By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
But the notion of jerkin’ as neo-punk extends little beyond fashion — with a mutual predilection for piercings, tattoos, Mohawks and multihued hair. After all, when I ask the New Boyz what they plan to do with the advance that they’re about to receive from Asylum, Legacy mentions their desire to invest in real estate. Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten they are not. Whereas the Sex Pistols imploded under the weight of self-destructive nihilism, the jerkin’ movement is predicated on a positive affirmation of the self within society — with most of the affiliated kids displaying an entrepreneurial streak and corporate amenability at odds with the “Fuck the Man” aesthetic.
“Because they’re so entrenched in Internet technology, they have a different thought process toward fashion, music and social engagement. Their perspective of the world is very individualistic and entrepreneurial,” says Shariff Hasan, a 30-year-old entrepreneur and producer for the forthcoming “Jerkin” The Movie and Skinny Jeans: The Movement,a 20-webisode reality show airing on Hulu and other outlets.
The New Boyz didn’t need a Malcolm McLaren–type svengali to conceive a style or sound, let alone a Kings Road or CBGB. Who needs them when you can do everything digitally? After all, Legacy taught himself how to make beats just six months ago, messing around with FL Studio, the computer program known as Fruity Loops. “I had to teach myself,” Legacy admits. “We didn’t want to pay for beats.”
A New York Times reviewer, in a rave for “You’re a Jerk,” interpreted their first song, “Colors,” as a jab at the Cool Kids, but the group claims that the Chicago duo were a chief inspiration, along with fellow Windy City rappers Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne and the Virginia-raised producer Pharrell Williams. All of them deserve credit for recasting the hip-hop paradigm from the alpha-male gangster archetype to fashionista, rock-friendly skateboarders in skinny jeans. Rap no longer needed to be hard, just fun.
“Pharrell’s style is so different,” Ben J says reverently. “We learned from him — we did the whole baggy-shirts-long-pants thing, but it gets old. We got tired of the police stopping us, thinking that we were something we’re not. You can’t carry a gun in skinny jeans. Besides, it’s like, ‘Oh, another gang song.’”
Any analogue seems imperfect, as both the New Boyz and jerkin’ are absolutely products of their era. While radio play burnished the group with a ready-for-prime-time patina, their renown was staked on an intuitive grasp of technology. Without cheap, easily obtainable bedroom recording equipment, the one-time Hesperia High classmates would’ve been hard-pressed to afford studio time. Without YouTube, it may have taken years for jerkin’ to reach the High Desert. Without MySpace, “You’re a Jerk” would have had to rely on major-label muscle. With it, all Ben J and Legacy had to do was upload it to their music player and watch everything travel at warp speed.
“We called ourselves the New Boyz because we’re always up to something new. New Boyz do new things,” Ben J says.
“We’re the voice of the typical California teenager,” Legacy adds. “We share their slang, we share their style.”
Everything snowballed with such velocity that, still one week away from their high school graduation and 10 million MySpace plays later, the New Boyz can lean back on the plush leather couches, close their eyes and listen to Asylum’s radio promo man barking at them: We’re going to break you in Phoenix and Houston and Portland and Vegas and ...
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HAMILTONS
“That can’t be them. Have you seen their MySpace? Who hasn’t? Trust me, it’s them. Who? The Pink Dollaz and the Power Ranger$ and J-Hawk. Go talk to them. No, you. Why would they be here? Why wouldn’t they?”
A group of eighth-graders babble back and forth, gawking from a Jacuzzi inside the gated Inglewood community in which the Pink Dollaz’ manager, Lance Whitaker, resides. It’s the day after Hamilton High graduation, and assembled poolside on this murky June afternoon are the Dollaz, L.A.’s best female rap group since J.J. Fad; J-Hawk, the city’s top jerkin’ producer; and its best dance crew, the Go-Go Power Ranger$.
Well, technically, the Ranger$ aren’t here. A week prior, the dozen-member crew split up, with half keeping the Ranger$ name, and the rest pursuing a musical career under the name JINC Entertainment — save for fellow ex-Ranger YT, who, aided by his former clique, scored an incredibly raunchy and successful hit this spring with “Tippin’ on My Dick.” Thus, he’s doing the solo thing, but he’s still here, and everyone’s filling each other in on the previous night’s festivities. Except there aren’t any to speak of; despite their raunchy raps, no one’s claiming the Superbad-style debauchery you’d expect.