Although he somehow managed to make music so forgettable you made a point to remember it specifically because it was so relentlessly forgettable, Lil Boosie — who’s currently locked up with a list of charges longer than Kevin Durant’s arms —did have at least one positive contribution to Black culture. The exact origin of the term “ratchet” remains unclear, but both “Do The Ratchet” — Boosie’s 2006 ode to unadulterated ignance —and “Let’s Get Ratchet”—Boosie’s 2009 collaboration with something called a “Hurricane Chris” — paved the way for its eventual addition to our lexicon. And, a welcome addition ratchet has been, as it manages — in one, easy to (mis)pronounce word — to label and describe a certain type of uncouthness so absurd it borders on camp.
Ratchet also stands out from a linguistic standpoint, as it’s one of the few words in the English language that can equally serve as an adjective (“That club is pretty ratchet.”), verb (“We need some more Mad Dog so we can ratchet it up in here.”), and noun (“This club is wack. Where are the ratchets when you need them?”).
Anyway, as tempting as it is to continue to discuss ratchet’s etymology, I’m more concerned with how 2012 is slowly becoming the “Year of the Ratchet”. Between the omnipresence of WorldStarHipHop and the popularity of shows featuring the peculiar violence between the long-time concubines of men who may not even be aware that these women exist, there has never been a time where ratchetness was more ubiquitous, more celebrated, and more ingrained in how we receive, assess, and critique culture.
Even though the year is barely five months old, there have already been numerous moments that will easily be first-ballot members of the Ratchet Hall-of-Fame; moments so ratchet that they somehow managed to transcend ratchetness by bringing a certain level of quality to the uncouth. Here are five of them.
Mary J. Blige’s Burger King Commercial
If you could measure an object’s level of ratchetness by how often (and how well) it’s parodied, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul’s minute-long spot extolling the virtues of crispy chicken wraps may very well be the ratchetest moment of all-time. Not since Antoine Dodson’s interview (btw, I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Antonie Dodson has a Wiki page, but ANTONIE DODSON HAS A WIKI PAGE!!!) has such a short moment of ratchet behavior had such a long shelf life.
“Same Damn Time” by Future
It’s fitting that the most popular club track of early 2012 happens to be a song so ratchetly impressive that the sheer thought of it inspires imitation. Thus, half of Black Twitter (the name given to the cyber village that includes pretty much half of young Black America) using it in puns across their social media timelines.You have no idea how tempting it was to attempt to employ “Future-speak” — i.e.: “WRITING WORDS, WEARING GLASSES, AT THE SAME DAMN TIME!!!” —- for this entire article.
Evelyn Lozada being Evelyn Lozada
Enough has already been said about the woman who’ll undoubtedly make the list when some writer in 2015 charts the reasons why Chad OchoCinco just filed for bankruptcy, so I’d rather take this space to think of a name for the phenomenon that occurs when a group of very well-dressed women decide to start and end beefs by throwing water in each other’s faces. After much deliberation — and by “much” I mean “a couple seconds of” — I’ve finally decided on “ratchet waterboarding.” It’s alliterative; it has the word ratchet in it; and, well, I just couldn’t think of anything better in such a short time.
“Let Me Show You How Your P***y Works”
As stated earlier, the best/most transcendent instances of ratchetness occur when the behavior is so over the top that you suspect the actors intentionally went for camp, but even more interesting is the thought process involved in who we decide to give the benefit of the doubt.
For instance, it didn’t seem like very many thought that Mary J. was winking at us when creating her Burger King spot, but a good percentage of the people who first saw Brian McKnight’s gynecological tribute immediately assumed that he was just pulling a fast one. If only he were…
The Rick Ross/Maybach Music Press Conference
Equal parts decadent, nihilistic, inspiring, engaging, and uncomfortable — Really, Diddy? You had to let everyone know that Rick Ross’ music gives you erections? Nttawwt, but still. — the Maybach Music press conference was a literal orgy of award-worthy ratchetness.
As I watched the live stream, captivated by the proceedings and disgusted by the fact that I wasn’t disgusted at all, I couldn’t help but think that I was watching a metaphor for the way the world will eventually end — an hour long allegory outlining exactly why, when, and how we’ll eventually fall. The last stanza of T.S. Elliot’s “The Hollow Men” even began to repeat on loop in my head. Strangely enough, it was voiced by Russell Brand.
Then, right in the middle of these not-really-all-that deep thoughts, I was brought back to Earth by the image of a still-free Omarion (Don’t ask why I assumed he was locked up) and Omarion’s Blond Part/Streak Thing — a sight that brought the joy back to my face when realizing that, even if the world is supposed to end this year, we still have a good seven months of awe-inspiring ratchetness to witness.
Thank you, Omarion and Omarion’s Blond Part/Streak Thing. Thank you too, Lil Boosie.
Damon Young is the co-founder of the award-winning site Very Smart Brothas and co-author of Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime