John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Has your city had the honor of being profanely recognized by these hip-hop kings?
America is divided in many ways—wealth, race, people who say “um” versus “uh.” But there’s also a vast gap between the almost-half of Americans who’ve been shouted-out by Lil Jon, and those who have been ignored.
Real N---- Roll Call is a 2004 track from the Atlanta hip-hop artist Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, featuring Ice Cube, that is believed to include more profanity than any other song in history. Before the rapid-fire spray of F-words, MF-words, N-words, P-words, B-words, H-words, A-words, S-words, and other S-words begins, there’s a profane intro in which the two stars encourage people to throw it up if they hail from certain places. Specifically, Lil Jon yells:
“Now when you hear your city or state being called,
You put your m------------ middle finger up in this b----!”
The crunk maestro proceeds to spit out a dozen locales while Cube—and you can only really hear it if you play through your left speaker—gives his shout-outs as well.
Among the bailiwicks: Atlanta, St. Louis, “Naptown” (aka Indianapolis), Los Angeles, Chicago… actually, why list them all, when you can just find them pegged to this wonderfully random map?
Will Friedrichs, a 19-year-old Virginian attending Amherst College, decided to map the song on Reddit after seeing a map of “hoes in different area codes” inspired by Ludacris’ 2001 hit, Area Codes. “This [Lil Jon] track was sort of a meme among some of my friends, specifically the ‘censored version’ which jokingly bleeps out all of the absurd number of swears in the song,” he says. “I made the infographic on PowerPoint and posted it to a GroupMe, since I thought they’d find it funny.”
The infographic identifies the track’s 17 U.S. shout-outs in shades of Lil-Jon blue and Ice-Cube crimson. (It’s unclear if New York the city or the entire state is referenced, so it gets an ambiguous cross-hatched I.D.)
A few things are immediately noticeable. The upper Midwest is completely shout-out free, as are Alaska and Hawaii. Ice Cube’s shout-outs are clustered tightly around Southern California. The map also integrates the populations of these sites and breaks them down in a pie chart of the nation’s roughly 320 million residents, in an effort to determine what percentage of the U.S. population is in a position to answer Lil Jon’s roll call. The conclusion: If you include both city and the larger metropolitan area populations, 144,040,000 Americans can “put their middle finger up in this b----,” but 176,050,000 cannot.
“A really big portion of the population covered by the shout-outs comes from when entire states are shouted out,” explains Friedrichs.
Also, Friedrichs is well aware he spelled Lil Jon’s name wrong—perhaps because his favorite hip-hop artists are Kendrick Lamar and Outkast. “Just a little typo. I make them all the time,” he says.
In future projects, the amateur cartographer might dive deep into the 1990s for musical inspiration. “I got a request to do a similar graph for Busta Rhymes’s Everybody Rise,” he says. “I’ll definitely think about it.”