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Slangy expressions and catchy phrases are deliberately used in hip-hop songs in order to reduce the degree of vulgarity in the content of the song so as not to disrupt society moral norms, and to increase the rate of acceptability of such song amidst listeners, to avoid direct stating of the name of the referent (s) in a satirical song for instance, and also for singers to create a landmark worth discussing even while the song is no longer in vogue.

Aside all these, slang forms and catchy phrases give linguistic aesthetics to song and most importantly, they enable singers to pass across a whole lot of messages, even while they utter just few of these messages. This implies that there are hidden messages in slang forms and catchy phrases used in hip-hop songs, and for these hidden messages to be known to listeners, a particular level of language analysis has to be put in place. This level is found to be pragmatics.  It is therefore to this end that this study sets out to undertake a pragmatic analysis of slang and catchy phrases used in some selected Nigerian hip-hop songs.

The objective of this study is to identify the real meanings of slang forms and catchy phrases that are used in Nigerian hip-hop songs, with reference to the overall meanings of these songs themselves. This identification will in turn help us to state the reasons why they (these slang forms and catchy phrases) are used in the songs and their contributions to the singers’ intended meanings of these songs. Haven achieved this objective, we conclude that, for real meanings of hip-hop songs to be known to all and sundry, a pragmatic analysis is necessary.



General Introduction

Purpose of the Research

Justification of the Study

1.4.                   Research question

1.5.                   Research Hypothesis

1.6.                   Scope of the Study

1.7.                   Methodology of Research


2.1.              Pragmatic             Goals of Pragmatics and its Theories              Goals of Pragmatics Theories             Theories of Pragmatics  Austin’s Theory .R Searle’s Theory Bach and Robert Harnish’s Theory of Pragmatic Act

2.2                   Aspects of meaning in pragmatics

2.2.1            Meaning

2.2.2     Denotation and connotation

2.2.3            Encoding and decoding

2.3            Slang

2.3.1            Kinds of slang

2.3.2               Usages of slang

2.4            Hip-hop

2.4.1            Definition and evolution of hip-hop

2.4.2            Old school hip-hop

2.4.3            Golden era of hip-hop

2.4.4            Hip-hop in Nigeria


3.1Song A: – ‘Maryjane’ by vector da viper

3.1.1Short   summary

3.1.2Identified slangy forms

2.1.3Analysis of identified slangy forms

3.2Song B:-‘Petepete’   (mud) by 9ice

3.2.1Short summary

3.2.2Identified catchy phrases

3.2.3Analysis of identified catchy phrases

3.3Song C:-‘Otiyanyan’  by Slimjoe

3.3.1Short summary

3.3.2Identified slangy forms/Catchy phrases

3.3.3Analysis of identified slangy forms/catchy phrases

3.4.Song D:-‘Enter d place’ by 2face Idibia

3.4.1Short summary

3.4.2Identified slangy forms

3.4.3Analysis of identified slangy forms







Appendix .



Language is a major and an indispensable tool in human existence. No wonder Microsoft Encarta (2009) defines it as “the principal means used by human beings to communicate with one another”. Language is primarily spoken, although it can be transferred to other media such as written, non-verbal and so on. It is therefore, the bedrock of communication which holds a society together.

Communication occurs in various ways: in the forms of, interaction through conversation (discourse), speech delivery, the media (such as radio and television), sign language, music (irrespective of the genre) and many others. It is a point worth nothing here that, in each of these forms, pieces of information are essentially being invested with different senses(meanings), and passed across to different kinds of individuals who in turn deduce various meanings from the information passed, based on their individual views and prejudices about such information. Therefore, Mr. Ade’s interpretation of “i love you” may be different from that of Miss Kemi’s, even if the person singing/saying the utterance is the same. The whole of this process is called “encoding and decoding”.

Hip-hop is one of the genres of music, it is denotatively referred to as a type of modern dance music with spoken words and a steady beat played on electronic instruments. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000, p.566). Nigerian hip-hop, the major concern of this research work consists of hip-hop songs, written, composed, arranged, sung, promoted, and marketed in Nigeria for Nigerians.The composition of Nigerian hip-hop songs involves the careful use of lexis (the total of words or vocabulary in a language) which appropriately expresses minds of hip-hop singers.Another important aspect in the lexis of Nigerian hip-hop is the “use of slang”. Elbe, (1996,p.3) defines slang as an ever changing and fashionable set of vocabulary of sociability used to express or reinforce identity cohesiveness within a group with a trend or fashion in a society at large.

It is to be  noted that, certain lexical items are used in Nigerian hip-hop songs, especially those sung in Nigerian native languages (Yoruba,  Igbo and Hausa), which do not perfectly fit into the space of a slang but are at the same time, not to be categorized as conventional day to day lexis. These lexical items for the purpose of this work, are tagged, “Catchy phrases”. An example is Atilaawi (Yoruba) (meaning “the one, whom we are talking about’’) which is deliberately chosen by a Yoruba hip-hop singer to satirize (criticize) a particular leader.

At this juncture, we can easily assert, that slangy forms and catchy phrases take an important quota in hip-hop songs in Nigeria.However, if the real meanings of these slangy forms and catchy phrases within the contexts of these songs will be known, a particular level of language analysis has to be put in place. This level of language analysis is found to be pragmatics.

Adegbija (1999, p.18) defines pragmatics as “the study of language use in particular communicative contexts”. Pragmatics is an important aspect in the use of slangy expressions because it is necessary to decode the messages embedded in slang. Olukoya (2010, p.2), this is to enable listeners to deduce the overall meanings of the utterance within which these slangy forms are used.

As a result of this, in this research work, we intend to identify the real meanings of slangy expressions and catchy phrases that are used in Nigerian hip-hop songs with reference to the overall meanings of these songs themselves. This will enable us to point out the reason why they were used in the songs and their contributions to the singers’ intended meanings. The purpose of all these is to make this form of music more accessible to all and sundry by enhancing their comprehension through a pragmatic analysis

1.2                 PURPOSE OF THE RESEARCH.

The purpose of this essay is to justify the deliberate insertion of slangy expressions and catchy phrases in the composition and rendition of Nigerian hip-hop songs. The study aims at asserting the fact that the singers’ intended meanings of these songs would not have been realizable without these slangy expressions and catchy phrases used in them. It therefore pragmatically analyses these slangy forms and catchy phrases with reference to the overall meanings of the songs.


In the course of gathering materials for this research work, we came across several other researches but only two of them are related to the topic in question. They are “A pragmatic Analysis of Slang Forms Used for Females Students in the university of Ilorin” Olukoya, B. (2010) and “A pragmatic Analysis of the Titles of English Church lyrics” Indarno (2000). None of these two deal with the specific focus of this research work. This essay is therefore embarked upon to add to existing knowledge and to enable readers to know that there is a lot more information beyond the surface meanings of the hip-hop songs they listen to.


What are the factors that instigate a hip-hop singer’s choice of lexical   items in the composition of his songs?

What things does the singer generally take for granted about thehearers of the song?

What makes the inflection of slangy expressions and catchy phrases compulsory, can’t they be avoided?


1) No hip-hop singer ever uses lexical items in his/her compositionwithout a reason

2) Listeners of hip-hop songs usually, generally share certain salient facts and information about the context of the songs with the singers.

Certain slangy forms and catchy phrases are necessary.


This research work uses; a maximum of four (4) Nigerian hip-hop songs as data within which slangy forms and catchy phrases will be extracted. Also only the illocutionary speech act and five (5) other elements of pragmatics, which are context, presupposition, reference, intention, and inference, will be used in the analysis. This restriction is due to the fact that there are a lot of elements in pragmatics, some of which are specifically gotten from pragmatic and some others, gotten from theories of meaning and semantics. Therefore, in order to be explicit and to stay within the allocated paper space for this research work, this restriction is necessary.


In carrying out this research work, four (4) Nigerian hip-hop songs will be selected as data within which slangy forms and unusual lexical items will be extracted. They are, “Maryjane” by vector Da Viper, “Petepete`” by 9ice, “Otiyanyan” by Slimjoe, and ‘‘Enter the place” by 2face. (Artists’ names are written in the forms they are referred to, by Nigerians and tracks are produced in Nigeria for Nigerians). The albums within which these tracks will be extracted respectively are State of Surprise (2010), Tradition (2010), Otiyanyan Reloaded (2010) and Unstoppable (2010).

The criteria for selecting these tracks revolve around language, whose usage is the primary concern of this work. “Maryjane” combines pure English, pidgin version of it, and a German variety of English (Patois), “Petepete” (mud) is sung using a purely native Nigerian language(Yoruba), ‘‘Otiyanyan’’ is sung, using a combination of a native Nigerian language (Yoruba) and the pidgin variety of English language, while ‘‘Enter the place’’ is sung using the pidgin variety of English alone. These tracks will be carefully and repeatedly listened to in order to gather their lyrics. Also, consultations will be made into library reference materials, textbooks, and the internet in order to get materials relating to pragmatics, music (hip-hop), and slang and also meaning in general.

The intended technique of analysis will involve a short general description of the songs, one after the other, and identification of slangy forms and catchy phrases found in them. Finally, a detailed pragmatic analysis of these slangy forms and catchy phrases will be done using illocutionary act, context, presupposition, reference, intention and inference. It is to be noted, that the direct, full version of the lyrics of the songs will be attached as appendix in this research work.


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