Date: July 22
It’s a dangerous thing, to accuse someone of stealing something that’s invisible. How do you know they stole it? How do you know it’s gone? How do you know it was yours in the first place? How do you know that you didn’t steal it first yourself? Take the word “Hanh,” which is invisible, as much a sound, really, as it is a word. It’s a distinctive way of of pronouncing the inquisitive, “Huh?” You know what it sounds like if you’ve listened to rap radio lately. Lots of people have been saying it. Kanye West, most famously probably. He’s been saying it for near ten years now—since 2004, at least. French Montana says it a lot, too. Most recently on the “Work” remix. “Hanh?” he said, before acknowledging the commonality. “That’s not Kanye! That’s Montana!”
This, apparently, has upset Atlanta’s lovable crunk-era relics the Ying Yang Twins. They, this week, released a song called “Sayin My Word” which begins with one of the Twins (it’s hard to tell twins apart) announcing that, “Every muthafucka from Atlanta already knows that I was the first muthafucka screaming ‘Hanh!’ So if you think you started it first, getcha mind right!” Then the whole song is about how people like Kanye West and French Montana stole their word, which they say they were saying way back in 2003. Which they were.
But words are tricky things, right? Difficult to trace. You can’t dust them for fingerprints or read their serial numbers. Because they’re invisible. They’re difficult to claim as one’s property. Because, who knows? Maybe you actually heard the word somewhere else before you started saying it, and saying that you were the first person to say it. Maybe you were drunk? Or stoned? Or both? It was the crunk era in Atlanta, after all. It’s easy to imagine that someone could have forgotten where they heard that word first, that sound, that particularly nasal pronunciation of “huh?” Maybe it’s older than people think.
Like, it could have been that you heard the way Juvenile said it, in New Orleans, way back in 1998. Or, maybe, even before that, when you were just dozing off one night, or only half-paying attention to the radio blasting from a passing car. Maybe you thought it was the Doppler effect, stretching the vowels in a repeated exclamatory expression.
Nope. That was Young Bleed hollering about, “Hanh!?” Way back in 1997, on the soundtrack to Master P’s movie I’m Bout It. You even saw that movie, too, right?
(Oh, Jesus, Ying Yang Twins, you couldn’t have thought that new song that Diddy was dancing to on his airplane was really a new song, did you? Please tell me that’s not it.) —Dave Bry