If Moby's name was Ned, would Eminem still have rapped how Moby could get stomped by Obi?
Of course not, because Ned' does not rhyme with Obi.' The lyric might have gone, Ned, I'd club him with a loaf of bread or Ned, you're really stupid for that thing you said, but it certainly would not have said, Ned, you can get stomped by Obi. That just would not have sounded cool.
Eminem knows that to be cool, you have to rhyme. It may not be fair, but it's the game that rappers have to play. In an era when even poets have blacklisted the rhyme scheme, rappers are at the mercy of the English language.
And most of them, Eminem included, play by the rules even if it means pulling out some Star Wars reference because it's the only thing that rhymes with Moby.'
But if you're gonna be a playa, you gotta play dirty. So, as any true playa would, some rappers cheat the system. Their philosophy: If you can't find a word that rhymes, make one up.
This may explain some of the stranger addendums to contemporary vernacular, such as h to the izzo,' shizzle' and signature Pootie Tang phrases such as wa-ta-taah,' as well as the slang terms that we (but not yet Webster) have come to accept: hooptie' (car), heezie' (house) hood' (neighborhood), homie' (friend) and headcheese' (cheap grade pork meat).
And why not? A rose by any other name is just as sweet, right?
In fact, the irreverence rappers hold for the English language is a perfect example of what the French post-structuralist philosopher Jean-PiŽrre Lyotard dubbed the differŽnd, which is to say that meaning is relative, and rhetoric is a relative translation of meaning. Which is to say that if you're looking at an apple you can call it a grilled cheese sandwich' or the Eiffel Tower' or whatever you want it doesn't matter because language is not capable of mirroring objective reality since objectivity cannot exist within a reality that is constantly shifting in relationship to its context. Therefore, the apple' has no real meaning, so assigning it a specific name' is a moot point anyway.
But I kind of doubt rappers take that into consideration. Rappers just want to sound cool.
And if making words up helps them accomplish that goal, who's going to stand in their way? Who in their right mind is going to go up to Ludacris when he's pimpin' in his tricked out Escalade full of ladies and Crystaal with 10-lbs. of bling bling hanging from his neck, and tell him that he just can't call his 20-inch rims twinkies'?
Not me. Hey man, call it whatever you want. You sing your little song, I'll nod and smile, and we'll both just be cool.
But what happens when newfangled rap gibberish begins to interfere with your everyday life?
Say you call up a friend to see how their day was, and they go: Off da heazy, fo sheezie. Wassup with you, honey G Dawg?
If you were cool and up to date on your hip-hop linguistics, you might respond with something smooth like: It's all good in tha hood or I'm chillin' like a villain. But you're not. You can't even understand what they're saying.
Thankfully, this game is easier to play than you think. Just counter whatever your slang-slingin' friend says with an equally linguistically ambivalent word, such as my personal favorite all-purpose word, word.' And for extra emphasis, you can always tack on like a mug,' another expression that is applicable in just about any situation.
But theoretically speaking, you can actually respond to anything with whatever you want, whether it makes sense or is a real word or not. It doesn't matter a shiznit. This usually doesn't go over well with professors, but if they hassle you about it, just starting talking about Lyotard or Pootie Tang.
Deconstruction of rap gibberish reveals startling linguistic truths
Published: Fri Nov 08, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:39 p.m.