Last week, Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. unleashed the official video for his “Hit Me on Twitter” single, which celebrates the art of 140-character–based stalking. The week before, Rafael Casal of East Bay hip-hop act the Getback reminded folks of the Yay's knack for colorful phraseology. Casal's animated clip for “The Bay Area Slang Top 100 (The Grinch Song)” crams 100 hometown phrases into three minutes. Sample educational highlights include “Flight to Boston: the act of oral sex” and “Pockets is touchin' (pah-ketz-iz-tuh-chin): to be so broke your pockets are physically touching each other.” Seen together, these local hip-hop heads have released clever viral media hits riffing on our grassroots communication trends. Their contributions double in meaning, though, as examples of rappers' creativity when it comes to spreading the word … on the ways words spread.
Look up these videos on YouTube, and you'll notice two distinct visual styles: HBO slam-poetry champ Casal's low-budget handiwork comprises a simple black Grinch against a green background as a dictionary's worth of definitions flips past on the screen. Hyphy icon F.A.B., meanwhile, is filmed rolling by Ben's Burgers, getting hit up by “Local Rapper” (who espouses the common sales refrain: “Hey man, you listen to rap?”), tweetin' with MC Hammer, and popping into Street Symphony Studios. They've both made very fun, funny nods to the playful ways we've learned to connect here. Hyphy slang and Twitter technology are two local inventions that launched beyond the O (Oakland), B-Town (Berkeley), the Sco (San Francisco), and the Rich (Richmond), to become international sensations, and the plays on these aspects of pop culture haven't gone unnoticed. F.A.B., who created an entire mixtape, The Grind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, with producers he met through Twitter, found his social media tribute landed on the homepage of TechCrunch and in rotation on MTV Jams. “Bay Area Slang Top 100,” meanwhile, has become a music blog hit, making its way on to radio station KMEL's homepage — and its playlist.
In an effort to expand the conversation on the unique ways Yay converses, I asked Casal for the background on his particular Internet earworm.
Where did the idea for “The Bay Area Slang Top 100 (The Grinch Song)” come from?
I've had the idea for the song in my head a few years now, having heard my whole life that the Bay Area was notoriously being robbed of its slang with little or no recognition. Growing up hearin' E-40 and other Bay musicians sprinkling so much game into our ears, I just assumed everyone understood the evolution of our way of speaking. After doing some touring, I confirmed that some of our more popular slang had traveled far and wide, but with little acknowledgment of where it came from. My boy called me and told me he had a beat that needed to be on our new record — sampled from a story about a creature that steals gifts back from all the kids he feels don't deserve them. Perfect.
How did you go about doing the research to hit 100?
The 100 slang words was truly by accident. I made the video, then realized it was exactly 100 words. I just went through what I or my friends say in conversation, and wrote them in. I called around to some folks to ask their opinion about how certain things might be spelled, but since it's an oral tradition, there isn't really much of a right answer. Fortunate for me, the research was just my life in the Bay, doin' it movin' constantly, shakin' hands, and kissin' babies.
Were there a lot of unused phrases you had to edit out of the video?
Nothing really needed to get removed, because the slang's function is to coat the explicit with something more interesting. We are the land of mouthpiece, the slick talkers, and that is evident in the way we innovate language. We provide ordinary speech with a fur coat and send it on out to the world via our music.
What are your personal favorites from that list?
“What it do” is a favorite, which is already in other cities, with folks claiming it didn't start here. “Cup cakin'” is up there for me. It's a great tool for telling people to stop messin' around and take care of business: “Hey bruh, quit cup cakin'.” And there's the Bay classic, “Game recognize game,” which must have been one of the first philosophies I ever memorized.
Looking at the slang overall, what does it say about the Bay Area rap community?
I think our slang is a representation of how much culture and talent is constantly being created, recycled, reinvented, and absorbed by young people in the Bay. When people make negative statements about the condition of young folks, they often point out the way students are failing in schools. As a generation we are thriving in so many other creative outlets and ambitions. The Bay Area rap community is the loudest voice that working-class Bay Area people get because it has declared itself, as opposed to being awarded a platform.
In the last couple of weeks, Casal and F.A.B. have further declared our region's dominance in moving lingo from streets through the music scene and now even further into the public arena. By trumpeting hyphy's tweets and its slang, their video clips are trendsetters on their own. Real talk, yadidImean?