Why hyphy is the best hip-hop right now

Jody Rosen in Slate:

HyphyAs the poet said, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid. But must one choose sides? Not if you listen to “Stewy” by D.B.’z, a rap group from Vallejo, Calif. The song is propelled by a deliriously catchy beat—big wobbly bassline, blasts of keyboard fuzz, and what sounds like a schoolyard full of Ritalin cases chanting taunts—and by a young voice intoning a chorus: “Mainy, cuckoo, silly, bananas/ Mainy, cuckoo, silly, bananas.” Mainy is slang term meaning, well, cuckoo, silly, bananas—craziness of the most inspired and enjoyable sort. A second refrain elaborates on this theme: “Stewy-ewy-ewy-ewy-ewy/Stewy!” To be stewy is to be extra-mainy, really silly. Midway through the song, guest rapper E-40 arrives to deliver his own variation on the theme. “Look at all my young dreadheads,” he exults. “They so dumb!”

“Stewy” is one of 20 songs on Hyphy Hitz (TVT), a new compilation chronicling the Bay Area hip-hop genre known as hyphy (pronounced “hi-fee”), in which stewiness, maininess, dumbness are everything: the means and ends, the sun and moon and stars. The song titles tell the story: “Go Dumb,” “I’m a Fool Wit It,” “Get Stupid.” Stupid has been a term of praise in hip-hop for a couple of decades now. (“That beat is stupid.”) But hyphy elevates idiocy to a new level of esteem. When rapper Mistah F.A.B. boasts of doing “the dummy retarded” in “Super Sic Wit It,” he’s describing an aesthetic and philosophical ideal. Hyphy may be the most conscientiously “dumb” music in history. It’s also by far the best party going on in hip-hop right now.

More here.