too $hort defining hyphy as the sound of producer Rick Rock followed by the work of Traxamillion. Though the East Bay gets the most attention (with some love given to San Francisco artists like San Quinn and Roach Gigz), in the late Traxamillion, the South Bay makes a profound mark on the movement as well.

Let’s hope the film’s audible yeee echoes for years to come.

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