The Profundity Of Sheck Wes’ “Bitch” Ad-Lib On ‘Mudboy’

Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Spotify

Sheck Wes’ new project Mudboy is filled with his popular ad-lib, which has risen to prominence thanks to his hit song “Mo Bamba.”

The first word uttered by Sheck Wes on his debut album Mudboy is a whispered “bitch” on “Mindfucker.” There’s an irony to the song’s title — Wes mischievously messing with listener’s expectations, projecting the word just enough that it pierces the track’s menacing 808s and synths while building anticipation for the next one. Then, it happens:

“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!”

The moment is brief, but the anger and unabashed intensity from the word lingers, a preparation for the countless times Wes will say the word on a single song (there are 14 songs). No one — rapper or otherwise — can say bitch the way Wes can. A part of Mudboy‘s allure is just waiting for these moments. When one or two or four sayings of the word cut through a hook or a verse, delivered so loudly and abruptly that bracing for it is basically impossible. This adds to the thrill of it — the rush of unbridled energy that comes with the Harlem rapper saying bitch.

A search of the words “Sheck Wes Bitch” on Twitter reflects how popular the ad-lib is. Most listener’s first taste of it came through the rapper’s hit song “Mo Bamba.” Originally uploaded to SoundCloud last June by producer 16yrold, the Twitter search shows how fans’ obsession with the ad-lib has grown up until now.

“Mo Bamba” features some of the ad-lib’s best moments. Although the track begins with it, it’s not until the song’s halfway point that Wes delivers arguably his best use of the word so far:

“Oh! Fuck! Shit! Bitch!”

The beat drops out as Wes crescendoes with each word only to return with matching intensity as he raps “Young Sheck Wes and I’m getting really rich.” The four-word line has become notorious for inciting moshpits, offering a moment of reckless camaraderie that’s just as enthralling as it is terrifying. But Wes’ most important contribution to contemporary rap thus far almost didn’t exist.

Speaking with the New York Times, production duo Take A Daytrip, who co-produced the track with 16yrold, revealed how the line, as well as all of Wes’ vocals, were done in one take, and how that take was almost lost because of a frozen computer.

“I had an older laptop at the time so that laptop always froze,” Denzel Baptiste, one-half of Daytrip, said. “So I’m like ‘Please, please God don’t freeze.’ I could see the play head moving then everything freezes.”

“So he’s like ‘Fuck! Shit!’ and then right when he said bitch everything unfroze,” Baptiste continued. “It’s like he just did a triple backflip and landed perfectly on his feet.”

“That’s the magic moment of the song that’s the part where people go the craziest every single time,” David Biral, the other member of Daytrip, said in a separate interview with Genius.

Although “Mo Bamba” popularized Wes’ ad-lib, it wasn’t the first song he used it on. “Live Sheck Wes,” which was released before “Mo Bamba,” is peppered with the word, said over 40 times throughout the two-and-a-half minute song. Where “Mo Bamba” captured a definitive moment for the ad-lib, “Live Sheck Wes” is more erratic with it, Wes firing off the word with reckless abandon.

“I use the b-word a lot. I don’t use it to degrade women or anything. Anytime you hear me say ‘Bitch,’ it’s because it means something,” Wes said to the Times. “I [might] be angry so I’m not really me.”

He also addressed his use of the word on the Mudboy song “Gmail,” saying: “Why I say bitch so much? Let me explain it/It’s the only word where I can feel and hear all my anger/It don’t got nothin’ to do with like bitches.”

In May, Wes tweeted the following: “Did Sheckwes bring back BITCH or No # SheckJesus niggas .”

Prior to Wes, the last definitive ad-lib centered around the word bitch was arguably credited to Too Short. Short was one of the first rappers to say the word on a rap record, appearing on his 1985 release Don’t Stop Rappin’. But it wouldn’t be until the 1986 release Raw, Uncut and X-Rated that the Oakland rapper would say the word the way he’s infamously known for.

“I said ‘Biatch!’ I know I’m cappin’/Where’s your ass, baby what happened,” Short raps on X-Rated opener “Invasion of Flat Booty Bitches.” Brash but comical, Short adding an extra vowel to the word became his ad-lib, as well as set a trend that a handful of fellow West Coast rappers — Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, E-40 — would follow. Short has taken credit for creating “Biatch.” In 2006, the rapper spoke with D-Money about the word, telling him:

“That’s my logo. I’ve been doing that since some of those guys were first graders…It was like a trademark and now that all the rappers say it and what not, for the most part, everyone knows Too Short invented it.”

Short immortalized his ad-lib that same year with the release of his most popular song as a solo artist, “Blow the Whistle,” which features the following lines:

“What’s my favorite word? Bitch!/Why they gotta say it like Short? Bitch!”

That Wes considers his ad-lib the successor to Short’s is fair. They’re two distinct deliveries of the word that resonate strongly with fans. Although the former’s ad-lib is much younger than the latter’s, it has already gained a notable following. Even Travis Scott — who signed Wes to his Cactus Jack record label — noticed the allure of the ad-lib and had the Harlem rapper contribute to it on Astroworld standout “No Bystanders.” Drake also acknowledges Wes and his ad-lib on the album’s second single “Sicko Mode,” rapping: “When I shoot my shot, that shit wetty like I’m Sheck (bitch!).”

The ad-lib is a small but helpful way a rapper can establish themselves. Wes’ “bitch!” has become a rallying cry that continues to have a visceral effect on people whenever it’s heard — and it’s not disappearing any time soon.

Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

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Elijah C. Watson

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