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Deciphering hip-hop lyrics is now only a click away

September 19, 2004|Christine N. Ziemba

In his remorseful love song "Burn," Usher is rueful about dumping the wrong girl:

"I know she ain't comin' back

What I gotta do now

To get my shorty back....Man I don't know what I'm gonna do

Without my booo."

For those who may not know that "shorty" and "boo" are interchangeable nouns,, can serve as a Berlitz guide to the rap world.

According to the site, "shorty" is defined as: "little person," "female, like baby or honey" or a "seven-ounce bottle of beer." Likewise, "boo" is often used as a term of endearment, like "baby."

The nonpartisan site (there's no gang affiliation here) contains some saucy language, but it's handy for aspiring MCs or even confused parents. offers, when it can, a related artist, quote or year of origin for the term being defined.

Visitors to the site can e-mail creator Patrick Atoon, 35, an IT/computer programmer from the Netherlands, with new words, phrases or clarifications and can help him complete his "Wishlist" -- rap terms that remain undocumented.

Given the ever-changing rap vernacular, keeping the site's definitions from getting stale is challenging for rap devotee Atoon. There's nothing worse than sounding more like Biz Markie when you're trying to sound like Big Boi from OutKast.

"Actually, that is one of my growing concerns," Atoon says via e-mail. "As time passes on, the language keeps evolving and it gets harder to stay up to date."

To combat this quandary, Atoon is switching his dictionary to a "wiki-based" website that will allow users to change and edit the terms freely using any web browser.

He acknowledges that letting the masses have control of his site is a bit of a gamble but says it's a bet he's willing to take. "I am confident it will be a great step forward, especially in terms of staying fresh."

According to, that's vintage "fresh" as in "new" and "very good."


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