Whether it's being articulately spat by the world's hottest rap stars or being infuriatingly misused by boring white idiots, hip-hop slang is everywhere you turn in modern society. Still, as likely as you are to hear "bling" several times a day, you probably don't know where words like it came from and, specifically, who you can blame for their creation. Well, we're here to help...
In the long, torturous history of rap slang that has been mercilessly beaten to a bloody pulp by soccer moms and socialites, no term has taken more abuse than "bling." This seemingly meaningless word is meant to approximate the sound that is made when light reflects off of diamond jewelry. You know that sound, right? The sound light makes when it reflects off of something? Why do you look so confused right now?
New Orleans rapper and self proclaimed "hottest nigga under the sun" Lil' Wayne is most often credited with creating the word. It's a common misconception that he goes to absolutely no lengths to deny, as evidenced by this line from the Outkast featuring Lil' Wayne song "Hollywood Divorce"...
"Bling bling, I know and did you know I'm the creator of the term."
You are a liar, Weezy.
To his credit, he is one of the first rappers to say it. He used the word on a song called "Millionaire Dream" in 1998, but the word really took off the following year with the song "Bling, Bling" which was featured on an album by fellow Cash Money Records rapper, B.G. But the fact is, Wayne is taking a little too much credit for "bling." The real origin of the term is far less hood than you would believe.
Approximately this hood.
Back in the 70s and 80s there were a series of popular television commercials for a toothpaste called Ultrabrite. In one of the commercials, which happens to be the one fucking Ultrabrite commercial we can't find on YouTube, the narrator announces that "Ultrabrite gives your mouth...(insert sound effect that sounds like bling)...sex appeal." The line is delivered as a man smiles, revealing a row of gleaming white teeth. When the light hits his teeth, the "bling!" sound is heard.
The sound effect was given a name in the early 90s by comedian Martin Lawrence. In his stand up routine and on the Fox television show Martin (wherein he was so crazy), he would parody the famous Ultrabrite ads by using the word "bling!" to suggest that his jewelry gleamed like the teeth in those famous commercials. That's gangster! Kind of!
You know who still says "shiznit"? Fucking nobody. If you still find yourself using this or any other word with "iz" inserted in the middle in a non-ironic fashion, please stizop izmmiznediatelizz. You aren't doing yourself any favors by clinging to this one. You'd be better off adding "iggedy" to every other word like Das EFX or some shit.
Bum stiggedy bum stiggedy bum, hon!
With that said, for a good few years there in the 90s, adding "iz" to the middle of words was, well, the sh(izn)it. We place the blame for this directly on the smoked out shoulders of Snoop Dogg. Granted, he wasn't the first to use this quasi-Pig Latin type of speech on record. As far back as 1966 a group called The Icemen (featuring Jimi Hendrix!) closed their song "(My Girl) She's A Fox" by singing the line "she's a fizzox" repeatedly. We're assuming it wasn't nearly as annoying back then as it is now.
But even if he didn't technically start it, Snoop Dogg popularized it, and that's worse. To add to the misery, this all eventually evolved into more insidious things like "fo shizzle," which itself resulted in this horrifying Old Navy commercial that one cast member of ABC's Lost probably wishes never happened.
Yep, that was Sawyer prancing around in the powder blue half-zip performance fleece pullover. Anyway, if people were saying "fizzox" way back in 1966, Snoop Dogg couldn't possibly be the real source of this scourge of American vocabulary. So who gets the blame? Carnies, that's who. Those scheming, dentally challenged types that inhabit fairs and carnivals in hopes of convincing you to spend $75 shooting free throws at a crooked basketball rim so you can win your date a $3 stuffed bear have been using a variation of the "Snoop lexicon" for decades now.
Carny, or Ciazarn is a secret mode of encoded speech that carnies would use amongst each other when they didn't want their customers to know what they were talking about. Instead of a simple "iz" their version uses a more drawn out "eaz" (pronounced "ee-uz") syllable to confuse the shit out of anyone who may be listening. Sure, you know they're talking about fucking you out of every possible dime that they can, but it's a lot harder to catch when it sounds like "weaz-e aeaz-re goeaz-ing teaz-o breaz-eak theaz-is cheaz-ump, heaz-ow deaz-oes meaz-y meaz-ullet leaz-ook?".
"On the grind" is most often used in hip-hop terms as slang for drug dealing or any other money-making activity, like Internet comedy writing, for example. Seriously, we're rich--by third world standards--y'all! The term is thrown around constantly in hip-hop songs, most awesomely in the Clipse tune "Grindin."
It's hard to determine when it really took hold in the rap community because, as a slang term, grind has been used in a negative manner to describe any number of tedious, soul crushing tasks since the mid-20th century. For example, the various Cracked interns often complain of being "on the grind" when performing menial tasks like providing us with clean urine for our court mandated drug tests or checking Google images for pictures of knife wielding elephants. But one of the earliest pop culture uses of grind as slang for putting in work came from this thuggish fella...
"I'll fuckin, I'll fuckin pull your fuckin tongue out your fuckin mouth and stab the shit with a rusty screwdriver. BLAOWW!"
That is American literary giant Mark Twain. If you needed us to tell you that, close your browser and find a tutor as soon as possible. In "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," a short story written by Twain and published in Harper's Monthly in 1879, the character Mr. Richards drops the g-word to describe his work life:
"always at the grind, grind, grind, on a salary--another man's slave, and he sitting at home in his slippers, rich and comfortable."
If you're keeping score at home, this use of a future hip-hop slang term predates the birth of The Rappin' Granny by over 50 years. Hey, speaking of being on the grind, where the hell is that knife wielding elephant picture we asked those interns for?