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April 13, 2006

Slang of the Week: poppin’ tags (verb phrase)

Mazie should have been in the library doing her business class homework, but instead she decided to research marketing strategies while poppin’ tags at the mall.

Celebrity quote:
“And we gon’ stay leavin’ out the stores with heavy bags
Cause we poppin’ tags, trippin' we be poppin tags!”
-Jay-Z in the song Poppin’ Tags

People often ask me where I get the ideas for newsletters. It can be something I hear on the subway on the way to work or something I read in a vintage book that inspires me. But today, I'm inspired by the TV Guide, which tells me that tonight’s episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is called “Poppin’ Tags” and will feature rappers.

While it doesn’t air until later today, I predict it will feature a lot of designer clothing. Rappers are among the world’s top consumers of luxury goods and especially of brand names. A true man of style (like Jay-Z, who has made Esquire’s “best dressed” list more than once) will be seen in Prada, Gucci and, as Twista says in the same song “Mink Roc-a-Wear” but will not wear the same outfit twice. Why bother with a dry cleaner when you can just buy another suit?

So although poppin’ tags is about shopping, it’s also about status. In this way, it connects to the earlier meaning of the phrase, which was spray painting tags—the large, heavily stylized signatures of graf (graffiti) artists—up on walls. While they achieved status by getting their tags up in high visibility areas, Jay-Z gets his by buying so much stuff that he’s leaving the mall with “garbage bags” full of high fashion and bling.

What’s new at Slang City?
“See me in your city sitting pretty, know I'm shining, dawg/I ride with a couple Latin broads and a China doll...” T.I.'s hit song What You Know translated to Standard English.