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
The wiry J-Hawk is the nexus that binds all of these groups together. After all, he’s produced their hits, and to think it might not have happened if Daniel Murphy High hadn’t shuttered last year, causing the 17-year-old Hawkins to transfer to Hamilton. Thanks to a quirk in graduation requirements, the senior found himself in a P.E. class with Cammy B of Pink Dollaz. By the time the girls discovered they had “flow” while riding around in the car freestyling to 2Pac’s “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” J-Hawk had already made a name for himself as the go-to jerkin’ producer.
“J-Hawk wanted to work with a girl group and we were already freestyling,” Cammy B says. “So I told the girls that we should lay some tracks down. We didn’t expect for our music to get that big, but people felt it. Next thing we knew, everyone was saying, ‘Pink Dollaaaz.’”
But they did get that big, and fast. Upon inception, the Pink Dollaz were an A&R’s dream: five beautiful and fashionable female rappers barely old enough to drive, with an exponentially expanding fan base and the ability to write their own songs. The quintet only joined MySpace in January, but its debut track, “I’m Tasty,” already beat J-Hawk to a million plays, though he’s been a member since 2007. It was explicitly engineered for success: infectious beat, instantly memorable hook, and lyrics blue enough to turn Foxy Brown pink.
“Jerkin’ songs can be about anything from skinny jeans to everyday life,” J-Hawk says. “Most are about sex. No one’s saying we’re these ‘clean people.’ We’re just teenagers who want to express ourselves freely.”
Subsequent MySpace smashes “Don’t Need No Nigga” and “Never Hungry” proved Pink Dollaz could write complete songs with an empowering independent-woman message.
“We’re trying to show the world that girls can rap ... girls are going to take over,” the Dollaz’ CeCe says, only half-sarcastically.
“We go a lot harder than the guys; some dudes on the radio can’t rap at all,” Mocha adds, with a smile bigger than her grapefruit-sized gold earrings. “People think girls can’t do it, but when they hear us they’re always surprised.”
No one needed to tell that to the kids from Carson to Canoga Park who flocked to the Hamilton High parking lot all spring, waiting for the Pink Dollaz and the Ranger$ to get out of class. But it’s a post–Soulja Boy world — the surprise isn’t that a school talent show prompted the Ranger$ to form only last December, but, rather, that movements like this haven’t already happened in every metropolis across America.
“Rejectin’ had its own bounce and swag, but there’s only so much you can do with one move,” says the Ranger$’ Frank Freedman, a.k.a. Phaze-1. “When each of us started to add our own, it made us unstoppable.”
Once the crew uploaded their often shaky, handheld footage to YouTube, the combination of their acrobatic and innovative moves and impeccable sartorial flair earned them instant converts. Almost instantly, their YouTube views climbed well into six and even seven figures. Moreover, they helped spur jerkin’s elasticity, which began to resemble open-source code, with anyone able to adapt it to their particular swag or style. For a youth culture weaned on the cult of individualism, jerkin’ is its apotheosis.
With support already accrued underground, the visual component added by the Power Ranger$ and other prominent crews, like Action Figure$, the Rej3ctz, LOL Kiid$z, Hi 5ive, Cool Kidz and UCLA Jerk Kings, has galvanized dozens more to form, many of whom challenged the reigning champs.
“Groups constantly tried to show up to Hamilton to battle us and challenge us on YouTube. We never lost,” YT says matter-of-factly.
The ex-Ranger$/current members of JINC also stress jerkin’s viability as a gang-culture alternative.
“People used to think being a gangbanger was cool and fun,” says Marquese Scott, a.k.a. Nifty. “But it was negative, everyone got in trouble. Jerkin’ turned it around. It’s about using the same energy to do something positive.”
COMPTON AND LONG BEACH IS STILL IN THE HOUSE
YG is so fresh out of jail that the “Free YG” campaign hasn’t been removed from the MySpace pages of his Pu$haz Inc. crew. Since a judge sentenced him back to County two months ago for violating his work-release program (original conviction: burglary), the Compton-raised rapper watched from afar while jerkin’ exploded. The closest thing to an originator, YG can remember the day three summers ago when the Rej3ctz birthed the Reject stomp at a Pu$haz function — back when “jerkin’” was the catch-all appellation used to describe any party that was popping.