Story: Branden J. Peters
Photography: Matthew Reamer
Reminiscing on the hyphy movement of the mid-2000s harkens several images both good and bad. Crunk’s Bay Area cousin brought a few good records, Ghost Riding, drug references and crazy dances to the forefront for the rest of the nation, but most of those things faded rather quickly. Though featured prominently in videos during the hyphy era, Scraper bikes were not as widely popular as the aforementioned trends, but the movement is still going strong some six years later.
Scraper bikes were birthed from cars that Bay Area residents call Scrapers—four-door sedans (usually GMs) with 20-inch or larger rims. Scraper bikes come in two varieties: the standard two-wheel bike and the three-wheel bike, which resembles a huge tricycle or Big Wheel. It doesn’t matter if the bike’s original form was a cruiser, a 10-speed, a BMX or a mountain bike; what makes it a Scraper is the customization. The bigger the wheel, the more outlandish the paint job, the more adornments and, sometimes, the louder the beat, the better the Scraper.
Tyrone Stevenson Jr. aka Baybe Champ aka the Scraper Bike King fell into customizing bikes because he couldn’t afford a car. He started building bikes in East Oakland, California, in 2006, but it wasn’t until he and his former rap group, Trunk Boiz, recorded and released the viral clip for their song “Scraper Bikes” that the trend took off. Since becoming a YouTube sensation, the clip has garnered more than a million views and has helped spread the culture worldwide.
Since inventing the Scraper bike movement, 23-year-old Champ has received notoriety from press, film festivals, green organizations and politicians for his innovation, but his number-one priority is still helping kids in his hometown. In order to be down with the Original Scraper Bike Team, Champ requires school-age kids to maintain a 3.0 GPA. He says his overall goal is to be able to provide team members with full-ride scholarships to the school of their choice upon graduation. “Education is everything to me. If you have enough time to fix on bikes, ride and be in music videos and everything that I’m doing—if you want to be a part of that, then education comes first.”
In order to stay relevant, Champ pushes for constant innovation with the creativity that goes into making the bikes. Just like the car game, Scraper bike riders one-up each other regularly with rim size; currently, the biggest out is a BMX frame modified to sit on 28-inch wheels. “Six years ago, we were using aluminum foil [to decorate the wheels]. Now kids are using whatever they can find to put onto their bikes to make them custom.”
As the undisputed Scraper Bike King, Champ always strives to have the best bike out. His current ride features six 6-by-9-inch speakers, two 6 1/2s on the handlebars and an amp, all of which are powered by a kill switch connected to a car battery. “I’m the king, so I gotta make sure my bikes are clean.”