Ed Driscoll

It's Totally Crunktacular!

In his “Backfence” column, James Lileks discovers a new genre of pop music currently on its 15 minutes–or maybe seconds–of fame: crunk.

Come again?

Crunk. Eh? The word just sat there like something foreign and unpleasant. If you had a robot dog, he would go outside and leave a crunk. The stuff in the corner of your eyes when you wake: crunk. The stiff socks in a stranger’s gym bag: crunk. It wasn’t so much the word itself that made me feel old — it was the lack of quotes around it. Apparently I was supposed to know what Crunk was. Apparently we all got the Crunk memo. Crunk, to the Variety demographic, was like Bolton to the A-section or Rybak to Metro. Here be Crunk, and if you don’t know what it is, well, strap on the Depends and slam a few Ensures, Gramps. Beyond here be crunking. Was it a verb, or a noun? Could non-Crunk substances be crunkified? Did one Crunk, or have Crunking done unto them?

I read on, and discovered that Crunk was a word for “high energy dance music.”

Oh. Disco.

But where did it come from? Perhaps “Crunk” was a hip mispronunciation. Or, as the already-dated vernacular would put it, a mispronunciationizzle. The language is always morphing, to use another dead word.

Change comes from the top — buzzwords and technological terms imposed by science and business — or bubbles up from below as an organic expression of the hipster need to set himself apart from boring old Dad Culture. Example: In the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, they surveyed the possible summer hits by interviewing one of those gargantuan rappers — Fat Joe, or Heavy D or Notorious B.I.G. or Koronaree, or Fitty Tuns, I can’t recall. He noted that a song was “aight.”

This represented the interviewer’s decision not to bestow the gift of consonants on someone who clearly had no use for them. “All Right,” when properly slurred, dispenses with those duplicative L’s and that annoying R, and cuts right to the pith: aight. It’s the sound of someone making a small, satisfying belch: aight. “It’s all right” thus becomes “S’aight,” with the apostrophe serving as a nod to actual grammar, a piece of punctuation soon to be as useless as adenoids or the appendix. So just as aight came from “It’s all right,” perhaps Crunk came from Chronic, a term for marijuana. But the style is apparently up-tempo dance music, a genre not associated with potheads; they either sway en masse to interminable jams or bob their heads to Judas Priest in fealty to the Dark Lord of Headaches. So much for research.

What’s the song about? As the story said: “the taunting girls-night-out anthem topped the charts for weeks with its message of ‘you’re never gonna get near this.’ ”

OK; noted. File under Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This,” which likewise erred in its assumption that I had any desire to do so. We have now come to the point where the top hit consists of Crunk Royalty telling us we have no chance to get next to her.

Honey, I could have told you that. You didn’t have to go and make a record. But thanks for caring. One of us has to, I suppose.

Update: I actually listened to the song. It’s whack. It’s fly. It’s bad. It’s keen. It’s gear. It’s junk. It’s stupid fresh, wicked, deec, copacetic, def, solid, tha bomb, etc.

Update #2: Rereading Entertainment Weekly, I came across the word “Crunktastic.” This means it’s mutating into new forms already, and will be pass