Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Lex Luger-produced “H.A.M.” is a creative union of the two biggest currently recording rap stars in the world — as the lead single to the duo’s upcoming Watch the Throne project, it’s a feisty statement of intent. But more importantly, it’s a fresh edition to the canon of wonderful rap songs tagged with (usually) brilliantly bad acronyms. With “H.A.M.” Fever still in full effect, here are 10 of rap’s biggest acronym-based anthems.
Kanye West and Jay-Z, “H.A.M.” Just when you think rap’s livestock lexicon is suitably comprehensive — beef! chicken! pig! the humble goat! — two of the genre’s biggest cash cows come out “hard as a motherfucker” in a full-on rant directed at . . . hatin’-ass motherfuckers. Although with references to great white sharks and vultures (coupled with the declaration “Fuck the pig”), it seems Jigga’s hinting at his involvement in the underground exotic-eating scene.
Wu-Tang Clan, “C.R.E.A.M.” RZA’s disorderly mob of rappers are besotted with the art of the acronym. The Clan’s name itself breaks down as either Witty Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game or the more nefarious We Usually Take All Niggas’ Garments; for years, Raekwon and Ghostface were touting a project titled R.A.G.U. (Rae And Ghost United), while GZA has even dropped acronyms in rhyme (“Protons Electrons Always Cause Explosions”). But “C.R.E.A.M.” is their crowning glory. Defined by the husky-voiced Method Man as “Cash rules everything around me,” it’s a remarkably sensible-sounding phrase for a crew more often specializing in esoteric slang. (See also: “B.I.B.L.E.”, Killah Priest’s elegiac solo song tacked on as a bonus cut on the CD version of GZA’s Liquid Swords.)
Killer Mike feat. Big Boi and Sleepy Brown, “A.D.I.D.A.S.” “All day I dream about sex,” declares Atlanta rapper Killer Mike on a song that hits all the traditional sex-rap notes. There are reassurances about the rapper’s virility (though KM cops to tapping his grandfather’s Viagra supply). There’s a safe-sex message (“keep my weapon covered”). Disdain is cast on child predators (“Over 18 only ’cause baby I’m no perv”). And there are disclaimers against homosexuality, here courtesy of Outkast member Big Boi’s observation, “No, I don’t ever recall seeing a man turn up pregnant.” Unfortunately, despite the ditty’s jaunty, radio-friendly sound, it failed to catapult Killer Mike into the mainstream. Naming himself like a felonious rap character from an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit probably didn’t help his cause.
Prodigy, “H.N.I.C.” Mobb Deep man Prodigy’s recent contribution to hip-hop has been his winningly mentalist all-caps missives, which usually weave commentary about the Illuminati into wild insults fired off toward random lists of rappers. (Sample blast: “WHO THE FUCK REALLY LIKES ANY OF THESE OTHER RAP MU’FUCKAS? YOU REALLY LISTEN TO FAT JOE? YOU REALLY LISTEN TO CASSIDY? SHEEK LOOCH [sic]? MAX-B?”) But his 2000 solo album is an underappreciated gem of a project with some enduring acronym action of its own. In a move showing the pomp of a young Donald Trump, the currently incarcerated P anointed himself the “Head Nigga In Charge,” which at the very least shows more ambition than rappers insisting on calling themselves CEOs of their own fleeting record labels.
Screwball, “F.A.Y.B.A.N.” A hard-as-nails quartet of rappers from the Queensbridge housing projects, Screwball received brief notoriety toward the end of the ’90s with an ode to assassinating then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, “Who Shot Rudy?” On the boldly uncouth “F.A.Y.B.A.N.,” veteran rapper Poet dominates mic duties and charmingly declares, “Fuck all y’all bitch-ass niggas!” over a ruggedly funky DJ Premier production. Sadly, group member K.L. passed away three years ago, although the boom-bap appeal of their Y2K: The Album still endures.
De La Soul, “D.A.I.S.Y. Age”
Despite regularly telling avid listeners that in De La’s world, the term “daisy” was an acronym that stood for for Da Inner Sound Y’All, the breezy Long Island trio were soon burdened with the tag of being lackadaisical hip-hop hippies. Their DayGlo debut album cover sprinkled with cartoon daisies, reputedly put together against the crew’s wishes, probably didn’t help their cause. It’s a stigma De La repeatedly tried to address, in songs like the b-side cut “Ain’t Hip To Be Labeled A Hippie,” and more bluntly with the cover to their second album, De La Soul Is Dead, which showed three wilted daisies in a broken flower pot.
Ice-T, “Girls, L.G.B.N.A.F.” With the cover of Ice-T’s classic Power album resembling a prototype hip-hop soft-porn mag — pimp attire! a scantily clad girl with big jugs and an even bigger gun! — I’m not sure why Ice felt the need to censor the name to one of his definitive sex raps. Salaciously blunt in rhyme, the letters in the title refer to the slick phrase, “Let’s get butt-naked and fuck.” Throughout, Ice repeatedly rhymes “butt” with “fuck” for full-on player appeal.
LL Cool J, “The G.O.A.T.” Proving that barnyard prestige is no barrier to hip-hop’s love of self-aggrandizement, LL Cool J invoked the image of the lowly ruminant goat when he declared himself the “Greatest of All Time.” Uncle L reputedly ditched the set of a Spielberg movie to put his “G.O.A.T.” thoughts into rhyme; not only did the unlikely phrase stick, but it’s been spun off into non-acronym sub-plaudits, like Weezy anointing himself the greatest rapper alive and folks towing the (possibly sycophantic) party line that Jay-Z is the greatest rapper dead or alive.
Smiff-N-Wessun, “K.I.M.” For a duo named in honor of a firearm manufacturer, Boot Camp Clik soldiers Tek and Steele produced a pretty positive addition to rap’s acronym vault, advising listeners to pluck up, stay positive, and “keep it moving” when their girl acts up, the set gets hot, or simply when “shit just don’t stop.” This sagely advice occurs over a beat courtesy of the Beatminerz’s Mr. Walt that borrows nattily from a Paul McCartney song. (See also: A Tribe Called Quest’s less codified “Keeping It Moving.”)
Schoolly D, “P.S.K. — What Does It Mean?” “P.S.K./We’re making that green/People always saying, ‘What the hell does that mean?'” So raps Philadelphia’s Schoolly D on his trailblazing 1986 gangsta-rap cut. He goes on to (two-thirds accurately) break the individual letters down in rhyme: “P for the people who can’t understand/How one homeboy became a man/S for the way you scream and shout/One by one I’m knocking out/K for the way my DJ cutting/Other MCs, man, you ain’t saying nothing.” But that’s the parental-advisory version: The initials actually refer to the Park Side Killers gang. Today, Schoolly proves that crime rhymes can pay by voicing Adult Swim cartoons.