Throughout hip-hop's history, rappers have sought to distinguish themselves through a variety of methods. While some have focused exclusively on lyrical content, others have focused on style and cadence. As of late, hip-hop has experienced a fundamental shift from an emphasis on substance to an emphasis on style. It's no longer what you're saying, but how you're saying it, as evidenced by the rise of the ad-lib.
Originally derived from the Latin phrase ad libitum, the ad-lib is defined as an improvisation or an extemporaneous delivery. From Rick Ross's grunt to Lil Jon's elongated "Yeah," an ad-lib announces a rapper's presence on a given track, but it's also a calculated marketing tool deeply rooted in an artist's identity. To not have one would simply be blasphemous.
With that in mind, let's explore ten of them.
10. DJ Khaled Universally hated for yelling at the beginning of singles he rarely produces, DJ Khaled's signature "WE DA BEST" and "DEE JAY KHALED" have been the ire of music connoisseur's ears around the world.
9. Lil B Recently guest lecturing at NYU before a packed crowd, cultural icon Lil B is best known for such phrases as "swag" and "whoop," accompanied by an obtuse cooking dance simulating the process of making wonton soup. Indeed, very based and rare.
Example: "Hopped up in my car (swag!) then I drop my roof/Taste like wonton soup/That's just how I do (swag!)" - "Wonton Soup"
8. Gucci Mane Even though Gucci Mane can't seem to stay out of trouble with the law, there's no question he's a Southern hip-hop heavyweight, with infamous ad-libs such as "BRRRR," which inform the listener how "icy" is he truly is. Did I mention he has his own iPhone app?
Example: "Yeahhhhh. Wah. Burr Burr it's Gucci!" - "O Let's Do It"
7. Young Jeezy Known best for his diabolical laughs, which have found themselves sampled on Kanye and Jay-Z's tracks, "Mr. TM103" has one of the most recognizable ad-libs in the industry, despite his limited subject matter.
Example: "Hey snowman, can I get an ad-lib? Yeahhhhh." - "And Then What"
6. 2 Chainz Born Tauheed Epps, "Mr Everything In 2s" has a simple yet effective ad-lib strategy that has recently afforded him collaborations with the likes of Kanye West and Nicki Minaj. Rumored to be signing with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label, 2 Chainz's meteoric rise can be partly attributed to his "Tru" ad-lib before every verse.
5. Wiz Khalifa Bing search engine spokesman Wiz Khalifa has seen his fair share of success this year. From being nominated for a Grammy for his "Black and Yellow" single to proposing to Amber Rose, Khalifa's mischievous laugh has captured the hearts of minds of "Taylors" nationwide.
Example: Literally every single track he's ever recorded on.
4. Pitbull Okay, fine. Pitbull isn't technically a rapper. He's more of a pop star making music that sorority girls dance to on the weekends. However, there's no disputing his ad-lib acumen. With "Mr. 305," and ode to his place of residence, and "Dale!" a positive interjection meaning something along the lines of "go girl," Pitbull has used his signature ad-libs to increase brand awareness.
Example: "Armando Bond, Double 0, 305, aka Mr. Worldwide." - "Where Do We Go From Here" ft. Chris Brown
3. Birdman Where do I even start with Birdman? From his signature bird call to his infamous hand rub, Brian Williams is nothing short of a character.
Example: "YMCMB, swagged out. Birdman, 100." - "I Made It" ft. Kevin Rudolf, Jay Sean, and Lil Wayne
2. Lil Wayne Young Money president Lil Wayne is perhaps one of the biggest artists in the world. From sold-out shows to selling one million copies of his Carter IV album, Lil Wayne's "Weezy F. Baby" and "Tunechi" are amongst some of the most recognizable ad-libs.
Example: "Weezy F. Baby and the F is for phenomenal." - "Yes"
1. Rick Ross Rick Ross's one ad-lib has played a crucial role in his meteoric rise. Often the source of debate and wise cracks, Ross consistently asserts his dominance on a track by one simple yet effective "UGHN!"
Example: "Baby told me she never memorize the verse/Until the day I put a 100k inside her purse. UGHN." - "Best Night Ever" ft. Kevin Cossom and Wale
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