In an era of big-box cultural homogeneity, flowerings of strange, distinctive local youth culture restore one's faith in the ability of élan vital to triumph over Empire Viacom, folkways over superhighways. Or they just make for swell magazine features; it kind of depends. The Bay Area's hyphy scene was supposed to blow up last year but wound up only partially detonating, mainly via veteran MC E-40's "Tell Me When to Go," a rather lackluster and opportunistic genre summary. With Hyphy Hitz, TVT Records (crunk's preeminent imprint), has moved in with its own opportunistic primer, but the comp does its job with neither luster nor lust lacking. In other words: Want one hyphy CD? Here you go.
Hyphy, if you missed one of those magazine features, involves automotive high jinks such as putting the car in neutral and leaving the driver's seat, ecstatic (lower and upper case) dancing, electro hip hop, oversized sunglasses, and more drugs. The music, when played at normal volumes and while not convulsing alongside a souped-up old Olds, rarely sounds as Bacchic as all that, but on Hitz it is festive enough—a touch faster and more whimsical than crunk, with which it shares a commitment to 808s cranked to 809 and synthesizers so fat, they have to make two trips to haul ass.
And though Hyphy Hitz doesn't feature any women's libbers (or any women at all not employed as backup singers) it does at least imagine male-female interactions outside a strip club, and sometimes even seems to, you know, controvert constructions of binary asymmetric gender. On "Feeling Myself," the late Mac Dre explains why he charges for sex, and not long after says he "switch hit[s]," always smart gigolo business practice. Then, mindful of hyphy's roots, he references Don Knotts.