If you search "thizz dance" on YouTube, the first hit is a video by Rene Wachner-Solomon and Sam Fuller, a clip from the series Bay Life. Google it and you get the same result. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bay Area dance phenomenon, "thizz dancing" was invented by the gangster rapper Mac Dre in 2002.
Originally associated with the drug ecstasy, thizzing has become more broadly defined, grouped together with the "hyphy" dance and music style popular in the Bay since the early 90s. Not nearly as intricate as Soulja Boy’s Crank That, Mac Dre describes how it’s done:
I put a look on my face like I smell some piss
Bounce to the beat till it starts to hurt
Then I dust all the smirk off me shirt
This San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland area subculture serve as the setting for Bay Life and if you know the scene, this is one web show you gotta watch. The first thing that may strike you is the young, white protagonist, "Tre," takes the demeanor and dress of a stereotypical black gangster rapper. The central trope and comedic device of the series is Tre’s efforts to redefine his identity, including changing his name from Saul Cohen to something more gentile.
Following six more trailers, the first few "episodes" were released this year, but they’re short as the trailer clips, and have no unifying titles or logo. The show, which is only available on YouTube, offers no framework from which to understand it. It is simply a collection of short clips featuring Tre in different aspects of his life and, given his contrived "I don’t give a $%@&" persona, the absence of an overarching brand makes sense.
I spoke with Rene, who told me that Tre has been asked on dates. "This summer, a young lady was aggressively pursuing Tre on Myspace. I considered inviting her to my house and filming a sex video in character as Tre. In the end, I realized there was an element of sexual attraction missing from the equation although I think seeing Tre’s camera technique might have been worth the discomfort."
Rene and Tre do share autobiographical similarities. Both went to Berkeley High and grew up in the bay. Tre’s wardrobe and Rene’s are the same. "Many of Tre’s stories are my own: my parents really do own a restaurant (not named Saul’s), and I really did rear-end a woman while I was eating a burrito and then offer her what remained of it." And some stories are exaggerated or completely fabricated.
As we are drawn deeper into Tre’s world, we realize that he’s a desperate person, struggling with his identity and acceptance in a culture that glorifies gangster rap and violent masculinity. Is this development an elaboration of the creator’s real insecurities, or is he exploiting his experience for narrative effect? "Obviously, Tre is a lot dumber than most individuals, so the element of autobiography only goes so far," said Solomon.
"Thizz Dance" is the most popular video in the Bay Life series, with almost half a million views on YouTube. Even "Thug Life" which has it’s own imitator (see above) has only 100k. It’s hard to gauge what that means to a YouTube audience, but it seems that the show could benefit from more identifiable characteristics, like a theme song or consistent credits. But that’s a product of Tre’s search for authenticity, one which becomes more futile as the show develops.
Will there be a dramatic resolution, or a realist denouement? We will have to see. Said Solomon, "There are at least three more installments of Bay Life yet to be released as well as some other smaller clips. I think the most interesting developments in the story are yet to come."