Full Credits


Stats & Data

February 09, 2012

In this article we explore the practical application of the letter "K" in the medium of rap and hip hop music

In recent years it has become accepted wisdom that the letter “K” has fallen out of practical use.  Many believe that although there was a time when the eleventh letter of the alphabet was necessary, it is now less viable than the penny.  It is my assertion that the letter “K” is in fact not as antiquated as we are led to believe.  Using references from top linguists I will show how this letter is still an integral part of modern American English.

The notion that “K” is a useless consonant was first postulated by the noted American philosopher Will Brown.  In his argument Mr. Brown cited the work of American linguist and poet Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em.  The example given was from a musical piece created by Mr. ‘Em named “Juice.”  Mr. Brown quoted the following stanza:

In the fuckin’ club I’m in V.I.P.

And yo bitch on me she wanna suck the D, I see.

As seen in the written form of this work Mr. ‘Em is in fact not trying to spell a word, but creating a unique homophone in which we are led to believe that he is spelling the colloquial name for a man’s penis.  Mr. Brown used this example to illustrate the point that without the letter “K” the word and its implications are still readily identifiable.  While the point is valid I propose that it unnecessarily casts aside the usefulness of the letter “K” and simultaneously denigrates the inventiveness of its author, Mr. ‘Em. 

When one first hears the verse the absence of the letter “K” is immediately noticed and sparks discussion.  The most common reaction is to simply recognize its exclusion and to continue enjoying the piece.  Although that is the case in most instances it cannot be ignored that everyone does in fact notice what has happened.  How can we discard a letter whose absence is so pronounced and recognized?  The fact one can be distracted by the absence of one letter while listening to the Shakespearian level of work that is Mr. ‘Em only highlights the importance of the letter. 

The work of Mr. ‘Em is pejoratively accepted as the pinnacle of spoken musical English.  Mr. ‘Em has provided a library of lingual delights that prove this point.  Works such as “Booty Meat” and “She Got a Donk” have cemented him as a master of librettos.  In his work “Juice” Mr. ‘Em cleverly deceived his audience by creating a homophone in which he used a phrase to lead the listener to believe he was spelling a word.  Few examples of such brilliance come to mind from modern work.  Some dare to suggest that it hasn’t been seen at that level in all the annals of the spoken word.  To assert that this genius manipulation of words and phrases only serves to prove how antediluvian the letter “K” is belittles the leap in thought, expression, and ingenuity that Mr. ‘Em displays in his work. 

Another example of how useful the letter “K” has been can be found in the work of another American linguist named simply, Kid.  Kid is one half of an American lingual duo named Kid n Play.  In their work “Kid vs Play (The Battle)” Kid uses the letter “K” in a homophone he created (possibly the origins for Mr. ‘Em’s exploration into the practice?) to score points against his opponent in the song, Play.  His stanza reads:

So come with it, boy, don't even hide your best

Cause 'Kid' spelled backwards describes you best

In this we can see that much like Mr. ‘Em, Kid is using the spelling of a word to indicate to his audience his perception of the direct object in this stanza, Play.  Although he is leaving out a letter (“C”) it is not viewed as a spiteful omission, but a clever leap over the obstacle of his name not having the letter “C” in it.  More esteem is also awarded to Kid in this piece for rhyming a word with itself.[1]  In this example we see that omission of a letter does not, and should not, give ammunition to the argument that the letter itself is inherently useless.

It can be agreed that there are instances when the letter “K” may not be necessary to complete a word or truly convey its meaning.  Although that is sometimes the case we cannot throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  The letter “K” is a versatile letter with impactful uses when applied correctly.  Those who would disagree, even when supported by examples from master lyricists, are sadly overlooking the many concrete applications of this fundamental consonant. 





[1] a practice used sporadically and only at the highest levels of creativity