Food Doesn't Slap

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A plate of quesabirria tacos with sauce and sliced radishes
We know those quesabirria tacos you ordered are good. But are you really gonna try to tell us they slap? (iStock)

It's 2022. Let's get this out of the way. Stop saying food slaps. 

We’ve got enough problems as it is. We don’t need game-goofy folks out there misappropriating slang, leading our youth astray and contributing to the further decay of our society. People using a term deeply rooted in the culture of Bay Area hip-hop in a way that has nothing to do with the Bay Area, nor hip-hop.

I invite you to do a simple social media search of the term "food slaps." What you'll find is that fools are still saying it, and people are still trying to correct them, bless their hearts. 

"Slap" is about the sound of music when it hits your ears, not the flavor of food when it touches your tastebuds. Period.  

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Here we are, collectively surging into year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, with new variants sending people to hospitals across the country in droves. We really don't have time to address how our jargon is (mis)used.  

We should be worried that the United States' current surge in COVID-19 cases is so bad that just outside of the nation’s capital, they’re calling in the National Guard to drive school buses. We should be alarmed that this past Tuesday, the Hayward school district went back to distanced learning for a week, the Oakland teachers staged a sick-out and OUSD students are petitioning for more COVID-safe resources and threatening to have their own sick-out. 

That’s just a couple of the healthcare-related issues. Don't get me started on stark increases on the price of goods, the uptick in crime across the nation and how police companies are leveraging this data to bolster their budgets

The last thing we need right now is someone getting on Marshawn Lynch’s internet, talking about they “had a sandwich and it was slapping.” Man, what?

There’s so many other words to describe food. It can be "delicious," "scrumptious," "good"– even "dumbass good." It can be "hittin’" or "bangin’," "Smackin’ or "Shhhhmackin’." One of my favorites is when you ask someone if the food is good and they emphatically reply, "It’s candy, bruh!" 

It can even be “man, this sh*t right here,” or “that’s that sh*t right there.”

But food can’t slap. Don’t say it. 

Before going further into my tirade, I will concede this: I understand the confusion. I'm not exactly sure of the roots of saying "food slaps," but I know that in the film Friday After Next (2002), the third installment in the Friday film trilogy, comedian Don “D.C.” Curry’s character, Uncle Elroy, opens a barbecue restaurant with the tagline, “tastes so good, make you wanna slap your mamma.” 

After this claim, his brother in the film, Willie Jones (played by the late John Witherspoon), proceeds to slap the ancestors' blessings out of their mother. Ah, Hollywood magic. 

There isn’t a piece of food on this earth good enough to make me even think about slapping my momma. “Slap” doesn’t even come to mind when we’re talking about food.

“Slap” is reserved for describing the audio experience of encountering someone with a stupid sound system, sliding down the block in a Box Chevy or a Delta 88 slappin' Keak Da Sneak’s “T-Shirts Blue Jeans & Nikes,” and the bass line is kicking like a mule in heat.

“Slap” is a descriptor that was popularized during the hyphy movement, circa 2004. It was used to illustrate the type of impact on a person's face when they encounter D-Lo's "No Hoe" for the first time. 

The late great producer Traxamillion used the term “Slapp,” with two Ps, just to emphasize the strength with which the song was slappin’.

A CD with the producer Traxamillion on the cover.
San Jose producer Traxamillion's 2006 album 'The Slapp Addict' slapped so hard, it required two "P"s in the title. (Gabe Meline/KQED)

But before we were goin’ dumb, the term was already floating around the music-sphere, most often in reference to "slapping the bass," a percussive way of playing the bass guitar with one's thumb. (Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins are the godfathers of slapping, but you've probably heard it on Seinfeld, or joked about in the movie I Love You, Man.)

And yes, at the same time, the etymology of the word “slap” reportedly dates to the 15th century, rooted in the literal act of gracing one’s cheek (facial or buttock) with a fierce open-palm. 

So yes, “slap” has multiple meanings, just like so many other words in the English language. But it doesn't apply to food. That's the glory of slang, ever-evolving, and keeping the Queen’s English youthful. 

For instance, if I say “pull up,” that can mean that I’m asking you to hit a set of 10 on the chin-up bar in the doorway, it can mean come over for a friendly gathering, or it can mean bring yo mark-ass over here I’m finna put these hands on you. 

When someone says “put these hands on you,” it means they plan on fighting, squaring up, throwing hands or catching a fade.

This is where it gets tricky.

“Fade,” or rather “fading up,” can also be a request that everyone pitch in a couple dollars on something, usually reefer. Not to mention a “fade route” is a path for a wide receiver to run in football. Being “faded” is being intoxicated. “Fading” something is coloring it in a spectrum that goes from dark to light. And, of course, “a fade” is also a haircut.

And oh man, if your barber or hairstylist is nice at their job, they’ve “got bars.” But having “bars” can also mean that you know how to drive a car extremely well. Or that you’re an exceptional blunt roller. Mind you, saying that a person “got bars” can also mean they are a very skilled rapper.

(You picking up what I'm putting down?)

If a person is a skilled rapper, it’s more common for folks to say that they're “spittin' gas”/ “gassin a track.” But be careful, because “gas” can also mean high quality reefer (it always comes back to reefer).

Additionally, “gassin’” can also mean lying, or “blowing up someone’s head.” Lastly, “having gas” can mean fuel in your car’s gas tank, or indigestion in your tummy’s tank.  

Context is everything, eh? 

I could keep going for days about Northern Californian colloquialisms, and how tricky they are. But the mutation of words isn't specific to this region—lest I remind you of the great "glizzy" scandal of summer 2020 that had a solid portion of the Atlantic seaboard up in arms.

(The term "Glizzy" reportedly originated in the greater Washington D.C. area, and is a euphemism for hot dog, but it comes from how folks would describe a glock, or the extended clip that protrudes from a handgun. And I'm pretty sure there's some connection to male anatomy in there too.)

Point being: words often have multiple meanings. It's a fact of life. Even if every other aspect of Bay Area lingo from "bootsie" to "bipper" can be used in multiple ways, "slap" is where we as a community draw the line. I can't even think of any other words that we collectively believe should have just one meani.....

Oh, wait: "Bop." That’s another one. Because, to some, "bop" is a tasteful catchy song. But, uh, where I'm from, it means that you’re a hoe. And I mean "hoe" as in "a promiscuous person," not "a garden tool." 

Ah, language. A collection of symbols that people have agreed upon, and oftentimes disagree upon. I bet as soon as the first humans started talking, an argument ensued soon after.

Look, when it boils down to it, I'm all for free speech: Say what you want, just know the consequences of your actions.

I do stand with E-40, P-Lo and many others in this fight against misuse of our innovative idioms.

And at the same time, I know words change. Language evolves, just like the world we're attempting to make sense of through the words we use. 

While I envision a world where we can come together on one accord, and conquer the problems of our time—the spread of COVID, the fractured education system, economic disparity, the impending collapse of civilization—I imagine that it'll be hard to do if we're arguing about the proper use of lexicon.  

In conclusion, the Raiders and 49ers are in the playoffs, Klay Thompson is back on the basketball court, housing is a human right, no one should be hungry in the wealthiest country in the world, mass incarceration is inhumane, and we don’t say "food slaps."

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But we do say "Frisco."