MCs must find it hard carving out their niche sometimes, what with their job essentially consisting of clever ways to talk over loud noises. But what on paper sounds like something that should be incredibly monotonous has spawned wonderfully catchy and memorable lyrics, bars and choruses.
You could pin that down to the beautiful creative nature of the human spirit, but then your pin would be wrong, dead fucking wrong. The only reason anyone remembers any hip hop or grime lyrics is because rappers make weird noises over them for absolutely no fucking reason.
I could try explain the science of it; something to do with the jarring quality of a unique and out of place noise being laid over the strongly rhythmical and repetitive combination of a hip hop beat, making it more memorable or whatever, but really you kind of subconsciously already knew that. Because every time you think of a Public Enemy song you can’t help but hear Flava Flav going “YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAHH BOOOOOOOOOOIIIIEEEEE” in your head at the same time.
So with that “YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAHH BOOOOOOOOOOIIIIEEEEE” still ringing resoundly in your ears, let me countdown my top five weird noises emcees make for absolutely no fucking reason…
5. DMX – SOUNDING LIKE A DOG
I love DMX because he seems like he likes dogs and anyone who likes dogs inherently can’t be a bad person. He called one of his albums ‘Year of the Dog’, his greatest hits ‘The Pick of the Litter’, one of his songs ‘Dogs Out’, then finally he goes and gets arrested twice, once in 2002 then again in 2007, for keeping too many dogs at his house. Hmmm… seems like he enjoys dogs. But then don’t we all? Dogs are great, after all. Gonna need more convincing D, how can you show us how much you really, really like dogs?
Oh yeah, by actually sounding like a dog on every track he’s ever made, ever. From barking, to growling, to having a rapping voice that sounds kind of like a Pixar character in a film about dogs where they’re all dogs but speak in human voices and talk mainly about dog issues (probably called something like ‘Dogs’) – he lives and breathes dogs. So yeah, he seems like a nice, normal bloke with a healthy love of dogs, who sounds like a dog and always makes random dog noises.
4. FLIRTA D – MAKING A REALLY FAST TONGUE ROLLING NOISE AT THE END OF EVERY WORD
Hanging out with Flirta D must be a fucking nightmare. He seems to speak so incredibly quickly that it would be quite hard to understand. To make matters worse, he has a rather unfortunate speech impediment that makes him finish every word with a vibrating tongue rolling noise that kind of trails off into nothing, which I imagine must compound his already hard to comprehend speech pattern into a new realm of alienation.
Imagine poor Flirta, trying his hand at ordering some McDonald’s, maybe hungover, like we all do from time to time.
“Hello sir, may I take your order?”
Flirta D: Yes, thank youuLLLLLLL, I’d LLLLLLuuuuuuuuuu 20 chicken nugguuuLLLLLLL, a LLLLLLLuuuuuuu fri-uLLLLLLLL, a diet cuuLLLLLLL and an Ore-uLLLLLL McFLLuuLLLLLL ple-uuLLLLLLLL
It would be absolute pandemonium at the till. Or imagine Flirta on his gap year, interrailing around Europe, with the end of every word sounding like the noise a computer game makes when firing a laser gun? I can’t imagine he’d ever be able to successfully order a Chinese. Or work in a bank. Really, being an emcee was his only career choice, so thank God for grime for giving him a fantastic outlet for his speech impediment.
3. JADAKISS – COUGHING/SNEEZING
Jadakiss is legit one of my fave emcees ever. He’s consistently been overlooked in this regard but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bar of his that hasn’t had at least two or three lines that make me say “OH SHIT JADA REALLY COMING WITH THE HEAT THIS YEAR” but in my head because I wouldn’t dare say that kind of thing out loud, especially in front of my mum.
So it is with great sadness that I have to listen to the great Jada always carrying around such a terrible cold. Yes, Mr Kiss, I can hear you, on the start, middle or end of every 16 making coughing or sneezing noises like “aghAAAH”. Eat more spinach Kiss. Have a kiwi, they contain over 150% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake. In one fruit! There’s no way you’ll ever have to ruin a perfectly scorching verse again with audible symptoms of flu if you just include this one simple fruit in your diet. Please, I implore you, take care of yourself Jada. We need you in the game, fit and healthy and ready to blaze the haters at the drop of a hat with your impeccable yet sadly unappreciated lyrics.
2. LIL JON – “YEAH”, “WHAT?” and “OK!”
Remember when Usher dropped ‘Yeah!’? I do, and not only because my surname is hilariously also Usher, so from then on, people would always say my name like “Usher Usher” in that whispered way he does at the start of the tune, and have pretty much continued to associate me with the word ‘YEAH’ for the rest of my life.
No, that is not the only reason that I, Tom Usher, remember the RnB singer Usher’s ‘Yeah’, featuring Ludacris. There is a more pertinent yet still life changing reason that I remember this tune, and it’s because of the other guest emcee Lil Jon, who basically makes this Usher tune all about him by shouting ‘WHAT?’, ‘OK!’ and the classic ‘YEAH!’ over it whenever he can. Now technically these are actually words and so go against the strict guideline of ‘noises’ that I set for myself in the list countdown, but really they’re words said in such an insane and unhinged manner that they don’t really count.
Dave Chappelle already did a skit on what it would be like to be Lil Jon in an average situation so I won’t go into details, bar saying you should google that sketch right away. Just rest assured, Lil Jon and his weird ways of saying three quite normal words like a furious banshee was the talk of the hip hop town at one point.
1. D DOUBLE E – “OOAH OOAH” (see also “BLUKU BLUKU” and “IT’S MUUEE MUUEE” and PRETTY MUCH EVERY EVERY OTHER SOUND HE MAKES WHILST SPITTING BARS)
So here we are, the light at the end of our audio tunnel. And when it comes to emcees making random noises over, during and as actual lyrics then D Double E surely is the heavenly light, the final resting place, the alpha and the omega of this particularly specific thing that emcees do for absolutely no fucking reason.
In this song ‘Signal’, a person in a polite voice at the start of the track actually has the temerity to ask the omnipresent D Double why he makes the particular “OOAH OOAH” noise. To which he simply replies: “OOAH OOAH,” because, like a God requires an unadulterated show of faith in it for religion to exist, so too does D Double require an unadulterated belief that this “OOAH OOAH” noise needs to happen for absolutely no fucking reason for his admittedly scorching bars to exist.
To be fair he does then go on to explain that the noise is very individual and that’s why he does it, but whatever that ruins my analogy so I’ll just ignore that bit and just say all hail the mighty D Double E, the one true God of making weird but incredibly memorable noises.
Words by Thomas Usher