The Hashtag Rap

February 2, 2011 Blog

A friend and I recently thought we were on to something when we coined the phrase “rhymonyms” referring to tags that rappers are putting at the end of a line in their flow, but it turns out someone beat us to it. Kanye West. In an interview last November with Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97, Kanye called it a “hashtag rap” when you take the “like” or “as” out of a metaphor. Hashtag rap is in reference of course to the popular twitter usage of the pound (#) sign when referencing a trending topic. The use of the hashtag on twitter eventually evolved into a technique for making a relevant tag statement at the end of a tweet, and Kanye claims he was the first to employ the method in his raps on 2007’s “Barry Bonds” — “here’s another hit… Barry Bonds”. That this is the first time metaphors were used this way is unlikely, but Kanye does have a way of making things, ahem, memorable.

The style was eventually brought mainstream by Young Money, a crew most notably consisting of Lil Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj. One song that really increased hashtag rap’s visibility is 2009’s “BedRock” with lines like:

“But I keep her runnin’ back and forth… soccer team”

“And I just be coming off the top… asbestos”

“I race for your love, shake and bake… Ricky Bobby”

The hashtag rap is so widely used now it’s hardly notable. But it’s clear that within the last few years this new style of storytelling has emerged. Even Justin Timberlake can be heard using it on his pseudo-rap in Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Shades.” It’s pretty overboard and he even credits hashtag rap’s most regular perpetrator, Drake, in the last line:

“I can read your mind, read your mind… Professor X

We can press rewind, press rewind… VHS

Speaking of the past, its so futuristic behind ya

Let me fill up that plate and dish it out, dish it out… China

I’mma bend yo body, bend yo body… Magneto

Let me have my way, I’mma have my way… Carlito

Now we can put in work, let me get my busy on for you

You aint never heard me talk like this

Just got my Drizzy on for you”

Drake, considered to be the don of hashtag rapping, claims its origins began with Big Sean’s “Supa Dupa” in 2007. And although Kanye West refrains from hashtag rapping on his trend-breaking opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the rest of the industry has fallen in love… #Valentines.