B1 Intermediate US 50 Folder Collection
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If there’s one word that has taken over the vocabulary of rappers in the last 10 years, it’s "lit."
(music)
Formally, "lit" is the past tense of light, as in "the candle was lit."
But according to Emily Brewer, a senior editor at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “lit” has been used as slang since the early 1900s as a way to describe someone under the influence.
In the early 20th century, we started to see the word “lit” used as a slang word that meant drunk.
That meaning was used for a little while.
Then, it kind of fell out until the later 20th century, and then it picked up again.
An early example is this excerpt from the 1926 military aviation book "War Birds", which reads quote:
We walked into the vamp's house.
We all got lit and had a hell of a time.
But when did “lit” go from describing a candle to describing you and your friends out on a Friday night?
In recent years, in the past 15 or so years, we have seen the word “lit” meaning excellent or exciting.
Genius data shows that one of the earliest rap uses of “lit” in the non-literal sense comes from Nas’s “The Message” off his 1996 album "It Was Written".
(music)
But our data shows "lit" mentions remained in the single digits every year until the 2010s where it eventually hit the hundreds.
If a musician uses a word in a particular way, then the people who know that music then learn that new use of that word, and creates a culture around that music and that particular use.
And rappers fully reintroduced the word “lit” into everyday slang.
A$AP Rocky was an early champion of the word with his breakout 2011 mixtape "Live. Love. ASAP" and the drug anthem “Get Lit."
(music)
Soon enough the most mainstream artists from Drake to Rihanna were saying “lit.”
(music)
YFN Lucci and PnB Rock would even go Gold with the 2016 “lit” anthem “Everyday We Lit."
I think now people have derived a meaning even beyond this intoxication definition to just mean cool or having fun, high-energy.
That’s Dr. Sharese King, a sociolinguist and post-doctoral scholar at the University of Chicago.
She spoke to Genius News about what “lit” means to this generation.
It’s become what we would call kind of morphologically productive as far as you can add other endings to it.
So one of my favorites is like, "Oh yeah, that’s litty."
(music)
Or "It’s gonna be a lituation."
(music)
Then, you see that these words take a new, but related meanings to the original.
But nobody has become as closely associated with the word "lit" as Travis Scott.
As he’s gained more mainstream popularity in the last few years, he’s been using his iconic “it’s lit” ad-lib, on track after track.
(music)
Genius data shows “lit” mentions in music more than tripling from 2016 to 2017, which may be attributed to the September 2016 release of Scott’s "Birds In The Trap" Sing McKnight’ and its popularity.
And it seems La Flame’s got his technique of saying “lit” down to a science.
Travis Scott he makes it really catchy.
He’s elongating that vowel, so it’s not just it’s lit as a short vowel.
It’s like it’s liiit.
(music)
And while new lingo and slang comes and goes, we can look at the last 10 years and more and say, it was lit.
I’m Russel Abad for Genius News bringing you the meaning and the knowledge behind the music.
It's lit!
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50 Folder Collection
Seraya published on March 3, 2020
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