Yiken in the Bay

Written by Maxwell Cavaseno (Tumbls here)

Corny as it seems dancing is still one of the main elements of hip-hop, even in 2014. To be honest nobody except highly proficient Japanese cyborgs or ridiculously enthusiastic teutonic kids still getting buzzed off of Red Bull sponsored TRU MC hosted tournaments of B-Boy standard technique gives a damn about “breakdancing.” And why should they? Hip-Hop is the world’s most rapidly developing musical virus, and every other year they throw out a new dance style, or five, to fuck us up, both in the head and the ankles. And sometimes it’s married to a specific sound/genre, sometimes just something to do. In the current year alone, we’re dealing with the nascent steps of “Bop” out of Chicago, the “Nae Nae” out of Atlanta, and least heralded, but nonetheless interesting to watch, the Bay Area’s latest style: Yiken.

Physically, Yiken itself is basically the human centipede of dances; conjoinment and following the leader is everything. In this case, the leader is usually a young woman, thankfully blessed with something for her partner, the young man, to follow. Bent over and swaying, she proceeds to perform a snake-charming slow swish, which her dance partner follows with his own hips. The end result is a dance that is almost like a smoother, slippery version of “jacking,” or a soft grinding ride when contrasted to the pummeling daredevil antics of “daggering.” It’s also realistic to assume that somewhere in California this dance is causing one young man to sock another in the mouth for taking liberties with a young woman, in the age old saga of adolescent hormones and enthusiasm colliding with dance. Ah, to be young.

But when it comes to dances in rap, there’s usually always a strain of rap following around. Jerk had New Boyz, Snap had D4L, and for Yiken, we have faces that are actually already pretty familiar. Right now the dominating voice of most Yiken videos and parties might just be the post-hyphy hitmaking phenomenon of last year, Sage the Gemini. Obviously his older gems such as “Red Nose” and “Gas Pedal” still gain mileage, but specifically doing rising damage is the late blossoming of his friend and associate D-Mac. Produced by Sage and additionally featuring him on the hook, as well as C.F.O.P.A staple Show Banga, “Panoramic” is a riptide of bass-weight. Armed with Sage’s depth charge kicks and ear-snatching robotic baritone, D-Mac peels out bars gleefully, sounding like an overenthusiastic nerd calculating the algorithms to finally get a girl in bed. In the video, rappers are typically giddy and goofy, while dancers wear the movement’s motto on their chest with “Yike Or Die” shirts.

The motto’s owner, and the other main administrator of Yiken in trying to take it from Bay Area rap craze to semi-movement, is Priceless Da Roc. Once a post-hyphy rapper known for raunch, hard beats and nimble flows “Yiken” finds him in the same musical milieu. However, gone is the overexertion of older songs like “Face Get Blue” to a more slinky and cautious sounds that still manages to rattle trunks and eardrums with ease. Other names building up steam are Chonkie F Tutz, 99 Percent, and C2Saucy, amongst others. And while trying to pin it down to a true “signature sound” is incredibly difficult, the general wave of talented and enthusiastic youth signifies yet another burst of innovation just waiting to realize their potential.

So, how does a niche California rap scene sustain itself? Like anyone else in the current rap climate, the internet serves as an oasis in the information desert. Scene figures Priceless, Ms.#GetItIndy & DJ J12 promote endlessly via Youtube videos showcasing new dance moves, songs, and generally enjoying themselves. However, in a true amount of foresight, these groups have extended their movement into a touring crew who demonstrate and celebrate with people all over the west coast. Slowly but surely, the gospel of the Yike is being preached across America, and it seems only a matter of time before we see just how long this dance lingers around in the hearts and minds of all.

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