Hip-hop breeds a language all its own

September 29, 1992|By New York Daily News

NEW YORK — NEW YORK: Overheard on a New York street corner:


"Nothin'. Gotta get to the J.O. Whasup with you?"

"Just maxin'."

"I hear you."


It's hip-hop speak: the pubescent patois heard on the street, in the subway, on the airwaves, on commercials and, if you're a parent or a teacher, perhaps in your home or classroom.

If you're over 25, it probably makes you wonder if you should head for the retirement home. Worse, just when you begin to understand terms like "word to your mother" (it's the truth) and def (terrific), the underage conspirators invent new words to comfound you.

Actually, young people aren't really trying to confuse you, says -- Fab 5 Freddy, a filmmaker, author and a host of "Yo! MTV Raps." "Sure, with [the creation] of all slang, these young people are trying to distance themselves from the older generation. But it's more than that.

"Their language is always evolving, always changing, because inner-city youth don't dwell on the past. They think about today and tomorrow. People who don't have or haven't had things great for four or five generations aren't particularly nostalgic. They're always creating new things to say, new things to wear and new ways to move. They want to move forward."

The accompanying glossary was fashioned by inner-city youth. But as Fab 5 Freddy notes, adults elsewhere will find it helpful, too, as urban lingo is often adopted by suburban teens, and sometimes by mainstream culture. To wit, the words "hip" and "cool" were created by young African-American jazz musicians in the '40s. Now they appear in Webster's and are an indelible part of the American vernacular.

If you think it would be def to learn more hip-hop lingo, peep these phat new books:

"Fresh Fly Flavor: Words and Phrases of the Hip-Hop Generation," by Fab 5 Freddy (Longmeadow Press, $7.95).

"Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture," by Havelock Nelson and Michael Gonzalez (Crown Books, $12).

"Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays and Tales of American Music and Culture, From Be-Bop to Hip-Hop," by Greg Tate (Simon & Schuster, $10).

A hip-hop lexicon

Here is some commonly used hip-hop speak:

Dibs: house, apartment, residence

Dis or diss: to disrespect. This term is gradually finding its way into mainstream speech.

Diesel: a man with a great body, especially a very muscular build

Dope: something good. "Those are dope sneakers."

Fat (or phat) pockets: a person with a lot of money

Honey dip or dip: good-looking girl or woman

J.O.: place of employment, job.

Juice: power, influence, respect

Lookin' crisp: well-dressed

Phat (pronounced fat): something good, desirable. "His car is phat." Rap impresario Russell Simmons and SoHo boutique owner Marc Bagutta have co-opted the term for a new line of clothing, which they plan to call Phat. The clothes will be sold at a new boutique, also to be called Phat.

Pop Duke: father

Shake and bake: to fake out an opponent and score in a basketball game.

Skinz: voluptuous girl or woman

Slammin' or fierce: same as above.

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