Throughout history, hip-hop has always been known for its four main components: the DJ, the MC, the dancer and the graffiti artist.
These all add up to create a recipe to fit into hip-hop culture, but it seems that a fifth one can be added on: vocabulary. Ever since the 1970s when hip-hop was born, the language use within hip-hop culture has been notable. We’ve gone through words like “dope,” “fresh,” “bling” and “H.A.M.” just to name a few, but there is one that has really stuck within current pop culture and that is swag.
The word rooting from “swagger” is said on a daily basis, describing the way one carries and presents themselves. It is usually used to describe someone of confidence and respect.
Today, people completely misuse the word and there is nothing that bothers me more than when a person says it just to say it. I’ve seen statuses on Facebook and tweets on Twitter of people saying things such as “I just made myself a sandwich #swag” or “About to take a nap cause I’m tired #swag.” I just have one simple question: What is so “swag” about that?!?!
Last time I checked, there is nothing “swagger-like” about making a sandwich or taking a nap. You are fulfilling typical human needs: hunger and sleep. By telling me you have swag, shows me that you don’t have any, because a person with swag is at least humble about it. Just because you put swag at the end of your sentences does NOT mean you have any!
A proper way to use the term would be, “I went to a job interview today and I got it! It must have been my swag.” Now tell me, whose swag would you rather acknowledge? The person who made a sandwich and is going to take a nap, or the person who just got themselves a job?
The word swag is not just a word anymore, it’s a movement. People think they can just throw it anywhere in mid-conversation and it will gain them some points of respect. In my opinion, I get so frustrated trying to have a conversation with someone about music who can’t stop finishing sentences with the word. “Oh yeah, that artist has killer lyrics SWAG.” My response? Conversation = OVER.
When it comes to appearance, people seem to think everything and everyone now has swag. If a rapper or athlete was to say that wearing clown shoes and a spoon on their nose with lime green hair was “swag,” too many people would co-sign it. Now, that’s not necessarily misusing the word, it just means that some people don’t know how to think for themselves. It’s just another bandwagon that brings out a naive trait in people. Remember that you are your own judge of what is hot and what is not! You don’t need to prove yourself.
I think it’s time for many fans of the word to come to the realization that some things are better left unsaid. Let’s make it a rule: if you have to claim your swag, then you don’t have any!
Just like Wale once said in one of my favorite rap songs with Talib Kweli called “Music Ain’t Business”: “Dear rap fans, let’s kill the word swagga.”