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51 Hip Hop slang words that took over pop culture

51 Hip Hop slang words that took over pop culture
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Few groups have contributed more to universal vernacular than Hip Hop. Having originated in New York City and expanded to other metropolitan areas across the globe, the culture’s linguistic phenomenon — better known as slang — quickly transcended its roots and permeated the mainstream. Rap’s lexicon is rich and diverse, reflecting the creativity, resilience, and urban experience of its originators.

An example of a Hip Hop slang term that achieved massive recognition is “bling,” which refers to flashy jewelry and has since become synonymous with wealth and status in general. Another word, “dope,” transitioned from its more illicit meaning to become the perfect description for something that’s exciting or impressive.

Interestingly enough, “slang” has a much longer history than the culture who adopted it as its own. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known use of the popular noun was via an essay published about philosophy and poetry during the Age of Enlightenment. In modern times, songs like Young Thug’s “Haiti Slang” and Cappadonna’s “Slang Editorial” further established the word as one of Hip Hop’s most important. Even Rocko dedicated an entire song to endless phrases for outsiders to learn and understand.

Below, check out other words that can be heard or read on any part of the planet today. As Hip Hop continues to evolve and influence the world, its slang will undoubtedly continue to shape the way we communicate and express ourselves.

1. Scrub

Dictionary.com stated that scrub has been slang for an “insignificant or contemptible person” since the Renaissance period. Regarding modern use, legendary R&B group TLC got credit for using that term to describe broke men. The word’s use became so popular as a result that Sporty Thievz created a humorous – and viral – response with “No Pigeons.”

2. No cap

In the above sense, no cap is a term that became popular within trap music, much in part thanks to Atlanta artists like Young Thug and 21 Savage. Serving as an alternative to “no lie,” “no joke,” or “for real,” the short phrase was said to have been spotted on social media long before its widespread use. Arguably, it’s the above collaboration that truly gave it life within the culture (and beyond).

3. Bling

As he made clear on Outkast’s “Hollywood Divorce,” Lil Wayne was acknowledged as the creator of the term after providing the hook on B.G.’s “Bling Bling.” He further reiterated this during an appearance on REVOLT’s “Drink Champs.” That slang became such a massive phenomenon that it eventually got an entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

4. Standing on business

Urban Dictionary defined the above phrase as simply “[taking] care of your business.” “When faced with a situation, you are urged to handle your own affairs,” the website further explained. Those three words can be heard on a wealth of songs and even in titles from drops by the likes of BIG30 and Skilla Baby. As far as who popularized it, T.I.’s son claimed responsibility after criticizing comedian Druski for using the term. Whether or not that’s true is yet to be proven.

5. Crunk

Before those in the mainstream were using crunk – meaning getting hype or pumped up from excitement — as part of their spoken language, it was primarily known as a subgenre of Hip Hop pioneered in cities like Miami and Memphis. At some point, Atlanta’s own Lil Jon would declare himself the “King of Crunk” and make the word prominent throughout his musical catalog. Crunk can also mean being intoxicated on your favorite drink or drug of choice.

6. Twerk

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word twerk was initially associated with New Orleans bounce, although the actual dance – see above – is said to have origins in West Africa. Nonetheless, the term and the act are more than well-used on dance floors across the globe, transcending race and gender long after its popularization.

7. Slime

During a “Drink Champs” conversation with Joe Budden, N.O.R.E. explained the meaning behind slime and how it’s become a part of gang culture, taking on an entirely different meaning than he claimed was intended. “They say [if] you’re slime, then you’re affiliated with a certain gang,” the host explained, adding that he made the word famous during the height of his music career.

8. Turn up

Who knows who was the first to use turn up in the slang sense, which essentially means to get into a party or celebratory mode. Whatever the case, 2 Chainz made a smash hit out of the two-word phrase and even provided a matching music video as a proper reference tool.

9. Baller

To be a baller typically means to be a person with plenty of cash on hand. It’s also used in a more specific sense, like when describing a top-tier professional athlete. LaVar Ball cleverly utilized both terms when he made Big Baller Brand, further pushing the term into popular culture. Even HBO took the word and made it into a series about wealthy NFL players and executives.

10. Diss

Diss – the word and its history – has been part of the fabric of Hip Hop since its early stages. Since the infamous Roxanne Wars, the term, an abbreviation of disrespect, ran parallel to competition on wax and subsequently became used whenever anyone felt slighted by another individual.

11. Ice

The idea of wearing ice (or flashy jewelry) and being icy is one of the more popular terms in rap music, with songs like Kash Doll’s “Ice Me Out,” DJ Khaled’s “Iced Out My Arms,” Saweetie’s “ICY GRL,” and Future and Metro Boomin’s “Ice Attack” being direct examples. Gucci Mane’s breakout hit with Jeezy, the iconic “So Icy,” might be the collaboration that made its use widespread.

12. Lit

Like crunk and turn up, lit (or litty) became a word that best described a wild or vice-infused situation. YFN Lucci and PnB Rock’s “Everyday We Lit” was centered around obtaining a successful lifestyle, while Wiz Khalifa’s “Lit” leaned more toward being incredibly high off marijuana. Travis Scott regularly utilizes the term during high-energy performances as if it’s a war cry.

13. Beef

There is arguably no better song that best describes the slang meaning behind beef than the above classic from The Notorious B.I.G. The term relates to any kind of conflict between two parties, and – in Hip Hop – often serves as a precursor for violence as an ill-advised solution. As an example of his use of pop culture, one can look to the Netflix comedy “Beef,” which received accolades across the board for its comedic depiction of a road rage feud.

14. Dope

The word dope has had multiple meanings throughout the course of its existence, including as a loose term for illicit drugs. Eventually, Hip Hop would begin utilizing it in a more positive fashion, changing it into a term that meant cool or amazing — check out Kid Cudi’s “Mojo So Dope” as an example.

15. Flex

In Hip Hop, artists flex on (or show off for) their peers every day, whether it be through high-end jewelry or first-week album-equivalent units sold. Similar to the slang meaning for stunt, the term can be found on classics by the likes of Rich Homie Quan, Playboi Carti, and Rae Sremmurd, the last of whom broke out with the highly successful “No Flex Zone.” More recently, Drake and 21 Savage turned their boasts to the max with the infectious Her Loss standout “Rich Flex.”

16. Bae

The word bae, a flip of baby, is a term of endearment for that special someone in your life. Whether it’s Megan Thee Stallion’s “Bae Goals” or Vic Mensa’s “New Bae,” it’s all about love (or lust) when it comes to its use in Hip Hop. The extremely confident O.T. Genasis took it a step further by using the word to explain how great he felt about himself on any given day.

17. Bread

Bread is one of (maybe) hundreds of other normal words that have been refitted to mean money. This slang orientation of the term can be found on a wealth of rap songs, including Gunna’s comeback single above. Other tracks include Young Thug’s “Bread Winners,” SahBabii’s “Bread Head,” Young Scooter’s “Bread Crumbs,” and Gucci Mane’s “Break Bread.”

18. Trill

Trill is a blend of true and real, and is typically used in Hip Hop slang for someone or something that is genuine and authentic. Along with his city of Houston, TX, Bun B is probably the biggest user of the word, having used it for every album in his discography. Others have adopted it within their moniker, with Trillville being a prominent example.

19. Cheese

Cheese as another slang term for money – one that was more popular during Hip Hop’s golden era. The slang term spread thanks to songs like JAY-Z’s megahit “Big Pimpin’,” where he rapped, “We be big pimpin’, spendin’ cheese.” Project Pat’s “Cheese and Dope” and Wiz Khalifa’s “Chicken With The Cheese” are a couple of other big examples.

20. Kicks

On Mya’s “Best Of Me, Part 2,” JAY-Z delivered what was arguably the song’s most memorable line when he said, “Carolina blue kicks, hottest n**ga on the block.” He was of course referring to his sneakers, as many other rappers did and continue to do on wax. Other artists who proudly used the term include Wale, Jaden Smith, and Nas, who famously claimed that he runs “with more kicks than a baby in her mother’s stomach” on the classic single “Halftime.”

21. The/Da Bomb

To call something or someone the bomb meant that the subject in question was the best or the greatest. DMX used the term to describe a potential love interest. “Shorty was the bomb, brownskin honey with a little dough,” he rapped. Kris Kross and Gravediggaz are two groups that dedicated a song to the slang word.

22. Boo

Boo is one of the biggest words to ascend from urban music to the mainstream. An alternative way to describe a lover or significant other, rap and R&B songs have been heavy on the use of the term – Method Man rapped the term multiple times on his and Mary J. Blige’s hit single, “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By.”

23. GOAT

Credit for the popularization of GOAT — or greatest of all time — has to go to LL Cool J, who utilized the term for his eighth studio LP. Since then, the word has been thrown around all over the rap scene, with countless artists declaring themselves the GOAT or one of the GOATs, making the word more and more diluted over time. Some rappers have even incorporated the appearance of literal goats in videos, artwork, and other forms of media.

24. Ill

Ill is an interesting word because, when used in the above format, it takes on a much different connotation than its original meaning. Instead of literally being under the weather, Hip Hop artists use the term to mean great or nice. It can even be used interchangeably with another slang example, dope. LL Cool J’s “Ill Bomb” and Foxy Brown’s “Ill Na Na” are two strong examples.

25. Tight

Tight is a slang term that can mean a couple of things within the rap realm. Above, Rah Digga used the word to describe how cool or amazing various things are. It can also refer to how close a relationship is between two people.

26. Fresh

To be fresh means to be stylish and attractive, especially in regard to one’s outfit. Bow Wow claimed that nobody is “Fresh Azimiz” while artists like Bun B, Royce da 5’9”, and DJ Drama declared “I’m Fresh” on their respective singles. Also, you can’t forget about a legendary moniker like Will Smith’s Fresh Prince.

27. Trap

As slang, the word trap has come to describe both the ghetto (especially those in the South) and the music that documents what happens there. Most within Hip Hop would agree that T.I. is the first to utilize it in such a way – something that he frequently made clear in interviews. Fetty Wap and Future also ran with the term on the hit singles “Trap Queen” and “Trap N**gas,” respectively.

28. Thot

Thot was popularized as a largely offensive term for women by the likes of Chief Keef, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, The Game, and countless other artists. Over time, women have flipped the word for themselves, as can be heard on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot S**t,” Cardi B’s remix of Blueface’s “Thotiana,” and the upgraded version of Hitmaka’s “Thot Box” with Latto, Chinese Kitty, DreamDoll, Latto, Dreezy, and Young M.A.

29. Cake

For Hip Hop, the word cake usually refers to a person’s butt, often with some sexual innuendo. Examples include 88GLAM’s “Cake,” Rihanna’s rap-esque “Birthday Cake,” and Flo Rida’s pop-rap offering “Cake.” Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj bragged about having cake in “TROLLZ” and “Girls In The Hood,” respectively.

30. Whip

When speaking about a whip, rappers are usually referring to their car, although artists like Silentó and Willow Smith have flipped the word into different dance moves. On “Last Call,” Kanye West famously rapped, “Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push miracle whips,” while Gucci Mane boasted about how he “jumped out the whip with a bad little b**ch” on one of his Mr. Davis standouts.

31. Wack

While not as popular as on earlier Hip Hop releases, wack was a big one when describing anything terrible or corny. On the hit song “Jump,” Kris Kross called wearing clothes in regular fashion “wiggity wack,” while MC Hammer used the same phrase for girls without his particular preference on “Pumps and a Bump.” Let’s not forget this timeless video.

32. Wifey

Of course, the word wifey refers to exactly what one might think – a person’s significant other, whether it be a girlfriend, the mother of one’s kids, or a literal spouse. On his EVOL standout “Low Life,” Future boasted about keeping “10 wifeys” while Rubi Rose declared herself one in a flashy visual for her “Wifey” single.

33. Cream

Cream — a backronym for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” — was famously recited by Method Man on the classic Wu-Tang Clan single of the same name. The word became popular when referring to currency, so much so that it was mentioned by entities like Google and Financial Times. An uncredited Timbaland famously paid homage to the term on Drake and JAY-Z’s “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2.”

34. Busta

For this slang meaning, the above term isn’t in reference to Hip Hop legend Busta Rhymes. In this case, the word describes individuals who are broke, disloyal, the opposition, or just outright vessels of negatively. Lyrics from songs like Hit-Boy’s “Busta A** N**gas,” DJ Paul and Juicy J’s “Busta A** N**gaz,” and C-Murder’s “Ride on Dem Bustas” are perfect examples.

35. Floss

The word floss means to flex or show off your riches, and plenty of rappers have done so in songs and flashy music videos. Big Moe famously sang about living it up on Mike Jones’ classic cut “Flossin’.” 2 Chainz and Lute also provided unique takes on the act on their singles, both of which were titled “Flossin’.”

36. Ratchet

Originally used to describe someone operating in an out-of-pocket manner, the slang meaning of ratchet has also been connected to an exciting or wild party. In addition to the classic comedic clip above, artists like Connie Diiamond, Lakayeh, Megan Thee Stallion, and Key Glock dedicated songs to the ratchet lifestyle.

37. Swag

The shortened version of swagger refers to being confident in your style and fashion sense. It’s a feeling that JAY-Z expressed beautifully on “Public Service Announcement” when he rapped, “Check out my swag, yo, I walk like a ballplayer.” Above, Soulja Boy turned his personal swag into one of the biggest hits of his career.

38. Fly

To be fly means to be stylish and sophisticated. On the Big Tymers classic “Still Fly,” Mannie Fresh broke it down for those looking to meet those qualifications even in the midst of struggle. “Gator boots with the pimped-out Gucci suits, ain’t got no job… Can’t pay my rent ’cause all my money’s spent, but that’s okay ’cause I’m still fly,” he sang. Three 6 Mafia, Kendrick Lamar, and Future also released songs about maintaining a high level of flyness.

39. Knockin’ boots

R&B outfit H-Town is probably the first to turn the old Western phrase – meaning to have sex – into a popular AAVE term, but plenty of rappers have continued to push it throughout popular music. Wreckx-N-Effect, Sir Mix-A-Lot, and Travis Porter utilized it in song titles and subject matter.

40. Shiesty

Not only does the above term refer to anyone who is deceitful or conniving, it’s now a nickname for a ski mask – an accessory that (perhaps unfairly) has been closely associated with criminal activity. Artists like Pooh Shiesty have certainly added to its popularity, along with other artists like Finesse2Tymes, Big Homiie G, RetcH, and Hotboy Wes.

41. Phat

Phat is a slang term that means great or excellent. From a more adult perspective, it can also refer to a voluptuous woman, which Ludacris was leaning more toward in his breakout single, “Phat Rabbit.” For AOI: Bionix, De La Soul used the term in a similar fashion on “Baby Phat,” a flip of Kimora Lee Simmons’ long-running fashion brand.

42. Glizzy

In most cases, the use of glizzy in rap songs has been for guns – specifically one made by weapons manufacturer Glock. Somehow, the term took on an entirely hilarious meaning when social media turned it into a word for a hot dog. As an example, competitive eater Elizabeth “Glizzy Lizzy” Salgado earned her nickname by becoming a professional at downing the American staple faster than her peers.

43. Stan

Merriam-Webster defined the word stan as “an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan.” The term was made wildly popular by none other than Eminem, whose quadruple-platinum song of the same name (and its cinematic visual) brought the most horrifying example of such an individual to life.

44. Karen

There have been more than a few nicknames for entitled white women who weaponize their privilege to the detriment of minorities and marginalized communities. The most recent one is Karen, which became popular after a Black birdwatcher was accosted by someone fitting the profile in a New York park. While there aren’t a slew of rap songs dedicated to Karens, the use of the term by the likes of Yung Joc and Nicki Minaj proved its use within Hip Hop and popular culture.

45. Grind

To grind means to work hard in order to achieve a certain goal, and many rappers have shared that common thread on their journey to success. Killer Mike fed his fans with the critically acclaimed I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series while Lil Wayne and Drake broke down what the term meant to them on “Grindin’.” Led by Hit-Boy, the HS87 collective provided their perspectives on the classic “Grindin’ My Whole Life.”

46. YOLO

Drake, who is considered by many to be the rapper who popularized the term, gave listeners the meaning behind the above acronym on “The Motto.” “You only live once, that’s the motto, n**ga, YOLO,” he rapped. Presumably taking a page from JAY-Z, Joey BADASS gave his take on the viral phrase with “Death of YOLO.”

47. Shawty

Generally speaking, calling someone shawty or a variation of the word is a term of endearment, especially regarding an attractive woman and/or love interest. Plies gave listeners an example of its use with his T-Pain-assisted banger of the same name.

48. Props

Props is simply a shorter alternative for giving a person proper respect and credit for an accomplishment. Rap legend Kool Moe Dee demanded his flowers on “Gimme My Props” while JAY-Z offered the same love to a certain West Coast producer on “The Watcher 2.” “We give [Dr. Dre] his props, but that’s where it stops,” Hov rapped.

49. Homie

To have homies means to have close friends and allies who are usually down for anything, which listeners can better understand with songs like Lil Wayne’s “My Homies Still” and Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None).” Some rappers have also revealed what can happen when you put your trust into the wrong person, as could be heard on ScHoolboy Q’s “My Homie” and Lil Durk’s “Watch Yo Homie.”

50. It’s giving…

According to Later.com, the phrase “It’s giving” was birthed from NYC’s ballroom scene and has become popular on social media. “It is often used to describe a situation or experience that is particularly intense, dramatic, or over-the-top,” the website read. Latto’s “It’s Givin” and Lady London’s “What Is It Giving” are a couple of audio guides for the uninitiated.

51. Shade

Shade — or, in some cases, throwing shade — is defined as a snide remark, insult, or critique that one would aim at another individual. Lil Baby discussed the term alongside Gunna on a Harder Than Ever collaboration while IAMDDB addressed the shade that he received on his Hoodrich, Vol. 3 standout. Social media antics from others – like comments from Azealia Banks and Meek Mill about various rap peers — can also be rife with shade.





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