Words on the Street; Hip-Hop Hip to Language All Its own.(NATION)(CULTURE, ET CETERA)
Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Yo hotties and troopers from the 'burbs and Chocolate City: Wanna to get some platinum respect in da 'hood? Den get open to this book of words about boom bap and hip-hopreneurs. Won't cost too many ducats.
Hip-hop, a culture based on rap music and ghettospeak dating back barely 30 years, has become enshrined enough in pop culture to merit its own dictionary.
Alonzo Westbrook, 31, the author of the "Hip Hoptionary," says his book is an effort to chart American black culture of the late 20th century and hip-hop, the culture's "angst venue."
"It's about pouring out. That's what the [hip-hop] culture is all about," he says. "We conceal ourselves and our pain in our art. Hip-hop allows us to release it, to get it off our chests."
He located 3,000 terms: fashion labels, books, mixed drinks, TV shorthand, sex, pop stars, idioms and beeper codes that illustrate a street culture originating in early 1970s Bronx, N.Y.
Mr. Westbrook, who is black, said he didn't know many of the words himself before his research. Hip-hop lingo, he cautions, is not the same as ebonics, the broken language of blacks.
"It's an intellectual practice," he says. "Hip-hop is a deliberate coding of language to mask feelings and to engage in wordplay."
The "father" of hip-hop is Kool DJ Here, aka Clive Campbell, a Bronx disc jockey credited with creating the sound circa 1971, during an era when disc jockeys would bring out cheap portable turntables for warm summer nights of street dancing in the 'hood.
Hip-hop received a boost in the late 1970s with the popularization of disco. During the instrumental breaks, disc jockeys would "rap" their own commentary or social criticism. Some rappers and poets found repetitive synthesizer music, known as German electronica, a better venue.
"Hip-hop is a general term for expressive culture with its origins in the street: clothing, graffiti, break dancing, language and music," says Richard Rischar, a music professor and historian at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. "I think hip-hop is a vehicle for a continuation for a black dialect that lives apart from white mainstream standard English.
"It's all part of what [author] Nelson George calls 'hip-hop America' - a whole culture of activity. Rap is the music that is the basis of hip-hop, a linguistic wordplay, a freestyle performing, a talking over music.
"Part of the idea is to evade specific meanings or have the meanings change so that outsiders - whites or the black middle class - can't steal it," he says. "It's about the chase away from white assimilation, where Pat Boone or Elvis or Eminem can't come and steal their song."
It's also a deliberate attempt to offend mainstream sensitivities, with deliberately misspelled words such as grrrls or boyz. The presence of a dictionary may signify a loss of momentum, Mr. Rischar says, in a movement that thrives on innovation.
"When 'the Benjamins' is used in Fortune magazine, you know it's been appropriated by the white culture because it is hip and cool," Mr. …