Ad-Libs: Their Secret To Success In Hip-Hop [VIDEO]

Takeoff and Quavo of Migos perform during the 2017 Hot 97 Summer Jam
Photo Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images


“Haan, Yeeeaah, Bang Bang, Ooohhh, Skirt skirt, Truuu, Lil Boat, Swerve, AUHH, Yuugh.” Ad-libs are scattered throughout our current hip-hop scene, but to what do they owe their success? And why do they take up residence in our minds and repeatedly flow so easily from our lips?


With streaming services, such as Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal, we have unintentionally created a new way to listen to music via algorithms. For the mainstream consumer, the Playlist era has become a convenient way to take top songs from many artists and file them into a shared space. As if by osmosis, streaming services discover a listeners most played songs and create, as well as recommend, curated playlists specific to that listener. This is done seamlessly and swiftly.


Although playlists usually follow a theme (car ride, a new workout, late nights), they occasionally surprise listeners with a new artist or a single from one of our favorites that skipped through the algorithm. So how does an artist stay relevant when their plays may be at the fate of an algorithm? Create an unforgettable ad-lib.


Playlists cater to listeners by stringing songs together that appeal to their moods. Playlists more importantly devalue the integrity of an album by selecting specific tracks, not in any specific order, thus robbing an album of its original intent. Artists developed a strategy to unify their body of work on each album to ensure that their audience recognizes their music.


Playlists work against this creative process. They use the top singles from a variety of artists’ albums and forcibly create a bond much like an arranged marriage. What results is a group of displaced songs having no meaningful relationship to each other in the same space. Ad-libs have taken on their own identity. They are much more than just filler lyrics. Their repetitive nature promotes a sense of comfort for a listener. They foster a means of anticipated chanting; uniting festivalgoers with the artist from a verse most listeners probably could not recite. The next time you utter “Blow, bang, cookie” at a party or club it is a nod to the ad-libs that have hooked you as much as everyone else.

Listen to popular ad-lib songs below: