Don’t mortify yourself by saying “fo’ shizzle” to someone from Chicago or by expecting Hi-Tek slang to be recognized outside of the Cincinnati metropolitan area. (No offense, Nati residents.) Rap slang can be as hyper-regional as sports alliances. With the help of M.I.M.’s lyrical breakdown about how each part of the US raps, we created an atlas of five notable words from each region.
East Coast rap
East Coast rap is most famous for its NYC origins—rap as we know it was born in the South Bronx and developed from Queens to Virginia Beach. We could write an article on Wu-Tang’s Staten Island-based lyrical innovations alone; choosing just five words from the East Coast, the birthplace of hip hop, is as challenging as a rose growing through concrete.
or Cash Rules Everything Around Me originated in NYC, specifically Staten Island.
In a lyric: “Cash rules everything around me, .C.R.E.A.M. Get the money, dollar dollar bill, y’all.”
–Wu Tang Clan, “C.R.E.A.M.”
Everyday use: Should I spend Tuesday night hanging out with my grandma, or picking up extra dog walking shifts? Hmm, C.R.E.A.M.—I’ll choose the paid labor.”
means fly or cool and originated in NYC, specifically Harlem.
In a lyric: “Let’s get the dough and stay real jiggy.”
–Jay-Z, “Hard Knock Life”
Everyday use: Xavier thought his puffy vest was pretty jiggy, but I think it’s very 2002. In a bad way.
means from or exemplifying and it originated in NYC, specifically Brooklyn.
In a lyric: “What ya throwin on? Biggie Smalls, who you represent?”
–Notorious BIG, “Jeans and Sneakers”
Everyday use: The comedian got the audience hyped by shouting “Brooklyn! Represent, represent!” as soon as she got on stage.
are all-purpose nouns originating in Philadelphia.
In a lyric: “I’m golden brown, and you know she’s the joint.”
–Funky 4 + 1, “That’s the Joint”
Everyday use: Let’s go down to that jawn on 4th St. and grab a hoagie.
means crazy and originated in NYC (specifically from the city code used when a perp suffers from a mental disorder).
In a lyric: “They say I’m 730, say I spaz out.”
–Foxy Brown, “730”
Everyday use: Julia went 730 when she scuffed her new white sneakers.
West Coast rap
Rap may have started in New York, but California taught it how to chill out and slow down. And, there is no definitive answer to whether LA’s rap terminology is more innovative than the Bay Area’s—Snoop Dogg and E-40 have been there, and the debate ain’t pretty.
means gangster or tough and it originated in LA.
In a lyric: “Gangsta, gangsta! That’s what they’re yellin.’ It’s not about a salary, it’s all about reality.”
–NWA, “Gangsta Gangsta”
Everyday use: Bobby can pose as pretty gangsta sometimes, but he’s about as soft as they come.
Fo shizzle/fa shizzle means for sure and originated in LA.
In a lyric: “Fa shizzle my nizzle, the big Snoopy D-O-double-jizzle back up in the hizzle.”
–Snoop Dogg, “Suited N Booted”
Everyday use: Hey, want to see a 7:45 movie? Fo shizzle.
Beotch is an insulting or incredulous address, often aimed at a woman, and it originated in Oakland.
In a lyric: “I’ll call her a beotch…beotch!”
–Too $hort, “Call Her a B!tch”
Everyday use: Don’t call someone a beotch—especially a stranger.
Ghostride the whip means to let a car drive itself and it originated in Vallejo.
In a lyric: “Now let me direct traffic for a minute…ghostride the whip.”
–E-40, “Tell Me When to Go”
Everyday use: There was a sideshow last weekend, and there are still marks on the road from where people were turning donuts and ghostriding the whip.
means money and originated in Vallejo.
In a lyric: “Ten racks in a rubber band (gouda), Got three or fo’ mo’ in my other hand (gouda).”
Everyday use: Stefanie blew all her gouda on fixing her car, and then it broke again . . . immediately.
The South is often referred to as the “dirty South” or the “third coast” of rap. Yet, it—specifically, Houston, Memphis, Atlanta, and New Orleans—has some of the richest and most prolific online record-keeping of their regional terms. Considering that Southern hip hop is a relatively recent genre compared to the Coasts, their library of slang is pretty impressive.
means crazy or drunk and it originated in Memphis and Atlanta.
In a lyric: “She getting crunk in the club I mean she work.”
–Ying Yang Twins, “Get Low”
Everyday use: Miquila was mortified when her parents came home crunk from the party.
means to show off and originated in Houston.
In a lyric: “What you know about acting bad, flossin’ prowlers? I got seven DVDs, I’m watchin’ Austin Powers.”
–Lil’ Flip, “Texas Boyz (Screwed)”
Everyday use: Chester got a new jacket, and he’s sending everyone selfies, flossin in it.
means a type of sizzurp (a Sprite-codine-candy mixture) or the effects of heavy inebriation. It originated in Houston.
In a lyric: “Just pour it in my drink and I’ma sip until I lean hard.”
–Lil Jon, “Me and My Drank”
Everyday use: Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is sleeping or just having some heavy lean effects.
means a house where drugs are sold and it originated in Atlanta.
In a lyric: “Bricks going in, bricks going out. Made a hundred thousand in my trap house.”
–Gucci Mane, “Trap House”
Everyday use: Ever since finishing The Wire Adrian’s been acting like he knows everything about the drug trade, but I doubt he’s even seen a trap house in real life.
means crazy or off-the-hook. It’s often—but not always—used to refer to a woman. It originated in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
In a lyric: “We all got some rachet in us (erbody, erbody got a lil ratchet).”
–Lil Boosie, “Do the Ratchet”
Everyday use: Ken was naturally offended when someone accused his neighborhood of being rachet.
The Midwest, which encompasses songs celebrating the toughest aspects of gang life and the softer backpack rap of the Twin Cities, is quite diverse. That’s because we’re including everything that’s not the South, Eastern Seaboard, and Cali in the Midwestern school of hip hop—which admittedly tends to be Chicago-dominated. Here are some Midwestern highlights (and, in the case of ICP, lowlights).
means to trick or steal or to grind. It originated in Chicago.
In a lyric: “Back it up like, juke juke, 3, 4, juke juke.”
–Chance the Rapper, “Juke Juke”
Everyday use: I can’t believe you paid $100 for those cheap knockoff Ray-Bans. You’ve been juked, Danielle.
means that ho over there and originated in Chicago.
In a lyric: “Okay, you got me—I don’t love no thotties.”
–Chief Keef, “Love No Thotties”
Everyday use: Commenting “THOT” in Instagram is a low blow.
means so on and so forth and it originated in Chicago.
In a lyric: “They was talking ‘woo this woo wap da bam.'”
–Chance the Rapper, “Angels”
Everyday use: Pras’s verse in “Ghetto Superstar”—”letting bygones be bygones, and so on and so on”—is the 90s version of “woo dis.”
means an obsessive fan and originated in Detroit.
In a lyric: “Just to chat, truly yours, your biggest fan, this is Stan.”
Everyday use: Milica is a huge Kevin Durant stan. She has three different KD jerseys—from each of his teams.
means an avid Insane Clown Posse fan (male or female). These originated in Detroit.
In a lyric: “Yo, I’m a juggalo, so don’t forget me like you did with Menudo.”
–Insane Clown Posse, “Down with the Clown”
Everyday use: If you admit to being a juggalo, you have to be ready for people to make fun of you for it.
Need more rap slang in your life? Check out these Everyday Words That Have Different Meanings In Rap.