Order in the court!
The English language has had enough. For 20+ years, it has been misused and abused accidentally, on purpose, and with glee by rap music. However, Judge J-Zone, while sympathetic of the plaintiff’s claims, sees the entertainment in bending, twisting out of shape, and completely mangling the King’s English. The purpose of this trial is to decide what needs to be done about this quagmire. Should rappers be required to pass high school English before releasing their work to the public? Or should Merriam-Webster take the stick out of their ass and amend the dictionary and all grammar rules to suit the ingenuity of rap(pers)?
Poor spelling, exceedingly poor grammar, words that don’t exist, and mumble-mouthed phrases that were shrouded in mystery until one day you got really high and decoded what the fuck was being said – they all ran rampant on the late ’80s and early ’90s rap releases. Rap music crammed three times the amount of words onto an album than any other genre at three times the speed, so a bludgeoning of the King’s English was a mere side effect. As long as these errors were laid down with flair, nobody noticed (or cared). Rappers were Gods to those of us born in the ’70s, so it wasn’t a surprise that I told my ninth grade English teacher that “stoled” is the double past tense of stole because Tim Dog said it. Here are some of the greatest ‘what the fuck?’ pronunciation and grammar taboos in rap history.
Note: Keep in mind, the fairly common “I ain’t be got no weapon” and “let me ‘ax’ you a question” were not included. Doing so would make this a 25,000 word essay and we ain’t that starched ’round here.
Part One: Spelling
As we’ve discovered via Twitter, most rappers can’t spell for poodle poop. (They also have love affairs with the caps lock button.) And it’s not necessarily due to the acronyms and abbreviations (Ex.: IDK for ‘I don’t know’ or hate spelled as ‘h8′) used to cram what would normally be a 156-character brain fart into 140 or a neighboring letter on the keypad replacing the intended one by mistake (Ex.: stupid spelled as ‘stipid’). The origins of egregious rap spelling mistakes date as far back as 1989, when hip-hop’s first widely-known egregious spelling error popped up on wax. The location was EPMD’s “Knick Knack Patty Wack”, which was the launching pad for spell-a-holic MC K-Solo.
“I’m from C.I., L.I., F-L-Y / like a B-R-I-D, in the S-K-Y”
Did Solo mean to spell brie (as in the cheese)? Maybe he meant to spell brim (as in the hat). I’m pretty sure he meant to spell bird, but you have to go back and listen for shit like this during mix down. Solo, Erick Sermon, Parrish Smith, and Charlie Marotta (the engineer) are all at fault for allowing this to happen. I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the greatest rap posse cuts of all time, though. I think K-Solo got the point after playing it numerous times – he re-recited the rhyme on “The Real Solo Please Stand Up” on his album a year later and did in fact give the bird its proper respect with a correct spelling.
Next up, the cousin of Biz Markie, Diamond Shell. Obviously Diamond Shell knows how to spell his own name, but he referred to himself as “the D-I-A-M-N-O-D”. The song the aforementioned error appeared on was “A Bugged out Day at Power Play”, which was essentially a freestyle, so Mr. Shell gets a pass.
The best of the litter, however, comes from the cousin of Dr. Dre, Mr. Warren G. Warren G’s Regulate: The G-Funk Era album sounds like one long West side freestyle, fueled by Chronic smoke, Hennessey, low riders, and synthesizers. That being said, I have no idea if he freestyled this or what, but there’s no way you can misspell a word in your song title in rhyme, but spell it correctly when listing it on the CD artwork. From “What’s Next?”:
“What’s next, what’s next, what’s N-X-E-T?”
Huh? No matter the motivation for leaving that goof in the song, Warren G proved that rappers don’t need Twitter accounts to show us they spell on a first grade level (clip below at 2:45).
Part Two: Sorry, that word does not exist!
I remember riding in the car with my pops circa 1990, pumping Lord Finesse‘s classic Funky Technician cassette. A seemingly innocuous line caused pops to bust out laughing:
“For Tone, everything was goin’ great / because him and his friends would sit and conversate.”
To a 13-year old kid, conversate sounds like a very impressive and very real word. Apparently, many adults feel the same. Pops said it was not. I didn’t believe him. I hit Webster’s dictionary up to settle the beef. Conversate is not a real word. It cast a feeling of disappointment down on me akin to learning that Santa Claus only does what he does to put little boys on his lap.
As for recent reaches into the land of non-existent words, I must shout out the grilled one, Paul Wall, for this one:
“I pronunciate, my articulate game…”
See, when you follow a non-existent word like pronunciate with a word that has scholarly implications like articulate, you can Jedi Mind trick the listener into thinking the former is a real word. That’s some incredulous, metaphysical, hydrophonic, xenophobic, impeccable shit! Can you pin point which of those adjectives is not a real word?