Everyday Words With Completely Different Meanings In Rap


PYTs in leotards may head off to barre class to look like ballerinas, but don’t think rappers do the same. In hip hop, barre is a trippy cocktail of codeine cough syrup and Sprite. For twenty years, rap artists like C-Note, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, and A$AP Mob have been spitting about “sip- sip- sipping on some sizzurp,” or barre. So, put those leg-warmers away.

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When Drake raps “It’s prolly cause I’m from the snow, with all my woes,” he’s not complaining about having 99 problems with his snow shovel.

Woes is another way of saying “friends.” Other rappers hail their “woes,” and it’s all good. In fact, knowing this should brighten up a lot rap songs you may (or may not) have heard. Like Fabolous, lyricizing about “ridin’ with my woes til the casket drop.” He’s living it up YOLO-style with his crew, not suffering alone and in agony until he dies.

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Remember that time you tripped up the stairs and busted your nose in front of everyone? Yeah, that’s completely irrelevant here. When someone is tripping, they’re either high on drugs (maybe tripping on barre), or considered crazy or stupid, or both high and stupid-crazy.

Future makes it pretty clear which of these he means on “I’m Trippin’”:

Smoked a whole pound of green, I’m trippin’, drunk a whole thing of lean, I’m trippin’.

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As lovers of all things linguistic, we’d love to tell you the hottest new trend in hip hop is instructing listeners on punctuation.

Nah. Commas means “lots of money.” If the number doesn’t have a comma in it, ScHoolboy Q’s not interested. One comma’s good, but two is killer. For Post Malone in “Go Flex”, it’s either the p**** or the commas” (no beating around the bush). The little punctuation marks can motivate but for French Montana, “More commas, more hatin’-ass problems.”

The more money you make, the more people hate on and take advantage of you.

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rack, stack, rubber band

Let’s see, a normal stack of rubber bands would make no one excited. But in rap, rubber bands means you’re “f**king up the commas,” or making that money.

One comma in the digits means you’ve got an amazing rack, or $1,000 cash. For ease of transport, the rack is probably secured with a rubber band (a synonym of rack). In this world, a $100 bill isn’t worth anything … until there’s enough of them to put a rubber band around. It’s all about the Benjamins, as Sly Boogie’s “California (Remix)” suggests: “Gettin’ that rubber band money, and who cares if blood is on it?”

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Maybe you’ve got an image of a fresh pie cooling on the countertop. Chocolate-chip pecan. Steam rising. Ok, now imagine you’re about to sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Only instead of powdered sugar, it’s cocaine.

In “Trap Queen,” Fetty Wap’s “in the kitchen cookin’ pies” with his baby, but the confection is actually a kilo of cocaine getting cooked into crack. Fresh pies, get your fresh pies!

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Birdsong this is not, although trill has a lofty meaning in rap. In the early ‘90s, UGK used trill in a redefining way, to mean “authentic.” The duo’s usage might be inspired by combining true and real—it’s a rap portmanteau! 

This 1992 lyric shows how trill relates to legitimacy and credibility: “He’s tryin’ to be trill, but I can see that yellow stripe down his back.” Over 20 years later, “being trill” is still the rill dill. Jay-Z reminded everyone in 2013’s “Tom Ford” to “keep it trill, y’all know y’all can’t f*** around.”

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You already know there’s no way rappers use mane in reference to the long hair spilling down the back of a horse or lion. Right? Good.

Mane is a dialectical pronunciation of man, common in southern regions of the US (especially Memphis, TN). We figured you already had mane down, but we wanted the chance to share how crazy it would be if you misunderstood the meaning:

“Drop the bass, horse’s hair, the bass get lower” (Beyoncé, “Partition”)

“I’m the dope lion’s locks, bitches…” (A$AP Rocky, “Angels”)

“You now rockin’ with the best, pony ’do (J. Cole, “Can’t Get Enough”)

And, we can’t forget rapper Gucci Horseyhead!


Before you blow that whistle … just know what you may be in for. It could lead to death or sexual climax.

Sometimes, when the whistle pops in a rap song, it means “a gun” is being fired. Like in the 2002 Clipse song “Grindin’” (featuring Pharrell Williams): “Kids call me Mr. Sniffles, other hand on my nickel-plated whistle, one eye closed I’ll hit you.” (Why Mr. Sniffles? Think back to “cooking pies” and connect that with the body part through which you breathe. There you go.)

On the other hand, in his titular song, Flo Rida uses whistle to allude to a different anatomical structure: “Can you blow my whistle, baby, whistle, baby? […] You just put your lips together and” blah blah blah, you get the idea!

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skirt (better known as skrrt)

More than ever, rappers are using skirt in their lyrics, and not because they appreciate how the feminine item of clothing enhances a woman’s assets (although that’s probably true). Hip hop has latched onto skirt’s use as a verb to mean “pass, avoid, or evade” (as in “she skirted the issue”). In rap, the word is commonly written as skrt or skrrt, and in that form, it’s like an imitation of what a vehicle sounds like as it screeches away (as if making a high-speed getaway from an illicit activity).

“Skrrt-skrrting” requires having sick wheels, such as those possessed by Post Malone: “My whip fast, my b!tch bad, I skrrt-skrrt, that coupe fast.”

ScHoolboy Q’s “engine make the tire go skrrt!” And, in his “Lambo” (Lambergini), Travis Scott can apparently only pop one “skrrt,” but in his Bentley truck, he can “skrrt, skrrt, skrrt” to his heart’s content.

Of course, it would take rapper Lil Wayne to riff on both meanings of skirt: “My girls and cars both skirt off.”

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Check out some more Regional Rap Slang here!

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