San Francisco Bay Area rapper E-40 has confounded listeners for years with such slang phrases as "Can you smell me?"
It translates to standard English as "Do you understand?" The problem is, not everyone does.
In an effort to clear up any misunderstandings, E-40 is putting pen to paper and writing a dictionary of hip-hop slang. His intent is to help people better grasp his unique vernacular as well as more common elements of the language of hip-hop.
"I'm a creative m-----f-----," E-40 (born Earl Stevens) said of his consistent invention of slang in his lyrics. "I do make up the words and slurs in my eye and off the top of my head."
"I haven't made up everything," he added, "which was why I wanted to do this book."
"E-40's Dictionary Book of Slang Vol. 1. 1999-2000 Edition" will feature definitions of hip-hop slang from all over the rap map, including jargon such as E-40's "thought you thought" (everyone knows and so should you) and "ya-yo" (drugs).
The quick-tongued rapper's seventh album -- a double-length CD entitled The Element of Surprise -- was released on Tuesday and has already spawned a radio hit with "Hope I Don't Go Back" (RealAudio excerpt).
Though E-40 says his dictionary will largely concentrate on words that originate from the Bay Area, it will also include rap sayings from coast to coast. "I'm saying that [the Bay Area] is a mecca of game," E-40 explained, referring to the amount of creative speech in his home turf. " 'It's all good,' 'Can you feel me?' -- they all started off in the Bay Area. M-----f-----s might not want to admit it, but they've got to recognize where this all came from."
While slang dictionaries are nothing new, guides to the unique and constantly changing language of hip-hop have been rare. Such books as Clarence Major's "Juba to Jive : A Dictionary of African-American Slang" have covered aspects of the language of hip-hop. But the last book to completely devote itself to rap slang, 1995's "A to Z : The Book of Rap & Hip Hop Slang," by Isaac Mozeson and Lois Stavsky, is now out of print.
Besides venturing into relatively uncharted literary territory, E-40 has hit upon an idea with vast appeal to the ever-growing hip-hop masses, said Ray Johnson of Marcus Books, an African-American bookstore in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood.
"E-40? It would definitely sell," Johnson said. "Right now, there aren't any books which deal exclusively with rap slang. There are some which sort-of touch on it, but none that are really current. People do come in and ask for books like that, so it's definitely something that we would sell."
As the title of his book indicates, E-40 intends for this to be an ongoing project. Noting that language in the hip-hop world consistently changes, he hopes to have new editions out every other year.
He also plans to give inner-city charities a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book.
"This is something that comes from my heart," he explained. "When this book comes out, I don't want it to seem like I'm robbing the streets. I want to give something back."
The book is currently without a publisher or a set release date. Meanwhile, The Element of Surprise is in the stores, and the rapper's direct-to-video documentary "E-40 Presents Charlie Hustle: Portrait of a Self-Made Millionaire" and accompanying soundtrack will be out on Nov. 24.