Do you know your 808s from your 1738? Why is Drake running through the six? We explain hip hop's numbers.
You might have noticed that Drake has been dropping a few references to the number six of late. His forthcoming album is titled ‘Views From the Six’ and the number appears several times in the tracklist of his latest mixtape, ‘If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late’. Most notably, the track ‘Know Yourself’ features the line “Running through the six with my woes”. "The six" refers to the Toronto area code 416 where Drake grew up.
For Bey and Jay, the number four holds special significance. Beyoncé’s birthday is Sept. 4, while Jay-Z’s is Dec. 4; the two married on April 4 in 2008; they have matching “IV” tattoos on their wedding fingers; and Beyoncé named her latest album 4. In addition, fans have speculated that the couple's first child’s name, Ivy, is also a reference to the Roman numeral IV.
Perhaps the most recurrent number in Drake’s lyrics is the number 40, a shoutout to his long-time producer and friend Noah “40” Shebib. In an interview, 40 explained that he got the nickname while working on his first major label project for Canadian rapper Jelly Stone: “Those guys used to fall asleep in the studio... and wake up at 10 AM and I’d still be working. And they’d be like “Your work never stops. You work for 40 Days and 40 Nights.”
If you look closely, the placard which YG wears in the mocked-up mugshot for the cover of his debut album has a number on it. Underneath the album’s title, ‘My Krazy Life’, is the number 03192009, the date – 3rd March 2009 – that YG got signed to Def Jam. In an interview with Urban Daily, YG explained that he narrowly avoided a two year jail sentence for burglary that would have resulted in him being incarcerated that day.
Ye’s ‘Black Skinhead’ features a reference to 300 in its hook: “I keep it 300, like the Romans / 300 b****s, where the Trojans?“. There’s multiple allusions here: firstly, to the same-titled comic book and its film adaption '300'. Secondly, to the expression “keeping it 100%”, only Kanye is saying he keeps it 300%. Thirdly, a coded shoutout to Chief Keef, who appears on another album track, “Hold My Liquor”.
The cover art to Vince Staples's first official EP, ‘Hell Can Wait’ depicts a house in flames with the number 6500 on it. It refers to a real address: 6500 Obispo Ave. in Long Beach, the neighbourhood where Vince grew up. On the final track of his mixtape ‘Stolen Youth’, Vince raps “I’m here to tell the world I’m from Ramona Park”; 6500 Obispo Ave. is on the corner of Ramona Park.
Future’s latest mixtape, ’56 Nights’, is a tribute to his friend and DJ, Esco. After the Atlanta rapper performed at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, DJ Esco was arrested for marijuana possession at a nearby airport. He spent 56 days in jail. Future timed the mixtape’s release to coincide with Esco's return home.
Why exactly are there thirty-six chambers in the title of the Wu-Tang Clan’s legendary debut album? As the clan’s de facto leader RZA explained to Billboard Magazine in 1996: “…there are nine members, and four chambers in each of their hearts. Nine times four is 36”
The hook to ‘773 Love’, one of the biggest hits from Jeremih’s ‘Late Nights With Jeremih’ mixtape, features the request “Won’t you call 773, 779 LOVE, oh”. Sadly, the phone number 773-779-5683 doesn’t belong to Jeremih - lord knows, we've tried ringing – it actually refers to two area codes in his hometown, Chicago. Unfortunately, it also happens to be some poor woman's number. In an interview with Billboard, Jeremih reveals that he tried to buy the number from her but his offer was refused.
Kanye’s fourth album, ’808s & Heartbreak’, is named after the Roland TR-808 drum machine, the sounds of which you will instantly recognise even if you haven't heard of the machine that made them before. An additional piece of lesser-known trivia: Kanye recorded the album in Hawaii, where the telephone code is, coincidentally, 808.
There are two numbers that appear frequently in Sosa’s lyrics. Firstly, 300 or 3hunna, a reference to an area of Chicago and, allegedly, one of the city’s street gangs, Black Disciples. The second number that Keef occasionally refers to is 1017, a reference to Gucci Mane’s record label 1017 Brick Squad which Keef is affiliated with. As Gucci explained in an Instagram post, 1017 is the number of his late grandfather’s house.
If you’ve been listening to Fetty’s smash-hit “Trap Queen” as many times as we have, you’ll know it opens with the ad-lib “Remy Boyz / 1738”. Fetty’s New Jersey squad are named Remy Boyz 1738 after a premium Rémy Martin cognac. “1738 is the finest liquor in the urban district. If you go to the liquor store and you get a bottle of 1738, it’s going to be the most expensive Remy… And that’s what we are, we’re the finest, we’re the best,” Fetty explained to VladTV.