5 words straight outta hip hop
Perhaps more than in any other musical genre, words are crucial components in rap and hip hop. Rappers aren’t usually instrumentalists in the traditional sense, but instead rely on the careful selection of words and the cadence and speed with which they deliver them—their “flow.” As a result, rap is rife with lyrical inventiveness and wordplay, including puns, double entendres, cleverly veiled references, and even words invented from scratch. Here are five words that hip hop has contributed to the lexicon.
“Bling bling, every time I come around your city / Bling bling, pinky ring worth about fifty…”
– “Bling Bling” by B.G. featuring Hot Boys and Big Tymers
The terms “bling bling” and “bling,” which originated as hip hop slang, refer to flashy or extravagant jewelry or similarly glitzy items. The words are likely based on the cartoon sound effect associated with shiny, valuable items, and they evoke the effect of jewelry sparkling in the light. “Bling” wrapped up all these ideas more efficiently than any other term had done before, helping it to become among the most mainstream of rap slang—even your grandma knows what “bling” means.
“This rap is for you people in the past who were against me / Who snapped at every opportunity to diss me…”
– “Don’t Even Try It” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
New word, who dis? (Or “diss”—both spellings are officially acceptable.) “Diss” comes from “disrespect,” and it can be used as both a verb (to disrespect) and a noun (an insult). In rap, the diss is often raised to an art form, especially in the “diss track,” a song in which the artist targets their rivals with savage rhymes.
“Getting in trouble from the sounds of my trunk / And keeping it crunk, keeping it crunk”
– “Get Crunk” by Lil Jon
“Crunk” was born in the ‘90s in the “Dirty South” hip hop scene. Its etymology is debated, but it might be a portmanteau of "crazy" and "drunk." Fitting, because it describes intense excitement or intoxication. “Crunk” is also the name of the energetic style of hip hop from which the word derived. The genre incorporates electronic sounds and synthesizers, along with shouted lyrics, and was brought to the mainstream with the song "Get Low" by rapper Lil Jon—who is, in no lil way, “crunk” personified.
“For shizzle, dizzle, I’m on a track with the Big Snoop Dizzle”
– “Holidae Inn” by Chingy, featuring Ludacris and Snoop Dogg
“Shizzle” is both a style of slang popularized by American rappers and a word indicative of it. To speak in this way, one replaces the endings of words with the suffix “-izzle.” Doing that to the word “sure” (combining the “sh-” sound at the beginning with the “-izzle” suffix) creates “shizzle.” Jay-Z’s use of the “-izzle” suffix in his 2001 hit song “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” brought it wide recognition, but it is perhaps more closely associated with frequent purveyor Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Dizzle).
“You want to know what's a mullet? Well / I got a little story to tell…”
– “Mullet Head” by the Beastie Boys
Did you know that this much-maligned hairstyle probably got its name from three guys specializing in ill communication? No, not Noah Webster, Samuel Johnson, and Peter Mark Roget—we’re talking about the Beastie Boys. The American hip hop group is usually credited with creating or at the very least popularizing the word “mullet” to refer to the hairstyle in their 1994 song “Mullet Head,” a diss track, of sorts, on the mullet and those who wear one. (“Mullet head” is a much older term for a fool or stupid person.) The Beasties might have given us a new word, but their attempt to sabotage the mullet seems to have been for naught—mullet heads still fight for their right to be business in the front, party in the back.
Don’t diss—which words did we miss?
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