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POP MUSIC : * Getting Hip to Hip-Hop--A Glossary

February 07, 1988|CARY DARLING

Hip-hop's vocal improvisatory history extends back to the griots, or storytellers, of West Africa. Some of the hip-hop terminology came to the U.S. from the oral tradition of the Caribbean, where deejays have rapped (or "toasted") over recorded tracks since the 1940s. In fact, the two New Yorkers usually credited with starting hip-hop, deejay Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, are of Caribbean heritage.

Here is a basic glossary of hip-hop terminology:

B-boy (or B-girl)--An all-purpose term for anyone who's part of the hip-hop subculture. The term might be derived from breakdance.

Bite--A derogatory synonym for stealing another person's rap or style.

Chillin'--To be doing any activity with the utmost amount of cool. A person could be chillin' on the mike (rapping) or chillin' on the corner (hanging out).

Chill Out--Stay calm.

Crew--Any team of rappers, deejays or dancers.

Cutting--A method used by deejays to segue from one record to another without skipping a beat.

Def--Fantastic, great. Perhaps derived from death, meaning the ultimate.

Dis--To dismiss, put down. Dan Rather could have said to George Bush, "Man, don't dis me like that."

Fly--Good-looking, attractive, fashionable.

Fresh--Anything that's exciting, new, and incredible. See def .

Frontin'--To boast idly, with nothing to back it up.

Hip-hop--An umbrella word for the subculture of rapping, deejaying, scratching, breakdancing and graffiti art. Believed to have been coined by New York deejay Hollywood, who invented the rap cliche interjection, "Hip-hop, the hibby, the hibbity hip, hip-hop, you don't stop," which was parodied in Blondie's song "Rapture."

Ill--Very good or bad, depending on context.

Juice--The stuff of cool and ultimate victory. The Redskins have the juice, the Broncos don't.

MC--Rapper. Derived from master of ceremonies or, in Jamaican usage, master cutter.

Posse--One's group of close friends. See crew .

Scratching--A type of percussion in which records are manipulated on the turntables by hand. The resulting sound is called scratching. Joseph Sadler, a.k.a. Grandmaster Flash, is credited with being the first to employ the technique. In the right hands, scratching makes the turntable an instrument in its own right.

Stupid Fresh--The lighter, humorous, anarchic side of hip-hop. Has as much to do with Bugs Bunny and Pee-wee Herman as with L.L. Cool J. The Beastie Boys and Doug E. Fresh, who based his hit "The Show" on the theme from the "Inspector Gadget" cartoon show, are the best known examples.

Sucker MC--An amateur or ill-prepared rapper.

Wack--Opposite of def .

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