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"Word Magic" from the streets of the inner city

Yo' Mama!

New Raps, Toasts, Dozens, Jokes and Children's Rhymes from Urban Black America

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edited by Onwuchekwa Jemie

"Onwuchekwa Jemie has put together the very best collection from the masters of toasts, rhymes, jokes and raps. If you want to revel, roll, play, jump in and drown yourself in the richness of African American language, or just plain enjoy whatever language can do, this is the book for you."
Bill Labov

Collected primarily in metropolitan New York and Philadelphia during the classic era of black "street poetry" (i.e., during the late 1960s and early 1970s) these raps, signifyings, toasts, boasts, jokes and children's rhymes will delight general readers as well as scholars. Ranging from the simple rhymes that accompany children's games to verbally inventive insults and the epic exploits of traditional characters like Shine and Stagger Lee, these texts sound the deep rivers of culture, echoing two continents. Onwuchekwa Jemie's introductory essay situates them in a globally pan-African context and relates them to more recent forms of oral culture such as rap and spoken word.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).

I HATE BOSCO

I hate Bosco
It's no good for me
My mother poured
some in my milk
To try to poison me
But I fooled my mother
I poured some in her tea
Now I don't have no mother
To try to poison me

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Yo." [or "Joe"]
"Yo who?"
"Yo' ma!"

"Ain't you mama... ?"
"Ain't my mama what?"
"Ain't you mama on the cornbread box?"
[picture of Aunt Jemima]

You ain't ugly, you're yugly.

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Reviews

"This is a comprehensive collection of African American folklore. The transcriptions are well done—great texts! The introductions are thoughtful, meaty, provocative."
Daryl Cumber Dance, author of Honey, Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor and From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore

"This book sets the standard for an innovative tradition in works of this sort and, in time, will become a classic. Onwuchekwa Jemie's Yo' Mama! features the best of the old and the new in African American popular cultural forms. This is by far the best contemporary work on the subject."
Molefi Kete Asante, Editor, Journal of Black Studies, and author of The Afrocentric Idea (Temple).

"This is a magnificent collection and long overdue. It builds on a long tradition of scholarship pioneered by William Labov, Roger Abraham, Geneva Smitherman and others who see African American English as performance-based and the core and heart of African American culture. Moreover with all of its toasts, boasts, ritual insults, and the like, it adds hiphop flavor, allowing us to see how rap connects to this language-performance based art. A must read for all those interested in the roots of African American culture."
William Eric Perkins, Senior Research Scholar, Urban Minorities Research Project, University of Pennsylvania

"[A] thoughtfully rambunctious and judiciously outrageous collection that will make you laugh until your eyes water."
The Texas Observer

"...a must read and [an] excellent addition to the library of urban folklore and argot...Highly recommended."
Multicultural Review

"Jemie's introductory essay places 'the dozens' in a global context and relates them to modern forms, such as rap and spoken word.
Black Issues Book Review

"...dive straight into the collection if you want to really understand what made Langston Hughes so damn fly."
City Limits

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Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
A Note on the Text
Introduction
Notes
Works Cited

Part I: Children's Rhymes And Game Songs
THE WORLD AS WE SEE IT
1. Oh Little Playmate
2. Kissing in the Hall
3. I Saw You with Your Boyfriend
4. I Wish I Had a Nickel
5. Oh You Can't Get t o Heaven
6. Miss Sue
7. Your Mother's Got the Chicken Pox
8. Somebody's Calling My Name
9. From City to City
10. Tic Tac
11. I Received an Invitation
12. Just Plant a Watermelon
13. I Eat the Peanut Butter
14. Beans
15. Sardines and Pork and Beans
16. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
17. Winston Tastes Good
18. I Want My Money Back
19. Old King Cole
20. Hi-Ho Silver
21. My Little Monkey
22. Silent Night
23. Slap Me Five
24. Sambo
25. Run, Nigger, Run
26. Nigger, Nigger
27. Grandma
28. I Hate Bosco
29. Old Abe Lincoln
30. Old Man Tucker
31. John Brown's Baby
32. Old Jim Crow
33. See My Heart
34. See My Pinky
35. Father Shot the Kangaroo
36. Your Eyes May Water
37. A Monkey Found a Dime
38. Look Up, Look Down
39. Do Your Ears Hang Low?
40. McDonald's
41. The Roaches and the Bedbugs
42. Popeye the Sailor Man
43. It Ain't Gonna Rain No More
44. Cry, Baby
45. Kindergarten Baby
46. Tattle Tale
47. Red, Red
48. Now She's Gone
49. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
50. April Fool
51. Booty Shine
52. Old Lady Had a Rooster
53. Stop
54. I Know Your Hair Is Nappy

MARCHING SONGS AND THREATS
1. I'm Little but I'm Loud
2. I'm a Cool Cool Girl
3. I Like Coffee
4. Soul Sister, Soul Brother
5. Your Left, Your Left
6. I Am Blind
7. Black Is Beautiful
8. Who Are the Pros?
9. Who Can Do the Freakin'?
10. Whitey Don't Excite Me
11. White Cracker, White Cracker
12. Take Off Your Shoes
13. Choo-Choo, Bang-Bang
14. We Are the Rough
15. If You Don't Like It
16. Campers' Beans
17. The Soldier

CHOOSING SIDES
1. Engine, Engine Number Nine
2. Out Goes the Rat
3. Odds, Evens
4. My Mother and Your Mother
5. Doggie, Doggie
6. Ukie Dookie
7. One Potato, Two Potato

HAND CLAP
1. Criss-cross, Applesauce
2. Rubba Dolly
3. Down, Down Baby
4. A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea
5. Cookie Jar
6. I Won't Go to Macy's Anymore
7. Miss Mary Mack
8. Have You Ever, Ever, Ever
9. My Boyfriend's Name Is Tony
10. Eenie Meenie Gypso Leenie
11. Miss Lucy Had a Baby

JUMP ROPE
1. Teddy Bear
2. Cinderella
3. First Comes Love
4. Fire, Fire
5. Does He Love Me?
6. Strawberry Shortcake
7. Gypsy
8. Hot Pepper
9. Old Man Daisy
10. Be On Time
11. Do the Wicky Wacky
12. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
13. Vote, Vote, Vote
14. Anna Banana
15. Sew, Sew, Sew Your Draws
16. Stampede
17. Taxi Cab, Taxi Cab
18. Help, Murder, Police
19. Hey Girl
20. Amos 'n Andy
21. Up the Ladder
22. All in Together, Girls
23. George Washington
24. Up and Back
25. On the Mountain
26. Down the Mississippi
27. Mother Dear's in the Kitchen
28. I Lost My Handkerchief
29. Fudge Olyolee

BALL GAMES
1. Ball Bouncing
2. One Over One
3. Hello Bill
4. Bouncy Ball
5. Oliver Twist

RUN A N D CHASE GAMES
1. Devil and the Pitchfork
2. Ole Mother witch

CIRCLE GAMES
1. Head and Shoulders
2. Punchenella
3. Shake, Shake My Playmate
4. I'm Going to Kentucky
5. Dinah's Dead
6. The Green Apple Tree
7. Sally Waters (Sally Walker)
8. Yes Ma'am
9. Grandmama Hippie-Hoppa
10. Let's Get the Rhythm

WINE RHYMES
1. What's the Word?
2. 3-6-9
3. Hambone
4. Newberry Wine
5. Whiskey Song
6. Up on the Roof
7. What's Your Name?
8. Marcy Chaplins
9. This Ole Heart of Mine
10. Mary, Mary
11. You Missed Me
12. Last Call

VULGAR RHYMES
1. Listen My Children
2. Your Ma
3. Stranded
4. Fat and Skinny
5. Fuck the Duck
6. A Gal from Kansas City
7. Batman and Robin
8. Your Mama Don't Wear No Draws
9. Kiss My Ass!
10. The Food Chant
11. The Woodpecker
12. Put Your Foot on the Rock
13. When You Get to Be a Man
14. Mary Had a Steamboat
15. A Geea, My Geea
16. Batman
17. Down by the River
18. Tra-la-la Boom-de-ay
19. Her Belly Began to Rise
20. Bang Bang Lulu
21. Sing the Old Tunes
22. Baseball Bat
23. A Man Named Brockett
24. I've Been Told
25. I Was Walking Through the Jungle
26. The Titty Shout

Part II: Rapping, Signifying, Boasts and Threats
1. Briefs
2. Claim to Fame
3. There Is No Double
4. Plumber
5. A Declaration of Friendship
6. Crying Blues
7. My Family
8. Mean
9. I Farts Freely
10. My Name, My Game
11. Joe Taylor
12. I'm a Cool Cool Nigger
13. My Legend Has Come to Pass
14. Don't Mess With Me
15. I'm a Lover
16. If You Don't Like My Apples
17. When I Die
18. Ninety-Four Whores
19. Twenty Women
20. Three Wine-Ole Bitches
21. Fathers and Sons
22. Dime

Part III: Dozens
GENERAL: "THE CONDITION YOUR DEAR FAMILY'S IN"

POVERTY
1. Poor
2. House
3. Food
4. Rats and Roaches
5. Clothing

UGLINESS
1. Ugly
2. Funky
3. Age
4. Size
5. Height
6. Hair
7. Head
8. Teeth
9. Titties
10. Dick
11. Pussy
12. Ass
13. Legs
14. Feet
15. Hands
16. Work
17. Role Reversal
18. Low Down
19. Negative on Black

STUPIDITY

PROMISCUITY

Part IV: Toasts
THE SIGNIFYING MONKEY
1. The Signifying Monkey
2. The Signifying Monkey
3. The Signifying Monkey
4. The Signifying Monkey
5. The Signifying Monkey
6. The Signifying Monkey
7. The Signifying Monkey
8. The Signifying and Pool-Shooting Monkey

STAGGER LEE
1. Stag-a-Lee
2. Stagolee
3. Stagger Lee
4. Stagolee
5. Stackalee
6. Stackolee
7. Bad, Bad Stack-o-Lee
8. Stagger Lee and the James Brothers

THE TITANIC
1. ...And Shine Swam On
2. The Titanic
3. The Titanic
4. The Tee-Ti-Tank
5. The Tenth of May
6. The King, the Queen and the Whore
7. Shine, the Devil and His Brother Sammy
8. The Three Women
9. Son of Shine

DOLEMITE

DEATH ROW

DORIELLA DUFONTAINE

HONKY-TONK BUD
1. This Is Your FBI
2. The Hip-Cat Stud

THE FREE SNORTER

PETE REVERE
1. Pete Revere
2. Big Pete

BIG DICK WILLIE

BLACK JACK TUCKER

Part V: Invective
1. Put-Downs
2. Pimpin' Sam
3. On the Corner

Part VI: Preacher Tales and Parodies
1. Preacher Man
2. A Prayer
3. Telephone to Glory
4. The New Priest
5. The Visiting White Preacher
6. The Baptism
7. Ghosts
8. Smart Preacher
9. Last Will and Testament
10. Fresh Air
11. The Preacher and the Ducks
12. G.Y.B.A.P.C.
13. I Want to Testify
14. Make a Joyful Noise!
15. Mock Sermon
16. Jonah and the Whale

Part VII: Jokes
1. Welcome to Muleshoe, Mississippi
2. Suicide!
3. Southern Hospitality
4. Oink!
5. Help!
6. The Nigger Announcer
7. The Nigger Ape
8. Who Is the King of the Jungle?
9. Reno's Comin'!
10. You Ain't Shit
11. Nooks and Authors
12. The Faggot and the Truck Driver
13. Lucky Strike
14. You Want the Indians to Hate Us?
I5. Bowels
16. Cold Turkey
17. Back to Africa
18. Ungawa!
19. The Russian and the Whore
20. Englishman, Black Man
21. Chinese Man, Black Man, Jew Man and God
22. White Man, Colored Man, Chinese Man in a Storm
23. White Man, Black Man, Jew Man and a Can of Beans
24. Colored Man, White Man, Chinese Man and Skunk
25. Black Man, Chinese Man, White Man in a Whorehouse
26. Chinese Man, Colored Man, White Man and the Chimes
27. Jew Man, White Man, Black Man and the Judge
28. Black Man, White Man, Chinese Man in Jail
29. Two White Men, Black Man, Devil
30. Black Man, Southerner, Northerner in Hell
31. Black Man, White Man, Jew Man in Hell
32. Jew Man, Chinaman, Black Man in Heaven
33. Riddles
34. What an Old Man Said

Part VIII: Jokes on Children
1. What's Wrong, Seymour?
2. Correct English
3. Bad Manners
4. Check Her Reaction
5 . Grits and Wonder
6. Belly Button
7. Coming and Going
8. Felt
9. I Was Walking Through the Park
10. The Pocket Book
11. Close Your Legs!
12. A Nickel!
13. How to Kill an Eel in One Easy Lesson

Part IX: Miscellaneous
1. Sulky Sailor
2. Old Country Jail
3. Stephen Change
4. Little Black Bird
5. Belgrave
6. Legs in Style
7. Humpty Dumpty
8. Upside Down...
9. ...Inside Out
10. When You're Up...
11. ...When You're Down
12. Son
13. Look into My Eyes
14. They Say
15. Snippets
16. Flashes
17. A Lady!
18. Freedom

CONTRIBUTORS

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About the Author(s)

Onwuchekwa Jemie teaches African American and African Literature at Howard University. He is the author of Langston Hughes: An Introduction to the Poetry and co-author of Toward the Decolonization of African Literature.

Subject Categories

African American Studies
Literature and Drama

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