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15 Popular Rap Words Explained With Examples

Kendrick Lamar performing October 2016

Erika Goldring / Contributor / FilmMagic

“Listen dawg (friend), if you wanna look fly (cool), you need some new kicks (shoes).” If you want to get a better handle on the rap words all the cool kids are saying, here’s a good place to start. This list of rap slang will take you from coast to coast with many slang words you’ll hear in hip hop lyrics. Ready to get fresh? Let’s spit some fire.

1. Baller

If you’re driving around in a fancy car, wearing fancy clothes and eating fancy meals, you just might be a baller. Effectively equivalent to a high roller, a baller is a person who lives an extravagant lifestyle. They tend to be rich, relatively speaking, or at least they put on that appearance. A baller flaunts their wealth. They’re flashy. 

baller definition extravagant personballer definition extravagant person
  • Word Origin: Originally linked to formal balls in the late 1600s, “baller” as a modern term derives from a relatively impoverished person “making it” as a professional sports player. Basketball is most common in this context.

  • Example Lyric: “Now, what y'all wanna do? / Wanna be ballers, shot callers, brawlers / Who be dippin' in the Benz with the spoilers.” - It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix) by Puff Daddy

  • Scrabble Score: 8 points

  • WWF Score: 11 points

2. Beef

Do you remember the massive conflict between East Coast and West Coast rappers in the 1990s? When it comes to beef, this is probably one of the best known rivalries in the history of rap. Beef refers to a problem, feud or argument. Famous beefs in rap also include Jay-Z vs. Nas, Tupac vs. Biggie, and Drake vs. Meek Mill. 

beef definition MTV MC Battle 2beef definition MTV MC Battle 2
  • Word Origin: There are at least two common theories about the origin of “beef” as conflict. First, it could relate to Cockney rhyming slang in London, England where “hot beef” rhymes with “stop thief” in a busy market setting. Second, “beef” could come from late 19th century American soldiers complaining about the quality or quantity of beef rations.

  • Example Lyric: “What's beef? / Beef is when you make your enemies start your Jeep / Beef is when you roll no less than 30 deep.” - What’s Beef by Notorious B.I.G.

  • Scrabble Score: 9 points

  • WWF Score: 10 points

3. Cheddar

“Cheddar” is one of the more popular rap words for money. Other related rap slang words for money include gouda and cheese. In this context, words like “cheddar” are usually used in the context of making money, though you can also use them in terms of spending money.

cheddar definition Tee Grizzley (2017)cheddar definition Tee Grizzley (2017)
  • Word Origin: Have you ever heard of government cheese? While the term is synonymous with welfare payments today, it was a literal processed cheese around the 1960s. Eventually, this came to mean any money from the government, then money more generally.

  • Example Lyric: “See, we down for whatever / It’s all about the cheddar / I put that on my life and the 23rd letter.” - Cheddar by WC

  • Scrabble Score: 14 points

  • WWF Score: 14 points

4. Clowning

Send in the clowns! Depending on context, “clowning” could mean making fun of someone (or something) or it could just mean acting silly in general. If someone is “clowning,” they’re messing around and having fun. 

definition clowning with Image of eminemdefinition clowning with Image of eminem
  • Word Origin: This one is simple enough. The term derives from acting like a circus clown.

  • Example Lyric: “I say that stuff just clownin', dogg. C'mon, how messed up is you?” - Stan (Clean Version) by Eminem

  • Scrabble Score: 14 points

  • WWF Score: 14 points

5. Crunk

Crunk is a hip hop subgenre with roots in the American South, particularly in cities like Miami and Atlanta. It has largely been popularized by artists like Three 6 Mafia, Lil Jon, and Juicy J. As rap slang, “crunk” is equivalent to being energetic and very excited, like at a party.

definition crunkdefinition crunk
  • Word Origin: “Crunk” could be a portmanteau of “crazy” and “drunk.” It’s also possible that it’s the past tense form of “to crank up.” If you “cranked up” a party, it’d be “crunk.” 

  • Example Lyric:”Crank it up, that's what we gonna do / Crank you up, me and my brother we came to get crunk.” - Halftime by Ying Yang Twins

  • Scrabble Score: 11 points

  • WWF Score: 14 points

6. Diss

If you have a beef with someone, you might insult them in a “diss” track. Also spelled “dis,” the term can be a slang version of “this” (e.g., dis party is crunk) or it can be short for “disrespect” (e.g., you gon’ let him diss you like dat?). 

diss definition with ICE Tdiss definition with ICE T
  • Word Origin: As a shortening of disrespect or dismiss, “dis” or “diss” traces to Jamaican English or African American vernacular around 1980.

  • Example Lyric: “I never diss an emcee, I wish 'em all good luck / But if you diss me to my face, duck.” - Personal by Ice-T

  • Scrabble Score: 5 points

  • WWF Score: 5 points

7. Flossing

No, it’s not just about cleaning between your teeth. While there is also a specific dance move by the same name, the slang term “flossing” usually refers to showing off. It means you’re behaving in a way to deliberately attract attention to yourself. “Flossing” typically involves material goods like designer clothes and expensive jewelry. 

definition flossingdefinition flossing
  • Word Origin: The term may originate in Houston, but it’s unclear. It has since become part of the wider African American vernacular in general. 

  • Example Lyric: “The paper I'm making, I upgraded my fashion / Everything tailor-made, flossing's my passion.” - This Thing of Ours by Wale and Omarion

  • Scrabble Score: 12 points

  • WWF Score: 15 points

8. Jiggy

If you’re “getting jiggy,” it means you are getting excited or moving in an excited manner. This is especially true in the context of dancing at the club or at a party. 

Jiggy definitionJiggy definition
  • Word Origin: It’s possible that “jiggy” comes from the mid-19th century or later, meaning to look like a jig dance. The term gained widespread popularity with Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” in 1997.

  • Example Lyric: “I go psycho when my new joint hit / Just can't sit / Got to get jiggy wit it, ooh, that’s it.” - Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It by Will Smith

  • Scrabble Score: 17 points

  • WWF Score: 20 points

9. Popo

Some members of the rap community have a contentious relationship with law enforcement for a number of reasons. Understandably, rap slang has evolved from these types of confrontations too. Popo (also po-po) refers to the police. Another term that you may hear frequently is 5-0 (“five-oh”), based on the TV show Hawaii Five-O.

popo definition slang for policepopo definition slang for police
  • Word Origin: Popo traces its roots to the 1980s in southern California. Officers on bike patrol would wear shirts with “PO” on them for “police officer.” As officers typically rode in pairs, these shirts would then spell “PO PO.” 

  • Example Lyric: “Looking at the world like where do we go? / And we hate po-po / Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho.” - Alright by Kendrick Lamar

  • Scrabble Score: Not playable

  • WWF Score: 10 points

10. Ratchet

Often but not always used to refer to a woman, “ratchet” is an adjective, a verb and a noun. It means that the person is trashy, uncouth, obnoxious or acting in an overly dramatic manner. The rap slang term has also been adopted as a term of empowerment to mean exciting or excellent. 

ratchet definition with Megan Thee Stallionratchet definition with Megan Thee Stallion
  • Word Origin: Ratchet is likely a mispronunciation of the word “wretched,” based on the regional dialect in Louisiana, particularly New Orleans and Baton Rouge. One of the earliest recordings was by rapper E-40 in 1998. 

  • Example Lyric: “I’m a savage / Classy, bougie, ratchet / Sassy, moody, nasty / Acting stupid, what’s happening?” - Savage by Megan Thee Stallion

  • Scrabble Score: 12 points

  • WWF Score: 12 points

11. Shizzle

You’ll hear the term “shizzle” most commonly in the phrase “fo shizzle,” meaning “for sure.” That kind of phrasing is simply for emphasis or enhancement. Can you believe that “shizzle” is slang you can play in Words With Friends? The -izzle suffix, popularized by rapper Snoop Dogg, also works for a number of other terms. “Rizzle” means “real,” and “dizzle” could mean “deal” or “dog.” You might say that Snoop Dogg is the rizzle dizzle.

definition shizzle Snoop Doggdefinition shizzle Snoop Dogg
  • Word Origin: The earliest known recording of -izzle (like “fo shizzle”) is from 1981’s “the Double Dutch Bus” by Frankie Smith. Missy Elliot sampled the track in her song “Pass That Dutch” in 2003. 

  • Example Lyric: “H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A / Fo shizzle, my nizzle, used to dribble down in VA.” - Izzo (H.O.V.A.) by Jay-Z

  • Scrabble Score: Not playable

  • WWF Score: 28 points

12. Stunting

It should probably come as little surprise that a lot of rap slang has to do with looking good. Stunting falls squarely into this category. It describes someone showing off or trying to get attention, putting on an act. “Fronting” is a synonym, as in putting on a front. Flexing is similar, except that’s more about bragging or showing off in terms of expensive belongings. 

stunting definition Kanye Weststunting definition Kanye West
  • Word Origin: The meaning here is closely related to the literal meaning, as in performing an impressive stunt to get the attention and adoration of onlookers.

  • Example Lyric: “Hood phenomenon, the LeBron of rhyme / Hard to be humble when you stunting on a jumbotron.” - Devil in a New Dress by Kanye West

  • Scrabble Score: 9 points

  • WWF Score: 13 points

13. Swag

If someone has swag, it means they compose themselves in a stylish, cool and confident manner. It’s an attitude that’s reflected in how a person walks and talks. Swag borders on arrogance.

swag slang definitionswag slang definition
  • Word Origin: “Swag” is short for “swagger.” It dates back to 1640’s The Tragedy of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt, which references “hansom swag fellowes” (handsome swag fellows).

  • Example Lyric: “It’s my swag / How he always look so cool / That’s why everybody do what he do, tell ‘em.” - My Swag by T.I.

  • Scrabble Score: 8 points

  • WWF Score: 9 points

14. Trill

Beyond the focus of looking great, rap and hip hop also place great emphasis on “keeping it real.” The slang term “trill” reflects this, meaning that someone is being genuine and authentic. This is an individual who the community respects, a person who handles their business.

trill definition Paul Walltrill definition Paul Wall
  • Word Origin: Trill is a combination of the words “true” and “real.” According to rapper Bun B, “trill” started in prison before extending to Port Arthur, Texas. It then expanded to Houston and across wider rap culture.

  • Example Lyric: “Trill is when you never fake, trill is when you real / Chasin' after dollar bills, gotta get it how you live / Trill is when you hustle so you go out there and get it / Doin' whatever you gotta do to make a meal ticket.” - Trill by Paul Wall

  • Scrabble Score: 5 points

  • WWF Score: 7 points

15. Whip

You can’t be a “baller” without a sweet whip. A whip is simply your car, but only if it’s a nice one. A common rap slang phrase is “ghost ride the whip,” which refers to letting your car drive itself, typically with music blaring. That’s some real stunting right there.

whip definition nice carwhip definition nice car
  • Word Origin: Back when people rode buggies, they used whips to control the horses. With the automobile, the steering wheel became the whip. Then, by extension in the ‘90s, a “whip” came to refer to a vehicle as a whole, particularly something fancy or sought after.

  • Example Lyric: “When you get a new car / And ya feelin’ like a star / What you gon’ do? / Ghost ride it! / Ghost ride the whip.” - Ghost Ride It by Mistah F.A.B.

  • Scrabble Score: 12 points

  • WWF Score: 12 points

Slang Term Are Real Words Too

The English language is constantly evolving. While rap words like “”crunk” and “popo” may have had regional origins, they’re very much a part of the larger hip hop vernacular today. Slang words enter mainstream language from all sorts of places. Moving past rap, check out these popular gaming terms that are now in the dictionary. Do you know what “sandbox” and “speedrun” mean?


Michael Kwan is a professional writer and editor with over 14 years of experience. Fueled by caffeine and WiFi, he's no stranger to word games and dad jokes.

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