Hip hop music’s dictionary uses a variety of slang terms that have changed as hip hop itself has changed over the years. In fact, much of the language used in hip hop is drawn from African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Specifically, hip hop slang makes use of alternative pronunciations, mostly drawn from AAVE. Hence, ordinary words are given new meanings, new coinages and portmanteau words, and vernacular phrases. Furthermore, the slang used in hip hop can often be linked to a certain era and/or school of hip hop. Consequently, as the hip hop culture has become popular worldwide, non-Americans and non-English speakers have borrowed from and contributed to the slang of hip hop, often modifying the meanings of words to their own uses.
Hip hop slang from music
To begin with, Harlem rapper Lamont Coleman (stage name Big L) released a song on his posthumous album “The Big Picture” entitled “Ebonics”. In detail, Big L goes through various hip hop slang terms and gives their “proper” meanings.
Yo, pay attentionBig L, “Ebonics”
And listen real closely how I break this slang shit down
Check it, my weed smoke is my lye
A ki of coke is a pie
When I’m lifted, I’m high
With new clothes on, I’m fly
Cars is whips and sneakers is kicks
Money is chips, movies is flicks
aks – another word for “ask”; a way of saying hip hop artists don’t give a shit about pronouncing words correctly.
Blood vessels poppin’ out my craniumsJoey Bada$$, “Snakes”
Niggas aksin’ when the tape gon’ drop but I got nothin’ to say to them
bangin’ – of extraordinary quality; attractive or desirable.
God damn, backyard’s bangin’ like a BenzieGhostface Killah, “Ice Cream”
If I was jiggy, you’d be spotted like Spuds McKenzie
big willie – someone with a lot of money and luxury goods, usually acquired through hustling; one with extravagant taste and a penchant for flaunting their wealth.
The crew is lampin’ Big Willie-styleNas, “The World Is Yours”
Check the chip-toothed smile, plus I profile wild.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems – the eternal conundrum of success; the more money you get, the more problems you have.
I don’t know what they want from meThe Notorious B.I.G., “Mo Money, Mo Problems”
It’s like the more money we come about, the more problems we see.
Frankie Smith and Snoop Dog
This particular style of hip hop slang was created specifically by certain hip hop artists. Originated by funk musician Frankie Smith with his 1982 nonsense single “The Double-Dutch Bus”, this style was popularized by rapper Snoop Dogg when he used it on Dr Dre’s The Chronic album in 1992. So the ending of a word is removed, and replaced with the -izzle suffix. In other cases, -izz- is added in the middle of a word, for example, the word “house” becomes “hizzouse”.
- bizzle – bitch
- fizzle – can be female, fuck, flatulate or any number of words starting with the letter F
- hizzle – hook, as in the phrase “off the hook”
- nizzle – nigga
- rizzle – real
- shiznit – shit (usually in a general positive sense); used especially in the phrase “Thats tha Shiznit!”
- fo’shizzle – for sure
- skizzle – a drip of any sort of intoxicating liquid.
- tizzle – tizzy, a state of agitation or nervousness.
- wizzle – wigga
English words with changed meanings
Surely, these words can be found with the same spelling in any English dictionary. However, in hip hop music they are used as slang words and are given an alternate meaning, forming their own dictionary.
- Wat it do – Hello (Houston)
- Who am is – Who am i (South)
- bent – adj.- intoxicated
- biscuit – n.- gun, pistol
- cap – n.- bullet (e.g. “I’ma bust a cap in yo’ ass.” = “I will shoot you.”)
- cheese – n.- money
- dog (also “dogg” and “dawg”) -n.- a close and trusted friend
- fly – adj.- cool, appealing, etc.
- ghost -v.- to leave, leave quietly, quickly. (e.g. “He got ghost.” = “He left quickly.” or “It’s time to get ghost.” = “It’s time to evacuate from the scene.”)
- hood – n.- neighborhood, usually, or the turf of certain gangs
- ice -n.- diamonds, usually refers to the plural. (e.g. “That nigga got shit loads’a ice on his wrist.” = “That guy is wearing a bracelet with a lot of diamonds.”)
- marinate -v.- chill, relax
- pig -n.- police officer
- popes – n. – the police, an abbreviation of po-po. (e.g. “Look out for the popes!” )
- tight – adj.- cool, high-quality, appealing
Invented terms and portmanteaux
These words and their meanings would not be found in an English dictionary, but are used in hip hop music slang. Though used and popularized by M.C.s, most of these words were not coined by any M.C. Instead, they were taken from the local street slang of each M.C.’s area. Many of these words have become mainstream because of various popular hip hop artists.
- wifey – girlfriend
- kicks – sneakers
- Big Face – 100 Dollar Bill
- baller -n.- a high-roller, a money-maker
- chillax -v.- relaxing. A combination of “chill” and “relax.
- diss -v.- to criticize or disrespect someone. (e.g. “He dissed that bitch.” )
- hella -adv.- very formed from “hell” and “of”; not used much by M.C.s anymore; common on the West Coast
- Mo’ Fo’ -n.- motherfucker
- scrilla -n.- money; used especially by West Coast M.C.s. (Mack 10, E-40, etc.)
Hip hop slang for drugs, gangs and guns
Gang slang terms
- BG -n.- Baby Gangsta; an adolescent gangster
- bluh -n.- a slurred pronunciation of Blood. Generally means friend, homie, fellow Bloods member. Usually used in phrases such as “What up, bluh?”, meaning “What’s up, Blood?” Generally used to refer to a Blood gang member, but sometimes used by Bloods towards non-Bloods gang members to provoke confrontation.
- Cuzz/Cuzzo -n.- Crip. Sometimes pronounced “cuh”. A familiar term between members of the Crip gang, it can also be used in a confrontational manner from a Crip gang member towards a non-Crip.
- G -n.- a gangsta. (I’m a G, I’m a G) in East Coast or “old school” hip-hop can mean simply a guy or girl.
- OG -n.- Original Gangster. Initially referred to the founder of a street gang, but now commonly refers to any older gang member. Usually common to gang bangers who live up to their notoriety, reputation, and never “sold out”. Has been adopted outside of the gang culture for general use in hip-hop to refer to any originator of something or older person.
- overhoe -n.- derogatory term towards a Ova Soldier gang member.
- suwitchboy -n.- derogatory term towards a D.T.B ganster.
Drug-related slang terms
- Papi – The drug connect
- White Lady – Cocaine
- Dope boy – Drug Dealer
- boi – heroin
- cookies – crack cocaine
- nick (also “nickel”, “nickelbag”, “nickelsack”) – a five dollar bag of illicit drug
- dime (also “dimebag” or “dimesack”) – ten dollar bag of illicit drugs
- fire – marijuana or meaning a sex term towards oral sex
- green – marijuana
- primo – a joint laced with angel dust or crack cocaine
- powdering his face – snorting cocaine
Gun-related slang terms
- Glock handgun – nine, nina, Nina Ross
- .22 caliber gun – Deuce Deuce, Scooby-Doo (used by Cypress Hill)
- 40-caliber gun – 4 pounda
- 44-caliber gun – 44, Fo’ Fo’
- 45-caliber gun – Fo’Five
- Desert Eagle- Desert Eaze, Deagle
- shotgun- pump, shotty, “The Dimple-ator”
Hip hop slang for brand names and trademarks
- Benz/Benzo – short for Mercedes-Benz
- Beamer – any model of BMW vehicle
- Cad/Caddy/’Lac – a Cadillac
- Deuce and a Quarter – a Buick Electra
- Dom P. -Dom Perignon, a brand of champagne
- Henny, Hen – Hennessy, a brand of cognac
- L dog – a Lincoln
- Lex – short for Lexus, also short for Rolex watches
- Timbs – Timberland boots
- Rolly (also Rolley) – a term for Rolex, as used in Snoop Dogg’s 2004 hit “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. Also a synonym for Rolls Royce.
Meaning of numbers in hip hop slang
- 187- homicide
- 24/7 – all day hustle
- 411 – information. From 4-1-1, the number for directory assistance in the United States.
- 420 – Number associated with cannabis and cannabis usage. Also refers to April 20th, which many people refer to as “Marijuana Day” because of the date.
- 5-0 – in reference to the police (as in the television show Hawaii Five-O)
- 1096 – police code for mentally ill suspect (from the film The Sugarland Express). Commonly used in the state of Texas.
- 5150 – code for mentally ill from the California Welfare and Institutions Code. Also the name of a Van Halen and an Eazy-E album.
- 730 – the code for a crazy person. According to some New York City rappers the term “730” originated from mental health patients receiving their medication at 7:30 am and 7:30 pm.
- 211 – robbery
- 20 – location (e.g. “What’s yo’ 20?” = “Where are you?”)
Hip hop slang phrases
- bust a nut – ejaculate
- bust a move – to act first in an altercation, to perform a dance step. popularized by Young M.C.’s hit single, “Bust A Move” (1989).
- coolin’ it – relaxing
- da bomb – the bomb; cool, appealing, or popular
- keep it trill – keep it true and real (true + real = trill)
- off the hook – unbelievable, outrageous, wild, etc.
- open up shop – sell drugs, establish a drug-selling spot
- what’s goin’ down? – what are we doing tonight? can refer to a fight.
- what tha dilly yo? (also “…dealio?”) – what is going on?. Originated from “What the deal, yo?”.
- what up? – hello, how are you?, or what is going on?
- wiggity-wack – very disturbing. presently, the “wiggity” has been dropped and those in hip-hop now use just “wack”.
- word up – you got that straight, that’s right, or how’s it going. many now simply use the word “word”.
Furthermore, if you’re interested to know more about the language of hip hop, Pudding did an article just about that. As a result, you can look through 308 hip hop artists and see their vocabulary similarity, a dictionary of the most used hip hop slang terms, etc.