Rap’s Monosyllabic Ejaculations

In the past few years, rappers have cultivated many new hip-hop trends in the music they create. I welcome some of the trends (suits and ties, the producer/rapper) and reject many others (“molly”, hashtag rap, frat rap, lensless glasses, 2Chainz), but by far the most perplexing trend I have noticed is the onslaught of personalized monosyllabic ejaculations (MEs for the sake of my fingers) rappers pepper into their verses. Where rappers once used these fillers to complete a better metered rhyme, monosyllabic ejaculations have now become instant stylistic identifiers. Not only do rappers now lay claim on their own nonsensical phrasing, but they also use it consistently in their songs as a painter would sign his/her painting.

A list of my favorite monosyllabic ejaculations in rap follows, but first, a few rules. This article deserves structure.

1. The ejaculations MUST be monosyllabic. If the syllable count exceeds one, it will not be included.

2. The ejaculation MUST NOT be the rapper’s name/nickname/derivative of name (“2 Chainz!” “tunechi” “HOV!” “t-raw” “FLAvor FLAV”)

3. The ejaculation MUST be present on more than one song.

On to the list:

Will Smith– “WOOOOO”

The ME may be a modern phenomenon, but the first rapper to realize its potential was Big Will. He loved ME’s and their polysyllabic cousins so much that he used three: “WOOOOO” “uh-uh” and “haha.” Even though “WOOOOO” is the only one that qualifies under the only three rules of this list (see above), it also best exemplifies Will Smith as hip-hop’s preeminent happy rapper. Will Smith made sad songs, but there were few and you never heard them. Instead, we got feel-good joints like “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and “Switch,” songs no self-respecting rap fan will claim to like but will happily blast in his/her ears after acing a test. Will Smith never took his rapping too seriously, and every time we heard “WOOOOO,” we knew there was a good time to be had.

Lil Jon– “What??”

Lil Jon produced some of the most revered singles, started some of the most audacious fashion trends, and made careers out of many southern rappers in the early aughts, but he is most known for his introduction to Usher’s “Yeah,” in which he proclaims, in order, “What??”; “Yeah!”; “Okay!”. They became staples of all his singles. They then became the only thing anyone ever wanted the producer to say, culminating in the side-splitting Dave Chappelle skits about his MEs and PEs, some of the funniest commentary on hip-hop ever put to tape. Lil Jon happily embraced his identity to his MEs and has made a nice little career of bombastic and misogynistic rap, all while being one of the most personable men in the music business.

Kendrick Lamar– “mmm”

Kendrick Lamar has discovered the perfect balance between airplay visibility and critical acclaim, and as such does not require a ME to spice up his already bountiful verses. But alas, sometimes one will hear even the great Kendrick Lamar hum a barely audible “mmm” to fill space in his wonderfully metered lines. “Mmm” isn’t the ME du jois: it conveys no power, no emotion, just a subtle acknowledgement of fact. “Mmm” can’t carry Kendrick past a bad verse, and it doesn’t need to, because bad Kendrick verses are few and far between. If anyone were ever to ask if Kendrick was any good, all he’d need to do is give them Good Kidd m.A.A.d. City and mutter something brilliant, most likely “mmm.”

Pitbull- “EEEEEGH”

Pitbull is famous because women like to dance to his music, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, no matter how inconsequential and superficial his singles may be. Other than writing songs about having sex with women, Pitbull is best known for beginning many of his songs with the impressive throat exercise “EEEEEGH.” Of all the MEs on the list, it’s the most technically difficult. Anybody can grunt, hum, laugh, or ask a simple question, but few can pitch their voices in the same manner that Pitbull throws his playful wail. And just because it’s a great song that should never die, here’s Pitbull demonstrating his “talents” on  “Ay Chico.

Big Sean- “Woah”

While all the critics discuss whether Big Sean actually enjoys rapping or not, I like to revel in Big Sean’s pronunciation, in that he actually enunciates. His “r’s” are clear and pronounced correctly with a vocal inflection that would please the strictest of British nannies. He’s not particularly noteworthy beyond his voice and his ME: the enigmatic “woah.” For one, it’s an actual word, displaying Sean’s propensity for fully utilizing his impressive lexicon, and for another, it’s the most hollow of the MEs. “Woah” simultaneously conveys everything and nothing while relaying both incredulity and complete confidence in talents that should inspire neither. Big Sean represents false expectations of excellence, making “woah” the perfect ME for a rapper that really has no idea what he’s doing.

Chance the Rapper– “IGH!”

As the first underground name on the list, Chance may not necessarily deserve the respect that comes with a trademarked ME, but as my glowing review of his first official mixtape indicate, I hope he becomes the next big thing in rap fairly soon. His polysyllabic “nyahnyahnyahnyah” may be the one he sticks with, but “IGH!” carries so much exuberance and surprise that it deserves its own thank you note in the back of his lyric booklet. Chance drops “IGH!” in the most unexpected places, and he does it with the confidence of a season veteran, using it to grab attention during the requisite breaks in his nearly flawless production. Chance has many talents to lean back upon, and his ME feels like IGHcing on the cake (my apologies).

(Note: The next four all sound the same. They’re not, and I’ll try to best convey their original identities in script).

A$AP Rocky- “Uah”

A$AP often drops the register on his already low voice to a terrifying effect, and his ME “uah” does well to send chills down spines. Out of all the MEs, his feels the most natural to his vocal production, and it often fits perfectly with his controlled slippery flow. A$AP combines the best of the present with what is missed about the mid-90s, and his ME does just enough to give him the identity stamp he needs to shine away from the pack. Of all the MEs, this would be the most utilized in a horrorcore group, if horrorcore was any good as a genre, anyway. For now, we have little A$AP punching way above his weight class and holding his own for the city that started it all. New York would be lost without him.

Rick Ross- “Humf”

Rick Ross is the biggest liar in an industry full of charlatans, but he undoubtedly performs flawlessly behind his imaginary thug life. Supporting the weight of his improvised story (and belly) is “humf,” the ME displaying the most gravitas of the bunch. Ross is a much better tastemaker and label exec than rapper, but the biggest trick he ever pulled was making us believe his past life was any more thuggish than the parole officer he really was. Ross has since been forgiven after experiencing considerable success, and “humf” appears repeatedly on guest spots as if no new information was spread about his past life. “Humf” fits Ross’s storyline perfectly, and if he accidentally burps during a performance, he can pass it off as his trademark.

French Montana- “Hahhhh”

French Montana is an awful rapper. He’s such a terrible rapper that his ME “hahhhh” happens to be the most invigorating thing I have ever heard him say, and when one’s monosyllabic ejaculation becomes one’s modus operandi, one must consider a different career. Seriously, only 2Chainz (“she gotta big booty/so I call her big booty”) keeps Montana’s incomprehensible dribble from becoming the laughingstock of Clear Channel. I refuse to allocate any more space to him.

Kanye West- “Hah”

Hah” is the gold standard of MEs. It is what all MEs aim to be, if they were sentient objects, best exemplified by Kanye’s lackadaisically brilliant verse on “N—– in Paris.” No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative.


1 Comment

  1. Not a new phenomenon. Go back and check Michael Jackson starting with Off the Wall and Thriller. His MEs are even looped by others.

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