Guns don’t go “skkkkkkrah.” They don’t go “pap pap kah kah kah.” They definitely don’t go “skidee-kee pap pap.” Michael Dapaah knows this. The first time he made those noises over a beat, Dapaah, a Londoner, was making fun of grime MCs’ tendencies to go crazy with over-the-top ad-libbed gun sounds. It was a joke meant for a very specific audience, an absurdist amplification of a form of music that’s already plenty absurd and amplified. But thanks to those gun sounds, Dapaah now has a global hit on his hands. Dapaah isn’t even a musician; he’s a British YouTube comedian. But recording under the name Big Shaq, Dapaah is now the man behind “Mans Not Hot,” a novelty grime track that’s also, right now, the biggest grime song in the world. The “Mans Not Hot” video is about three weeks old, and as I’m typing this, it has about 48 million views on YouTube. It’s a completely, unashamedly silly goof of a song, and it’s also well on its way to becoming an anthem.
“Mans Not Hot” is a joke based on a simple and hyper-specific observation, about dudes in London who never take off their enormous coats: “The girl told me ‘Take off your jacket!’ / I said, ‘Baby, man’s not hot!'” But it’s all full of earwormy little bits that almost instantly turned it viral. There’s the transcendently dumb opening: “Two plus two is four / Minus one, that’s three / Quick maths!” There are all the little stick-in-your-head pieces: “Chillin’ in the corridor! / Your dad is 44!” There’s the bit where he’s making fun of someone’s nose and he just explodes, “You donut!” for no reason. There are all the bits of London slang that don’t sound like they come from this language: “That girl is a uckers!” There’s the fired-up, precise way Dapaah delivers the whole song. And, most importantly, there’s that symphony of fake gun sounds. I love how the people at Genius got Dapaah to sit for a video explaining the lyrics, and I love how Dapaah walks us through the “When the ting went quack quack quack, you men were ducking” line by explaining that ducks sometimes duck, and then by demonstrating what a duck ducking looks like.
Just a few months ago, “Mans Not Hot” was just one part of a perversely watchable radio-station freestyle. Dapaah went on Fire In The Booth, a live-freestyle segment on BBC Radio 1 DJ Charlie Sloth’s show. For 20 endless minutes, Dapaah and his hypeman Shakes either rapped horribly or argued with Sloth about how well they were rapping. Sloth mostly managed to keep his composure while Shakes ad-libbed all of Dapaah’s rapping by just repeating the last word of whatever line he just said. (That whole thing has led to another viral hit, albeit one that’s fallen well short of “Mans Not Hot.”) I don’t know who had the idea of harvesting the part where Dapaah freestyled over Giggs’ “Let’s Lurk” and turning that into its own song, but that person deserves to get rich.
Right now, “Mans Not Hot” sits at #11 on the UK charts, and it seems destined to climb higher. It hasn’t charted in the US yet, but that’s going to happen. The other day, I was driving around with my friend and his 12-year-old, and they were both talking about “Mans Not Hot.” The 12-year-old didn’t even know the name of the song. He didn’t know that the guy who recorded the song is really a comedian and not a proper rapper. He’d never heard of grime. It’s just a thing that kids at his school like quoting. And if “Mans Not Hot” has already penetrated into the consciousness of the middle schools of the small-town American South, then there’s just no stopping it.
THIS JUST HAPPENED !! 😱😱18,000 people singing Mans Not Hot in Manchester!! big up @bbcradio1 @bbc1xtra @klipadj #1xtralive Thank you so much for being apart of this & creating History 🙌🏾🙏🏾❤️🏆 pic.twitter.com/4o7aZ0C785
— Michael Dapaah (@MichaelDapaah) November 11, 2017
Over the years, grime guys like Dizzee Rascal and Skepta and Stormzy have become massive stars, both in the UK and elsewhere, but I don’t know any American 12-year-olds who know their songs. That’s a new frontier. There are kids running around rapping a song poking fun of a whole genre that they’ve never heard of. And if past viral hits are any indication, there’s nothing stopping it from snowballing and becoming a whole pop phenomenon, a “Gangnam Style” for grime.
1. G Perico – “Amerikkka”
A slick-ass West Coast trunk-rattler that also works as an impassioned piece of political rhetoric — “Fuck Trump, yeah, I feel that / But it don’t matter who in office when you still black” — with a sampled Malcolm X speech for an outro. We may be entering a whole new era of conscious G-rap.
2. Cousin Stizz – “Lace Up”
The story of two people being murdered at a Cousin Stizz show in Atlanta a few nights ago is awful on every conceivable level, and only a small part of it is how antithetical it is to everything we’ve heard from a sharp, warm, empathetic rapper like Stizz. Just before the shooting, Stizz released a mellow flex of a single. It’s great, and it’s destined to be overshadowed completely. That’s too bad.
3. Rick Ross – “TipToe’N”
It’s nice to know that Ross can still crank out a minimal, nasty banger like this without drowning it in ominous goth orchestras or whatever.
4. Jidenna – “Decibels”
I thought I’d be sick of this guy’s goofy, awkward, cheesed-out rapping by now. I’m not.
5. Remy Ma – “Wake Me Up” (Feat. Lil Kim)
This is two of the hardest veterans of New York’s wild ’90s teaming up on a beat that hits like having your head slammed in a Range Rover door. This sort of thing should happen more often.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
Whole crowd at the " Free Meek Mill rally rapped “Dreams and Nightmares intro .” pic.twitter.com/3BIQobwI2x
— DJ Akademiks (@IamAkademiks) November 13, 2017