On Da Lingo, Part II
A little more than a year ago, we discussed the meanings and origins of three ubiquitous hip-hop terms and their connections to Houston ("On Da Lingo"). Certainly by now (and arguably by then), all three of those words -- "crunk," "bling-bling" and "bootylicious" -- are played out, as all such terms become once white grandmothers start using them. Today, "bling" is especially cringeworthy in that regard, so it's time to discuss some new slang, specifically the H-town stuff that's pumping out of radios from London to Tokyo.
We begin with "trill," which serves as the title to Bun B's solo debut album, which was reviewed in these pages last week. "Trill," like "crunk," is simply two words put together to make one new one; where "crunk" was "crazy" plus "drunk," "trill" comes from "true" plus "real." The word's meaning is simple -- it connotes pure, streetwise authenticity, and its history seems equally clear-cut. Nobody seems to have been using it before Pimp C and Bun B's Underground Kingz waxed it several times starting back in about 1993. The song "Trill Ass Nigga" is but one of several examples; the line "show ya grill if you will, and you down with the trill" from the song "Gold Grill" is another. It's a useful term; not only does it intensify the concept of realness so vital to street rap, but it also can be made to rhyme with words like grill, pill and still, but also feel, wheel and steal, because Southerners often pronounce words like grill and wheel as if they rhymed. (And elasticate them into two or even three syllables, to boot: To wit, listen to how Z-Ro threatens to "loose your gree-el" and rhymes it with "Coupe DeVee-el" on his freestyle "Mo City Don.")
Speaking of Z-Ro and Bun, the former's chorus on the latter's "Get Throwed" is a crash course in H-town slang on its own. Here it is: "Good weed, good drink, big money, we rollin' in somethin' foreign, I'm on leather grippin' grain I handle my business so I think I deserve to get throwed, throwed." Parts of this -- "good weed" and "big money" specifically -- are eminently self-explanatory. "Good drink" is more misleading -- you might think it refers to booze, but it's much more likely codeine, which is also called "lean," "Barre" and "playa potion." (Weed -- specifically the really potent stuff -- goes by "kill" and "dank.") "Somethin' foreign," "on leather" and "grippin' grain" refer to a fancy overseas ride with plush, non-Paul McCartney-approved seating and a custom wood-grain steering wheel. And "getting throwed" -- at least in this usage -- is about getting wasted, but "throwed" can also mean hot or sexy or just plain cool. (And it's often pronounced "thowed.")
Car Talk may be a Boston-based NPR talk show, but "Car Rap" belongs to Houston. In addition to the terms above, we have the verb "to candy-paint" -- which refers to a high-gloss, bold paint job in which the goal is to make your car resemble a tropical fruit Skittle; the acronym "SLAB" -- which comes from "slow, loud and bangin'" and means a tricked-out car with a thumping sound system. (Lowercase "slab" means "the ground," "the streets." If someone punches you out, they can be said to have "taken you off the slab.") "Choppers" and "spinners" refer to hubcaps with either blades or discs that spin independently of the wheels. The verb "to pop-trunk" means to open your trunk with a remote switch or button -- and once the trunk is popped you can either grab your weapon or show off the sound system and/or taunting neon sign you've got back there. (Example: "I'll pop-trunk on my own grandmother just to cho you that I'm real" -- Chingo Bling.) "Screens falling" refers to DVD screens dropping from the roof and/or sun visors when you twist the key in the ignition, and "parking lot pimpin'" is rolling around outside an event, flirting with the opposite sex.
You can parking lot pimp all over town -- everywhere from "Mo City" or "Misery City" (Missouri City) to "the Nickel" (Fifth Ward) to "the Trey" (Third Ward) to "the 44" (Acres Homes; pronounced "fo-fo" and so named for both the gun and the fact that the Metro bus line through there is No. 44) to "the 'Stead" (Homestead) to "the Clarke" (Hiram Clarke) to "T.G." (Trinity Gardens) to "the LP" (La Porte) and all the way down to "Galvo" (Galveston). On the way, make sure to make good use of the "turning lane" -- during the Kappa (Galveston's Beach Party Weekend) or other such high-traffic events, your few seconds here offer your best chance to "floss" (show off) your SLAB and "chunk-deuce" (throw up two-finger greetings) to your homies. Be careful, though -- "chunkin' the deuce" has different meanings in different 'hoods, so your innocent hand gesture just might cause "some plex" -- a tense situation. (Here's an example from Bun B's "Draped Up and Dripped Out": "I'm lookin' real shiny -- you can see me from a mile away / Thought you were doin' it 'til I came and took ya smile away / Pull up on ya side in the turnin' lane / Pop my trunk, break you off, chunk a deuce, then I'm Cadillac turnin', mayne.")
The interrogative phrase "What it do?" (made most famous locally by the line "What it do it's Paul Wall I'm the people's champ" and the now-legendary What It Dew mixtape) means simply "What's up?" but debate rages as to whether this is a Houston term. The San Francisco Bay Area -- or "Yay Area," as it is known locally -- has also laid claim to the phrase. Not so "draped up and dripped out" -- the chorus to Bun B's current single, which means "ornately accessorized" and can be applied to both your car and your clothes and jewelry. That one goes back to Lil' Keke and DJ Screw's 1995 Texas smash "Pimp tha Pen," the title of which refers to making money off the raps you write. And then you can spend that "cheese" (money) on some good old-fashioned "ghetto grub" -- William's Chicken or Timmy Chan's or other such fast food from the poor side of town.
After a year or so on the sidelines, legendary (or notorious, depending on your point of view) nightclub owner/Britpop zealot Tim Murrah is back in the game with new bar/club the Mink. This time he's landed on Main, at the Ensemble light rail stop in the old Drink Bar/Barfly complex near the Continental Club, the Big Top and Sig's Lagoon. The phenomenally opinionated Murrah -- who, except for a crack about "tattooed rockabilly types" was mostly on his best behavior at the Mink's grand opening -- says the place will offer "every experience" from lounge to chilled-out bar to rock nightclub, but as of right now only the bar that faces Main is open, and it has been remodeled. No, there's no huge mural of shrieking Luftwaffe dive-bombers as there was at his prior club Stuka; the Mink's front bar is a narrow, mahogany-colored room with lots of candlelight. Soon enough, it will be joined by a performance area upstairs (mainly DJs, but also possibly some live acts) and lots of outdoor seating on the back patio. Mash-up pioneer Freelance Hellraiser will christen the performance area November 17, and Murrah says he's hoping that the Mink will be the kind of place that bands playing the burgeoning downtown/Midtown circuit will retire to for post-show nightcaps and afterparties It seemed too good to be true, and it was. Advance word from promoter Smokin' Joe Montes had legendary songster Mississippi John Hurt performing at Montes's live KPFT remote show Joe's Roadhouse with Jay Hooks, Sonny Boy Terry and Shiva's Headband this Saturday at Fitzgerald's. The gentle-voiced singer, intricate guitarist and primary influence on Bob Dylan, Bill Morrissey and John Fahey -- in the most venerable club in town? I was a little dubious that the show would be coming off, though, seeing as Hurt, who was born a mere two years after seminal Delta bluesman Charlie Patton, would have been 112 this year. (He passed way 37 years ago.) Turns out Montes was referring to Mississippi John Hunt, who is very much alive and will be unpacking his Flying V onstage at Fitz's this weekend. "Boy, is my face red!" Montes noted in an e-mail to Racket, before adding that Blind Willie McTell, Leadbelly and Robert Johnson would all be on the bill. (Just kidding about that last part.)
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