#DecipherIt – The Slang-Way-Age!!

Ayo boo!!

How is you all doin’?? Yo hope you be havin` uh nice life.

The greetings sound different, huh? Yo, you gotcha. It’s usual for the hiphoppas; but quite unusual for the commoners. Such dialects ain’t standard; but make up an important part of the hip hop culture. Slang has been an important part of communication as well as raps & rhymes in hip hop. Slangs give us the sense of peculiarity. Thus, talking about it is crucial and so our next element on the list is – Street Language.

Dialect from the Blacks

The above dialect descends from the enslaved Black Africans, particularly in West Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. Going back to the 18th century slave life, these immigrant slaves from different parts of Africa with different native tongues were suddenly forced to talk in Standard English.

These captives made a simple mixture of different languages called the pidgins that sounded like “Kay, massa, you just leave me, me sit here, great fish jump up into da canoe, here he be, massa, fine fish, massa; me den very grad; den me sit very still, until another great fish jump into de canoe; but me fall asleep, massa, and no wake ’til you come….” Who would have thought that such a broken English dialogue could turn into the coolest slang on Earth. Ha! Smirks apart, there are many other versions of slave language origins; but all are related to the African slavery. And there you go with Africanism once again!!

A modern day example of such language can be seen in Rihanna’s track “Work”. She speaks the Jamaican patios, another language developed by slaves in order to communicate with one another. This is called Slang, also referred as Black English or Urban Slang or American-African Vernacular English (AAVE – pronounced like “Ah-Vay”). The names have been changing time to time and now it is called Ebonics. This word was coined in 1973 by an Afro-American psychologist Robert Williams. His intention was to give a name that acknowledged the linguistic code of slave trade and avoided the negative terms like “Non-Standard Negro English”.

“We need to define what we speak. We need to give a clear definition to our language…We know that ebony means black and that phonics refers to speech sounds or the science of sounds. Thus, we are really talking about the science of black speech sounds or language.”

Ebonics is a variety of dialect, ethnolect and sociolect i.e. the slangs are influenced by some ethic/cultural group, language, socioeconomic groups, age, profession and region. Plus, the phonology (pronunciation), vocabulary and grammar forms the idiolect. It is the key. A few grammatical characteristics of slang are listed below:-

Negation indicators Ex:- Ain’t
Double negation Ex:- I didn’t go nowhere
Genitive -‘s ending may or may not be used Ex:- my momma sister (“my mother’s sister”)
Word order in questions Ex:- Why they ain’t growing? (“Why aren’t they growing?”)
Use of personal pronoun Ex:- Them (“Those” or “These”)

Hip Hop & Slang

Learn more here coz I ain’t gettin’ any deeper into grammar coz I have always been bad at it. Hehe. So I’ll get back to ties between hip hop and slang. Knowing the origins makes it easier. Rappin’ and slangs have a close affair. As the raps gained popularity, the lyrics felt more and more true to the language of streets. New words and phrases were invented which caught on in popular speech. So the Ebonics, rap terminology and other terms from subcultures and speech all come together to form Hip Hop Slang.

Hip hop slang has no shortage of local terms like ‘crew’ is called as ‘clique’ in West Coast, also, a place named ‘Oakland’ is also known as ‘The Big O’. This depicts that slang can be applied to any life situation, place, thing, person or feeling. Plus, the spelling in slangs ain’t really fixed. For example, gangster becomes gangsta; going becomes goin’; hiphopper becomes hiphoppa and so on. And strangely, some words like “ill” can have two contrast meanings – either ‘very desirable’ or ‘completely worthless’ while “shorty/shawty” means – either ‘a kid’ or ‘a girlfriend material’.

Also, a multilingual speaker or rapper or an MC is able to fluently switch between two or more languages. This linguistic adaptation is known as code switching which definitely played and important role. Ho!! The slang seems utterly flexible and all because it is a dialect; and not a language. Thus, such transformations are openly experimented and accepted; with some arguments attached. Slang is sometimes undermined by people of higher social status.

Cons apart, with so much stuff around, the rappers have a fine base to write their rhymes and stories. It’s not just hip hop, but spirituals, blues, jazz and R&B genres are associated with Black English. Some classics like “It Be’s That Way Sometime” by Nina Simone, “Control Myself” by LL Cool J, “Straight Ballin'” by Tupac Shakur and others make good examples for slang usage. Withal, Temple of Hip Hop believes, “Street Language is not always spoken words. Hip Hop’s Street Language includes Beat Boxin’ and certain street codes that may not be communicated in words at all.”

Thusly, street language deals with words, rhymes and speech even beyond what one says. I personally thank the Temple of Hip Hop for taking Street Language into consideration in the Refinitions of hip hop culture. It’s actually now that, I understand the wholesome depths of street language in hip hop lifestyle. If it wouldn’t have been for slangs; hip hop wouldn’t have been hip.

Tons of thanks to all our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who bestowed us with such a fine base to educate, inspire and love ourselves.

And now time to say bye-bye. See you guys. Keep deciphering.

Stay tuned for more stuff!!

Peace 🙂

[P.S. To know a few more slang words, visit the Hip Hop Slangtionary here.]

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