6 Awful Hip Hop Slang Terms (That Are Way Older Than Rap)
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?
According to research we have not actually conducted, approximately one in four rap songs in the early 90s included the word "props" in the title. Its most memorable use was probably gay rap lyrics alumni Black Moon's "Who Got Da Props," but it still pops up from time to time, most recently in the Dem Franchize Boyz song "Give Props." Excuse our grammar just now, we know using "the" and "dem" back to back isn't right, but we really had no choice.
You win, boyz, you're tougher than spelling and grammar. We hope you're happy.
Props is actually an abbreviated form of the word propers, which in turn is an abbreviation of the term "proper respect." But damn, saying "proper respect" is waaaay too labor intensive. What are we, made of free time? Where would it end? Complete sentences? Screw that noise. When would we find time to tag people in photos and whatnot? So who gets the props for this extraordinary time saving measure? Turns out, it's this lady, sort of:
No, that is not a time elapsed rendering of Lil' Kim in 25 years, it's Aretha Franklin, and roughly a metric ton of boob. One of the earliest popular uses of the term shows up in the Aretha Franklin classic, "Respect." She made the song popular, but it was actually written by Otis Redding, who included this sweet time saving lyric in the song...
"All I'm askin' in return honey is to give me my propers when I get home."
Little did Otis know, he would be changing the world. Soon, anyone demanding to be given their due respect was doing so with one little word. Twenty or so years later, things got even easier when it was shortened to props. With this much progress, it's just a matter of time before people are demanding their "pros" whenever they feel slighted.
On the surface, "gold digger" might not seem like hip hop slang at all. After all, it is a pretty common term that has been used to describe money grubbing skanks for as long as anyone can remember. But to get an idea of just how close the term's ties to hip-hop are these days, you need only to plug gold digger into your Google machine and check out the top results that are returned. Sitting high atop the number one and two spots are the video and Wikipedia page for the Kanye West song of the same name.
Suck it, Gold Digger (comics)!
Come on, "gold digger" as a slang term? Even the word "phat" has its own Wikipedia page for fuck's sake! Give it a few more decades, and encyclopedias will be reflecting on how Kanye West invented the term gold digger in 2005. But we all know he didn't. Hell, he wasn't even the first person to record a rap song called "Gold Digger" (that would be EPMD way back in 1990). So just how long has this lady-bashing term been on the pop culture radar? A lot longer than you would expect.
As film titles go, gold digger had a pretty lengthy run back in the 1920s and 30s. It first popped up on the silver screen as the silent film The Gold Diggers. The screenplay for the film was based on a Broadway play of the same name that premiered in 1919. That's 90 years of money grubbing floozies! The film was remade as a talkie in 1929 under the name The Gold Diggers of Broadway. The 1929 version was hugely popular, holding the title of top grossing film of all time from 1929-39. Despite the massive appeal, the film is now considered lost, as is the 1923 silent version. Someone should tell Netflix, they would totally replace that shit. But fear not, if you're curious, you can check out the the aptly titled 1933 remake Gold Diggers of 1933 wherever fine, old-timey movies are sold.
By that time, the Great Depression was in full swing, so it's bound to be a decent flick. Bitches was hungry! For further viewing, check out any of the sequels that followed, including Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937, Gold Diggers in Paris or Gold Diggers vs. Predator: The Final Conflict.
When was the last time you found yourself getting "crunk"? If you can answer that, please tell us what the fuck you were doing that constituted "getting crunk." Seriously, we have almost no idea what it means. In fact, it appears that nobody is quite sure what crunk means. Look the word up on Urban Dictionary and you get 308 definitions ranging anywhere from the seemingly plausible (high on chronic and drunk) to those that we only wish were correct (dressing up like a clown and break dancing).
But it's not just amateur Web scholars that have tried their hand at the game of defining crunk. The Merriam-Webster dictionary chimes in with this definition:
crunk: word of fluctuating meaning used during the 1990s in lyrics of the rap groups OutKast and Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz
So the official meaning of crunk is "word of fluctuating meaning"? Way to phone it in, Merriam-Webster. A slightly more respectable attempt at defining the word was made by southern "rapper" Lil' Jon, who described crunk as "a heightened state of excitement," before presumably adding "hwhat!?"
Despite the confusion over the exact definition, there is one thing we can tell you with absolute certainty about the word crunk. Well before mainstream America beat the word to death, it was showing up in places that are far less hood than you could ever imagine. Like where? Well, Dr. Seuss books seem like a good place to start.
The 1972 Dr. Seuss classic Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now, a children's book about the various ways in which Mooney is encouraged to get the hell out of Dodge, crunk is used to describe a type of car that may be used to make his long anticipated exit.
We may or may not have a bong that looks exactly like this.
The next crackeriffic use of the word, albeit with a different spelling (krunk), arrived via the first two seasons of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Beginning in early 1994, O'Brien would encourage guests to insert the word krunk into their conversations, explaining that it was a multiple use expletive that censors did not know what to do with.
That beats the shit out of Dr. Seuss, so we're going to go ahead and declare Conan the official inventor of the word. We weren't able to locate any clips of the word being used on the show, but we did stumble upon this short clip of Ed Asner recommending made up curse words as a means of relieving stress. Seriously, that's just as good.
Now that you have your terminology down, see what else you need to do to become a hip-hop icon, in The Old School Hip Hop Course Guide. And then find out what mistakes to avoid in order to write that "bizzomb ass" song, in The 5 Worst Lyrics Ever to Ruin Good Rap Songs.