To English teachers, the dictionary and thesaurus are unimpeachable testaments to how words should be used. To rappers, the contents of those hallowed rule books are endlessly malleable, subject to getting toyed with and sampled even more than Tom Scott's "Today." And as tenants of an art designed by and for people disenfranchised by the mainstream, rappers have seen words that way for a long, long time.
Back in 1996, Tupac Shakur bursted out of prison to begin recording his All Eyez on Me album, which would go on to become his highest-selling effort. Notice how he spells "eyes." As far as we know, he didn't spell the word that way for any particular reason, so we're left to speculate. It could've been part of some mysterious acronym, or a code for Thug Life solidarity. Then again, maybe he just thought adding a "z" to the end of "eye" looked cooler and more hip-hop-centric. In either case, he spelled it for his own stylistic purpose.
Sometimes, rappers spell words differently because they're adhering to a certain code--like YG and Young Thug, for instance. Both represent sets of the Blood gang, and that group historically tries to obstain from using words beginning with a "c." As a result, YG calls cities like his native Compton, "Bompton." It can get pretty confusing.
Take an extended look at other rappers who spell words differently using their own hip-hop flavor. Peep the list for yourself below.
The three Migos have their own ways of doing things and flipping the word "bourgeoisie" is one of them. Typically the shortened version of the word is "bougie," but when it comes to Quavo, Offset and Takeoff, they prefer "boujee." Their version of the word appears in their song "Bad and Boujee."
YG is a Compton Blood, and like many others from his and other Blood sets across the U.S., he stays away from saying words with the letter "c." Instead, the rapper tends to replace the letter with "b." Hence his album and song title, "Still Brazy."
2 Chainz frequently spells the word "True" as Tru. His variation of the word appears in his album title Based on a T.R.U. Story. He also says it's an acronym for "The Real University."
The infamous duo from Queensbridge Mobb Deep purposely misspelled the words "Murder" and "Music" when they named their 1999 album Murda Muzik.
'Pac set the world ablaze when he dropped his magnum opus, All Eyez on Me in 1996. He also made a few grammar Nazis cringe when he spelled eyes, "eyez."
Plies is far from the first rapper to utter the term "Shawty," but his track 2007 single "Shawty" got the word plenty of love. "Shorty" is technically the correct way to spell "Shawty," but in the South they do things differently--especially rappers.
Down in the ATL, rappers like Gucci Mane and 21 Savage pronounce the word "Streets" with a "K after the "S" instead of a "T."
Like YG, Young Thug belongs to the Bloods, so he also tries to obstain from using the letter "c." When he want to say a word like "cool," he'll say "bool" instead. On "Digits," he references his Blood affiliation by saying, "Keep me a red flag 'cause I'm boolin'."
Gucci Mane and plenty of other rappers spell "dough," "doe," whether they're talking about the slang term for money or a different way for spelling "though."
Loso famously spells the word "fabulous" as "Fabolous" for his rap name.