The multiple arrests last year in an alleged national drug ring marked an infamous milestone for a San Francisco Bay Area success story. Thizz Entertainment, once the purveyor of the Bay’s trademark hyphy music, used the famous local label to sell Ecstasy – along with cocaine, pot and heroin – across the U.S., according to federal authorities.

Slang for “hyperactive,” hyphy refers to hip-hop characterized by fast-paced rhymes, big bass, and frenzied beats and dancing. The music glorified the use of MDMA, or “Molly” (the ingredient typically found in Ecstasy), and the term “thizz” – used to describe the drug’s euphoric effects – was coined by none other than the founder of Thizz Entertainment, rapper Andre Hicks aka Mac Dre.

Hyphy hit its stride in the mid-2000s – and for a moment, the nation was paying attention. Thizz’s roster and other local rap groups began making deals with major labels. But Virgin Records and Warner Bros. weren’t the only ones catching wind of the flamboyant imprint. By tapping into the popularity of Ecstasy in its songs’ lyrics, Thizz also captured the attention of federal authorities. And the drug business that was intended to finance hyphy’s future ultimately led to its downfall, they say.

Our new investigation goes behind the hype to reveal the economic and cultural nuances behind some of our favorite songs. Listen to the playlist below as you read the story – it will take you back to a time when the Bay Area was at the height of its hip-hop game, movies existed mainly in 2-D and Barack Obama was just another senator.

Disclaimer: Some of the songs and videos below may contain strong language, references to drug use and/or sexual subject matter.

Yadadamean? If not, keep reading …

Hyphy wasn’t just a sound – it was a word that helped define a young and emerging culture in the Bay Area about a decade ago. Most memorably, the movement brought us “The Thizz Face,” turfing, ghost-riding and attempts to “go dumb” to the forefront. For a glimpse into hyphy’s past, check out the following videos:

1. “Thizzle Dance,” Mac Dre

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In 2002, Mac Dre introduced the world to a new style of dance.

2. Pass The Thizz Face!

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English students got caught up in the craze, too.

3. “Tell Me When To Go,” E-40 featuring Keak da Sneak

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Produced by Lil Jon, this tune helped elevate the hyphy movement to a national level.

4. Turfing/Turf Dance

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Originating from Oakland, Calif., this form of street dancing has deep roots. Check out this 2009 video for a more recent interpretation of the art.

5. “Ghost Ride It,” Mistah F.A.B.

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If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Mistah F.A.B.!

6. Ghostride the Whip 4 – Ghostriding

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This video features Thizz Entertainment’s own J-Diggs and Mistah F.A.B. discussing this popular activity at East Bay sideshows.

7. “18 Dummy,” Federation

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Produced by Rick Rock, a hip-hop producer from Fairfield, Calif., this is my favorite hyphy jam of all time.


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The name says it all.

9. “Super Hyphy,” Keak da Sneak

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Oakland rapper Keak da Sneak coined the term “hyphy” (that’s my word) in 1994.

10. “Vans,” The Pack

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The Pack helped launch the solo career of Lil B (aka The BasedGod).

This story is part of a larger investigation by CIR into Thizz Entertainment’s alleged involvement in a national drug ring. Contact the writer at and follow her on Twitter at @juliachanb.

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Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.