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
Loosely paralleling their online habits, Cold Flamez supported themselves via a different form of social networking.
“We trapped all day, every day. If you don’t know what trapping is, consult your hood dictionary,” D-Real says. (The Hood Dictionary defines “trapping” as “going to a place to make money selling drugs.”)
Like Tay and YG, Cold Flamez emerged from hardscrabble origins. Dash taught himself to make beats on Garage Band while living in a group home in Watts. Most of their current material was recorded in Compton, at a spot only accessible after dodging barbed wire and vigilant security guards. Unsurprisingly, the sounds emanating from the hood have a more distinctly raw and uncut tint.
“Every city’s got its own swag,” D-Real says. “Compton and Long Beach have a grimy swag. You can see the gangster in the music.”
THE NEXT EPISODE
The Function doesn’t start for another hour, but an outrageous queue of kids already snakes around Hollywood’s Avalon nightclub. Judging from the anxious chatter and the candy-bar smiles emblazoned across the crowd’s faces, the sweltering summer sun can’t stifle their excitement. School’s out and everyone’s here, from kids who still probably play with Power Ranger$ to 21-year-olds — crews battling for the $1,000 grand prize and teenagers here just to jerk.
The venerable Art Deco theater is a swanky spot for the upstart movement and the kids are ready for the cameras: 9-year-olds with “jerk” etched into their fades, 16-year-olds in burgundy vests, Kermit the Frog–colored caps, vacuum-sealed skinny jeans. Here, six months’ experience is enough to earn awesome respect and the title of crew C.E.O.
The Function is promoted by Patrick Bradley, the 20-year-old entrepreneur behind Jusjerk.com, a Web site he’s seeking to turn into the premiere portal for jerkin’ music. This is his biggest event yet and he’s wrangled performances from most of jerkin’s biggest crews, and cameos from J-Hawk, the Pink Dollaz, Tay 3rd and his girlfriend, Asia Lynn, a fiercely talented rapper.
Attempting to ride jerkin’s crest as it expands nationally and internationally, the one-time real estate agent has plans for an Internet music label, a documentary and a barnstorming jerkin’ tour.
“These labels give artists low-six-figure advances for three-album deals. That’s not much when you factor in taxes and the probability of some being one-hit wonders,” Bradley says. “We’re partnering with them and teaching merchandising and business. If you get 1 million plays and sell a ring tone to 10 percent, that’s more money than a major will give you.” (It could amount to between $100,000 and $350,000.)
Minus the now-departed JINC contingent, the Ranger$ win handily in the finals. They always do. Asked about the future, 16-year-old Julian Goins, the crew’s co-founder and most known member, insists that they plan “to do everything.” For now, they’ll anchor the Jusjerk national tour and continue shooting videos and making music. Though he is primarily known for his dancing, Goins’ “They Love Me” has accumulated nearly 300,000 MySpace plays.
Several days later, filming commences on Skinny Jeans: The Movement,the reality show produced by Hasan, Bill Lucas and Candor Entertainment. While the program’s purpose is partially to proselytize, Lucas, a former marketing director at Universal Music, insists there’s altruism behind the efforts.
“Some of the music I used to work with was really negative,” Lucas says. “I felt that some of it was as destructive to the community as crack dealers. This generation has reclaimed rap’s innocence; they’ve renamed it and rebranded it. It’s so fun and colorful and positive. It’s a rebirth.”
June accelerated into July and the media feeding frenzy intensified, morphing from an Internet and radio phenomenon to national television audiences. The New Boyz and JINC performed at the BET Awards preshow, with the latter’s debut track, “Bad Chick Alert,” joining Pink Dollaz, Tay, Cold Flamez and, of course, New Boyz on Power 106. Other jerkin’ crews and rap groups began springing up so fast that Vans’ net revenues have probably surpassed those of General Motors.
Hailed as the song of the summer, “You’re a Jerk” has jolted even the most optimistic record executives, with a video exceeding 4 million YouTube views, MySpace plays at 15 million–plus, digital sales of 350,000 units in one month. Across America, radio stations in all formats have spun the record. MTV, BET and Fox 11 News at 10 have beckoned, the latter dragging the New Boyz to Venice Beach to explain jerkin’ for a benighted local news audience.
“You’re the movement! Be the movement!” a cameraman with a radio–traffic reporter voice shouts at Ben J and Legacy, streaming past throngs of Boardwalk lookie-loos. The moment they pause, a crowd clots — pointing and whispering — “Isn’t that the ‘You’re a Jerk’ guys?” It’s no longer just eighth-graders paying attention, but 8-year-olds and sorority girls and European tourists with fanny packs. Everyone notices but that Venice staple, the rap knuckleheads oblivious to the New Era, clutching flimsy Walkmans and still trying to badger you into buying their mixtape. Maybe the New Boyz can give them pointers.