"TDE the mafia of the west, Move in silence, yeah, we juugin’ like that, Act of violence, yeah, we juugin’ like that"
Kendrick’s untitled unmastered. is an audio rubix cube that the internet has collectively twisted, turned, and attempted to decipher with little success. Even after a week of examining every lyric and sound like essential evidence to a murder case there’s still more questions than answers. The maze that is Kendrick’s mind is to be lost in, not escaped. We may never know how these throwaways connect with TPAB or if head really is the future. One lyric in particular has been gnawing at me with each passing listen though. My biggest question doesn’t involve Drake, Jay Electronica, or if LeBron James’ love for Kendrick is more elaborate marketing ploy than genuine fandom. The real question is, when did Kendrick start saying “Juugin”?
The first time watching him perform “Untitled 2” on Jimmy Fallon I almost didn’t believe my ears. Kendrick Lamar is on national television rapping about juggin like he was born a Grady Baby and raised in East Atlanta. It took me back to the first time I heard “The Art Of Peer Pressure” from GKMC, Kendrick and his buddies quoting Jeezy’s “Trap Or Die” like the Snowman was a hometown hero. Atlanta treated TM101 like the discovery of an unreleased Bible scripture, but to hear the kids of Compton quoting from the book of Jeezy reminded me that its reach extended much further than the city.
Kendrick rapping the popular slang term left me with a similar feeling. I recall hearing "juugin" for the first time around 2006, after Yung Ralph’s “Look Like Money” blew up. He had a mixtape called The Juug Man, he would flip the word for different titles but the lack of another hit record didn’t keep the word in the high school halls.
Complex reported late last October that “Juug” was highly searched on Google in 2015, due to the Migos popularity and heavy usage of the word. They inquired with RichPoSlim of Awful Records to get the definition from an Atlanta native so outsiders could know what Quavo means when he says, “Break no sweat when you’re juuging, no towel.” After reading their article, it was no surprise that the word traveled from the bandos of Atlanta into the vocabulary of our most sublime rapper. It doesn’t stop with Cornrow Kenny: Fetty Wap’s “Jugg,” G-Harbo’s “Jugg House” and P. Reign’s “Juggin” are all songs that came out within the last few months that have pushed the word worldwide. Those are natives from New Jersey, Chicago, and Canada respectively - a long way from it’s dirty south origins. No word or term is restricted to a region anymore, anything said loud enough sacrifices any exclusivity in the revolving door of popular culture.
"Now, juug is of the hustle family, sibling to the act of hitting a lick and the finesse. But of course, these are three related acts with three similar but separate meanings. According to RichPoSlim of Awful Records, to “juug” is to “blatantly get over” on someone. To “finesse,” he says, “is getting over without anyone knowing in the present or the near future.” The differentiating factor, then, would be deception. - Complex
“Juug” isn’t the only slang term transcending its original region. In “Diamond Dancing” Future raps about a “Jawn” he sees in the strip club, a word that is more common in Philly and the DMV than in Atlanta. I can’t recall anyone born and raised in the A referring to a woman as a jawn. Rap newcomer Madeintyo brags about his “Canadian jawn” on his Soundcloud smash “Uber Everywhere,” stylistically the song would make you believe he’s from Atlanta but it’s possible that his name is homage to being born in Tokyo - neither location is one that I expected to say jawn.
I think the biggest local term turned global sensation was last year’s “thot.” What was once a word only used by the youth of Chicago became a nationwide replacement for "hoe" last year. Rappers incorporated the word like it was the new molly, you could hear and read it everywhere. Soon thot was a brand that was run into the ground, overkill is why people grew tired of it swiftly.
On “Pipe It Up,” Takeoff raps, “Now remember, before we made this song, nobody said pipe it up. Next thing we dropping, we gon' fuck em up, have everybody screaming pipe it up.” In a weird, street rapper way he claims and copyrights the term before it hit the masses, likely expecting the song and slang to literally take off like jugg and finesse (which didn't quite happen). Strict regional separation and local trends died with the expansion of the internet. Anything with the potential to go viral online is guaranteed to exceed hometown status. “On fleek” could’ve been a simple phrase between friends in the school yard but because of the Vine it reached the stars. Able to transcend its origins, a word or phrase (or dance) can now travel so fast that it’s almost impossible to trace the origins. Culture wasn’t always this open orchard for people to pick from like apples off a tree.
The words we used, the way we dressed, the music we listened to was largely influenced by our immediate surroundings. Television and radio also played a part in spreading regional trends to the nation, but the internet has swallowed them all putting us in a cultural melting pot where we are able to virtually look at anything, any time, anywhere. The open world doesn’t just affect slang but has had lasting effects on rappers style and sound. Before the internet, the coastal regions played a huge part in your identity. East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Dirty South, each region had a distinct sound and style, mainstream and underground movements, outside of radio and television you couldn’t see beyond your eyes and ears. With popularity and influence came change and adaption but it was still easy to clarify where a rapper was from. There was a recognizable quality that kept every artist separated. Of course there was crossing over and collaborations - Jay Z could jump on a Jermaine Dupri southern banger without leaving Marcy Projects, Big did the same on “Notorious Thugs when he stepped into the Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony rapid fire flow but with his own personal touch, but those were audio vacations. It’s only right that they’re featured, more homage than biting. For the most part they sonically still lived at home.
Because of the internet we can now have hybrid rappers that are able to take from different regions in ways their forefathers couldn’t, where their region isn’t distinguishable. Desiigner is the perfect example, born and raised in Brooklyn but his most notable songs sound just like Future. There’s nothing about “Panda” that would make you believe he’s from the birthplace of Biggie and Big Daddy Kane, from the same coast as Wu-Tang and Nas. He isn’t interested in carrying the torch like Joey Bada$$ and Dave East, the sound he prefers to encapsulate is far from what’s expected from his hometown.
It’s also worth noting that he’s 18 and spent his teenage years witnessing Future’s run. You can call him a biter, but he's obviously directly influenced by one of the hottest rappers from the last four years. Future’s reach expands beyond Atlanta, he’s able to connect with everyone through radio, SoundCloud and features. Chedda Da Connect's "Flick Of The Wrist" is another direct offspring of Future’s influence, from his stutter flow to his Auto-Tune, it’s far more Atlanta than Houston. Anyone confusing him for Future shouldn’t feel bad in the slightest.
A$AP Rocky is an interesting hybrid, he was dipped in a DJ Screw double cup but never lost his Harlem swagger. A$AP Yams molded him to have a broad aesthetic that wasn’t based in one singular region, allowing him to appeal beyond what was expected from a rapper coming from New York. Rocky gives off a more Houston influence than Travi$ Scott, who is also a blend of various rappers from various regions. It works for him, he can take a song like “Antidote” that is more Rae Sremmurd than Geto Boys and have a hip record.
Drake is definitely the ultimate hybrid, he is able to take and remold almost anything. If rap was X-Men, Drake would be Rogue, absorbing the culture and style of whoever is standing near him. From Little Brother to Quentin Miller, Drake has adapted and transformed again and again. Complex pointed out that he has been adopting a lot of UK slang as of late, not surprising since he’s closely tied to Skepta. Without question, Drake has influenced rap since So Far Gone but it makes you question, what is Toronto about Drake?
In all his years of being active Lupe has only taken one rapper under his wing, one protégé that he predicted to be next from his city. Sadly, the future that Lupe foresaw in 2006 for the rapper formerly known as Gemini never came true - he changed his name, he changed his path, and the two went their separate ways sometime between The Cool and Lasers. I remember being enamored by his early mixtapes, a potent lyricist that had a singing voice born for the church. He was a double threat that was more Phonte than Drake but couldn't be compared to both emcees. One song in particular comes to mind, “Chicago” from Fahrenheit 1st and 15th Vol. V: Untamed Beast. He says at the beginning, “I’m from Chicago but I’ve never Twist before,” the next minute is a swift, almost breathless flow like an automatic weapon that is reminiscent of Twista. It was the first time I heard a rapper claim the style as a rite-of-passage, a hip-hop inheritance from the city that raised him.
It wasn’t just Chicago, the midwest embraced Twisting, better known as Chopper. Twista, Do Or Die, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tech N9ne, it was their music in that made rap fans attach the style to their region even though the origins can be traced back to the 1980s. Each coast had a sound or style that you could relate to a region, the foundation for those coming up based on their influence. Gemini coming from the same city paid homage by adapting to the signature of his forefathers. Lupe did as well, “Go Go Gadget Flow” from The Cool is his take on chopping.
Now, modern Chicago is known for Drill music, which is the offspring of southern trap music. Instead of finding influence in their city they went outside, Chief Keef and Young Chop saw something more relatable with Waka and Lex Luger than chipmunk high pitches and tongue twisters. It's a different generation. You see how Drill was able to influence New Yorker Bobby Shmurda’s biggest single and whatever we consider Slim Jesus.
The blend of influences allows for rappers to go global without appeasing to the expectations from their surroundings. Brooklyn can hate Desiigner for his misrepresentation of what’s considered authentic New York hip-hop, but because his music is able to appeal to an outside audience there’s no ceiling to block him from blowing up beyond his borough. The wall that surrounds you is only as thin as your WiFi connection.
Someone once told me they hated Wayne’s ThaCarter II because he sounded too much like an East Coast rapper. When Mannie Fresh departed from Cash Money the bounce and funk was gone from his beats, and with Jay Z as his biggest influence I saw his point-of-view. He was a New Orleans rapper that didn’t exude the essence of what was expected from Southern rappers in sound or style. Whether it helped or hurt him, he never returned to the artist that made 500 Degreez.
It no longer matters where you’re born, an internet connection allows you to plant your flag anywhere without leaving your home. Pop culture, slang, style, aesthetic, it all can be discovered by simply logging in. The freedom the internet gifts is causing everything to crossover, bringing us into the age of one big region. The complete disappearance of regional boundaries won't happen anytime soon, if ever. There’s still rappers who care enough about the ancient history to keep alive the art of those that came before them.
YG is incorporating G-Funk in his gangster raps, EarthGang is exuding the creative spirit of OutKast, Chance the Rapper is giving off the energy of a College Dropout, the regional influence is still apparent but it’s becoming more and more chopped and screwed until it’s almost unrecognizable. At this rate, the next generation won’t be based on either coast but united like the world prior to the continental drift.
We are becoming one in the strangest way.