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To amuse myself, often times I will attempt to translate gangster and misogynist rap music lyrics into academically precise and excessively clinical language. The goal is to clarify the rapper’s intended meaning for the (imaginary) uninitiated, non-urban listener. I also engage in this word substitution game when I overhear people on the street employing urban slang or street talk¹.
Gangsta rap lyrics are immeasurably amusing to translate due to their depth of meaning and emotionally-charged content (often detailing acts of extreme physical violence and barbarous sexual assault crimes committed against women). The purpose of the game is to juxtapose the explicit savagery of the gangsta rap lyric against a sterilized and verbose restatement of the lyric’s content reworded to nullify the inflammatory tone.
As a way of contextualizing this mental activity, I pretend that I am a foreign visitor who is semi-fluent in English (but slang-ignorant). In order to comprehend what I am hearing, I must substitute a large number of the words in order to clarify the content of the gangsta rap lyric. Other times, I imagine myself as a pedantic English professor who is mentally critiquing the rapper. As the professor, I make it my duty to red-line the grammatically offending lyrics since they are an affront to all for which I stand. The professor then silently instructs the rapping dullard on the proper way that he or she should verbally express their tales of criminal exploits and women-hatred.
Below is an example of how I employ the rap music lyric word substitution/clarification technique.
The lyric below is from the Eazy-E song Still Talkin’ and is on the deceased Mr. E’s 1988 debut album, Eazy-Duz-It (the complete lyrics to Still Talkin’ and many other fine Eazy-E songs can be found here).
Psychopathic, but the hoes are attracted
Because, when I’m on hard, my dicks at least a yard
First line translation/clarification:
Despite the fact that I have a personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral conduct but masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal, prostitutes with little or no monetary focus find me sexually appealing.
Second line translation/clarification:
The aforementioned women find me sexually appealing for the reason that when the two tubular structures that run the length of my penis, the corpora cavernosa, become engorged with venous blood (due to a complex interaction of psychological, neural, vascular and endocrine factors occurring before and during exposure to sexually-arousing stimuli), the welling, hardening and enlargement of my penis results in an erection that measures a full three feet (thirty-six inches) in length.
¹ For instance, when I am in a bodega buying my daily lottery ticket and I overhear an urban outdoorsman request that the cashier “gimme a loosey”, I know that the gentleman is directing the store clerk to reach behind the counter and retrieve a single cigarette from a broken pack to sell him at an inflated price. Although this is an illegal act, the clerk recognizes that market forces of supply and demand in an underground economy will ultimately determine the store’s financial survival (and more importantly – his/her job security). The store clerk’s tacit agreement with the gentleman and his/her willingness to complete this illegal transaction occurs notwithstanding the minimal threat of a criminal conviction (with its attendant fines and/or period of incarceration).