Story Adell Henderson /// Photography Amanda Marsalis
Believe the Hype. Up until recently, Bay Area car culture references had been limited to Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte running their drop-top ’64 ’Lac DeVille through the streets of San Fran in the ’80s blockbuster 48 Hours. But hyphy, a movement that embraces the hyper/high energy of the Bay Area not only in music but in how they drive and style their whips is about to spread the California love.
Until Vallejo, California, rapper E-40 struck gold last year with his hit single and video for “Tell Me When To Go,” the Bay Area’s hyphy movement and car culture had been kept at bay for years. Regardless of the fresh rides and styles trendsetting car clubs such as the Falcon Boys, Cadillac Club, High Octane and the Maro Boyz have collectively been putting out over the last few decades, the Los Angeles low-low shadow was just too dark for the Oakland-based scene to shine through. But now, terms such as ghostriding, scrapers and sideshows are becoming nationally known. “In the Bay, none of our stuff is highly publicized, so the only time people pay attention to us is when we have hot artists coming out of here,” explains James C. Earl-Rockefeller, founder of local music channel VJTV. “With the hyphy movement, we try to squeeze everything that we do out here into those music videos, especially the ones that make it to national television. But there’s so much more to the Bay Area than ‘Tell Me When To Go.’”
One thing in particular that stands out about Bay Area car culture is a love for restoring old cars. Their passion for perfection while doing so is intense enough to give the South a run for their money, and it’s not helping move too many ’07s off local car lots, either. “You’ll see more people out here doing old-schools than new cars,” claims Oakland MC Mistah F.A.B. “When you come through dumb looking like you just left the candy shop, you can have two dollars in your pocket—but you’re ’hood rich out here.
You can come through in a tricked-out scraper with candy paint, big beat and big rims, and somebody else can come through in a Bentley, and it’s gonna be more people crowding around that scraper out here.”
And there’s no better place in the Bay to see the coolest whips than at sideshows: These impromptu car exhibitions originated in Oakland and have been going down in the surrounding inner cities since the mid-’80s. Every week, huge crowds gather and block off random intersections while car clubs and flossy individuals flex their flashy vehicular muscle for all to see. Chevelles, Mustangs, Cadillacs, Novas and damn near anything Buick produced back in the day will easily make the cut.
Through the years, Trus and Vogues, custom body kits, bangin’ sound systems and plenty of burnt rubber have become regular items served on the unofficial sideshow menu. YouTube and the evening news have shown this people-policed illegal trend spreading across the country, taking the hyphy movement to a new level. “I’ve been going to sideshows since I was a kid,” says Oak-town rapper Clyde Carson. “After every big event, it was gonna be a sideshow. If it was in the summer, it could be any day. All kind of cars would come out. You could look at old Dru Down, Tupac and Spice 1 videos and see sideshows taking place right there, but the general public always lacked the ability to see that Bay Area culture. They would only recognize more of a lowrider, L.A.-based culture.”
And although Floss Angeles is nothing but a hop, skip and a jump down the coast, the difference in car culture throughout the Golden State is pretty evident—especially from the inside out. “I’ll tell you one thing: You’ll never see a fuckin’ ’64 in Oakland,” screams Yukmouth of the Luniz, regarding Bay Area comparisons with Los Angeles lowrider culture. “We do not ride the lowriders and hydraulics; we ride high-performance. It’s all about proving how fast your car can go or how tight your car is by swinging donuts and figure-eights. You can’t swing no donuts in no ’64 Impala, so nobody is fucking with that out here.”
The Bay still has love for their in-state rival, but they’re happy to finally get their fair share of the spotlight. “L.A. culture and Bay Area culture have the same love for cars—they just do different things to them,” Mistah F.A.B. says. “For the mainstream media to finally come out to the Bay is a beautiful thing—it helps people understand the car culture, music, lifestyle and attitude of a Baydestrian.” Yadadamean?