Now, I love rap music. I mean, I really love it. Part of me feels that as a husband and father approaching 30, I ought to “grow up” and change my taste in music. I listen to lots of other stuff as well, country, rock and crazy ’70s dance music are all on my ipod (ever seen a grown man jamming to “Take A Chance On Me” in public?). If not, you’ve likely never seen me driving down a winding road on a hot summer day.
I can’t help it, I just love rap. The feeling of a hard hitting, bass heavy song with fast, intricate rhyming or “spitting” on top is the best way to leave my cares on the highway on a Friday afternoon.. I should note however, that in recent years I have switched to country music while in heavy traffic as I find Brad Paisley has a way of keeping my temper down that Tupac simply does not. Their conflict resolution tactics vary dramatically and I have found the former to be most useful for me.
But I digress…Hip hop/rap music is here to stay. It’s no longer a product of the ghetto inner city lifestyle. From coast to coast you can find wealthy young people from affluent families cruising the suburbs blasting a 50 cent song about how hard life is in the hood. Rap is deeply rooted in popular culture and it’s not going anywhere for now.
That having been said, I think that it’s high-time somebody took the effort to recognize rap music’s top contributions to the English language over the years. I have put together this list so that you can expand your thug vocabulary as I have. I trust that you’ll find these words useful for communicating with family and friends at all levels of society from your grandmother to the server at Burger King. So here it is.
Rap music’s top contributions to the English language
Originally coined by Snoop (a.k.a. D O double G, Top Dog, Snoop Dizzle, Snoop Lion or Calvin), shizzle is a diverse and unique word used to generalize almost anything. Originally a variant of a four lettered word that I won’t repeat here, it has evolved dramatically into a reference word for any item of your choice. Almost always used as a positive reference, shizzle fits in almost anywhere.
Commonly mistaken to mean “promiscuous poultry”, the word chickenhead is a derogatory term one would use to refer to a female of low intelligence. This one in particular I would not recommend you use in your day to day life, unless referencing a rap song. For this it can be extremely useful.
“Hey brother, remember that Lil Wayne song?”
“No dog, which song are you referring to?”
“The one where he speaks of a ‘chickenhead’”
“Ahh yes, I do remember that song”
See how quickly that was resolved? That’s what I’m talking about when I say that you can literally find context for these words every single day.
3. Street Cred
To have “Street Cred” is to be respected on the streets. There are a variety of ways that one can build/establish their street cred, including but not limited to: having lots of money and engaging in aggressive or intimidating behaviour. I should mention that street cred is limited by jurisdiction. If you travel from one place to another you should not expect the locals to recognize your cred. You will have to re-establish your cred in your new environment. Experience is key though, and it shouldn’t take you as long the second time around.
You will find that the $100 bills are often referred to as “benjamins” in rap music paying obvious respect to Benjamin Franklin’s accomplishments that earned him his place on said bill. Referring to your money in “benjamins” rather than dollars is useful as it establishes that you have more than a hundred dollars to your name, without being too specific. It also works to build your street cred. Having many benjamins is a primary component of cred-building.
5. Baby Mama/Daddy
A term used to pay respect to the mother or father of your child. I myself am a “baby daddy” and can attest to the term’s usefulness in everyday life. When in conversation with strangers in the grocery store line up, you can slip in how much you have enjoyed being a “baby daddy”. This establishes you as hip, not a babysitter, and happy about your role as a father. I have been experimenting with calling my wife “baby mama” and will report back with results.
Not to be confused with the delicious barbecueable meat, this type of beef is dead-serious. A “beef” is a disagreement, a serious one. A beef can typically come of a failed business arrangement, and conflict over a girl, or money. Beefs can cause much trouble in a relationship and I always recommend resolving a beef as soon as possible.
Now let’s take what we’ve learned and put it to use.
“Hey man, I can’t come out tonight because my street cred has been called into question by that chickenhead I met last week. I don’t see why she is starting a beef by questioning this shizzle. I will not be spending any more benjamins on her.”
Do you see how easy that was? Now take what you’ve learned here and put it to use!
I hope this brief overview helps you to see the great potential that rap-terminology has in your everyday life. Maybe you’re looking to speak in a more hip and relevant fashion, or perhaps you’re a scholarly English major looking to increase your already vast vocabulary, rap has much to offer you either way.
Flickr photo (cc) by Yogma