Mistah F.A.B. performs during the Hyphy Era Tour at the New Parish in Oakland on May 18, 2023. (D-Ray)
Electricity filled the New Parish on May 18 as The Hyphy Era Tour, led by Mistah F.A.B., touched down in Oakland after a successful run up and down the West Coast. But something deeper was evident in the sold-out crowd — and felt by one of hyphy’s figureheads.
“This is a real spiritual journey right here, man,” said Keak Da Sneak backstage before taking the stage. “The hyphy movement is spiritual.”
It’s been almost two decades since the hyphy movement exploded from the Bay Area’s inner cities to its suburbs and the rest of the country: Mac Dre laid the foundation for its bombastic self-expression with “Thizzelle Dance” in 2002. The Federation’s 2003 “Hyphy” and Keak’s 2005 “Super Hyphy” crystalised the movement; F.A.B.’s “Super Sick Wid It” and “N.E.W. Oakland” united turfs from Oakland to Vallejo; and hyphy finally hit its national peak in 2006 with Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” and E-40 and Keak’s “Tell Me When to Go.”
These songs burst with ecstatic, joyful chaos, and, for Baydestrians, going dumb to them is a ritual of catharsis — an energetic release from life’s troubles and traumas. At 8 p.m., when the doors were set to open, a multigenerational, multiracial line of fans — rocking tie-dye, neon, crisp white tees, shades and Dope Era clothes — was already wrapped around the block, ready for that spiritual communion and a mega-dose of Bay Area nostalgia.
“The hyphy movement was the era I was in my 20s, I had the best time. Like, you had to be there,” said a woman wearing lime green spandex and purple lipstick named Mo, from Oakland. “Sideshows were better than they are now.”
“Middle school, going stupid dumb,” reminisced a fan in a red snapback named Alex from Antioch. “At least one person would have a car where their parents let you ghost ride it. We were always hoppin’ out, doors open, mayne.”
Inside at show time, blunt smoke filled the air, and that ecstatic energy began to swirl through the room, picking up speed when D-Lo performed his sad-player slap “You Played Me.” The crowd began to coalesce into a congregation, shouting the lyrics, making thizz faces, throwing up T’s and vibrating to the rhythm in collective feeling.
The Team, The Federation, Turf Talk, Nump and numerous special guests lit up the room, and the energy carried throughout the night until 2 a.m. When Mistah F.A.B. finally took the stage — in a total 2004 throwback, wearing Girbaud jeans and an air-brushed tall tee with his own portrait — he expertly rocked the mic, living up to his “freestyle king” nickname with crisply delivered bars on “Sideshow” and “Ghost Ride It.”
One of hyphy’s missed opportunities was that there was no national hyphy tour when the subgenre was at its peak. Backstage at the New Parish, F.A.B. — now a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist — reflected with gratitude on the opportunity to finally take his heroes and peers on the road, and to unite multiple generations of Bay Area hip-hop.
“We’re on God’s timing, man, and I’m a big fan of that,” F.A.B. said. “What better time to do it now? To be able to be still in the energy, to receive these flowers and be able to provide these roses.”
For Mistah F.A.B. and others in the hyphy generation, the reunion tour is deeper than having a good time — it’s also about coming out on the other side of trauma and thriving. “It’s the struggles of what we’ve all been through over these years, you know. Keak Da Sneak had a life-altering situation where many people would have gave up,” he said, referring to a 2017 shooting that left Keak Da Sneak no longer able to walk. Keak served a prison term for a gun charge while still recuperating from serious injuries, and has fortunately made a strong return to performing since his release in 2019.
“He’s still the most stand-up guy that I know because of his willpower and his courage — for him to get up, and still show face every night, and go out and give it 110%, that alone is why we do it,” F.A.B. added.
As he spoke, Bavgate — who performed “N.E.W. Oakland” with Mistah F.A.B. and G-Stack for the first time since 2006 — lifted his shirt to reveal a torso marked by bullet and surgery scars, a testament to his own miraculous perseverance. Fans routinely tell F.A.B. stories along similar lines. For many who’ve come to see The Hyphy Era Tour, from Seattle to Humboldt, the music evokes happy memories that can feel like medicine: “This was the time where people was like, ‘Damn, I remember that my mama was still alive. My brother was still alive, and that’s before my cousin went to jail,’” F.A.B. said.
When it came time for Keak Da Sneak to close out the show, the room enveloped him in love. F.A.B., Turf Talk, D-Lo and Bavgate looked on in admiration as he rapped his “Tell Me When to Go” verse, “Fast (Like a Nascar)” and other turnup classics. The room chanted his name, and voices yelled “we love you” from the crowd. It was a well deserved reception for a legend finally getting his due.
Hyphy “won’t die, it can’t die,” Keak said backstage. “I’m just glad to be here, man, to witness, to be a part of it, to be one of the founders.”