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Hip Hop's obsession with numbers

 A collage of Octopizzo, Kanye West and Khaligraph. 

The fascination of rappers with certain numbers is a phenomenon that has intrigued both fans and critics alike. While it may seem like a mere coincidence, there are deeper reasons behind this obsession.

One possible explanation is the significance that numbers hold in various cultures and belief systems. Certain numbers are considered lucky or symbolic in different traditions, and rappers often incorporate these beliefs into their lyrics and persona. By associating themselves with specific numbers, they aim to convey a sense of power, success, or spiritual connection.

Moreover, numbers can also serve as a form of personal branding for rappers. Just like artistes have stage names or logos, having a number associated with their identity helps them stand out and create a memorable image. It becomes part of their brand identity and allows them to establish a unique presence in the music industry.

Octopizzo - Eight

The Hivo Hivo hitmaker Octopizzo is synonymous with the number eight (namba nane). This is generally the area code for Kibera slums where he grew up. From his humble beginnings to the megastar he has become, Don Papichulo, as he refers to himself nowadays, has never forgotten where he came from. This is not a new phenomenon though, as most rappers more often than not give a shout-out to their hoods.

Khaligraph Jones - 1960

The Mazishi hitmaker is also notoriously known for his reference to the number 1960, which also happens to be the area code of where he grew up, Kayole. The OG is so proud of ‘Oyole’ that every other interview or song he does must have 1960 somewhere. Another number that Khaligraph uses is 1990. This was mainly brought around when he dropped his album Testimony 1990. This is the year that the heavy-hitter was born.

Fetty Wap - 1738

If you have listened to Fetty Wap’s smash-hit Trap Queen as many times as I have, you will know it opens with the ad-lib “Remy Boyz /1738”. Fetty’s New Jersey squad is 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 is going to be the most expensive Remy… And that is what we are, we are the finest, we are the best,” Fetty told VladTV.

Beyoncé and Jay Z - 4

For Bey and Jay Z, the number four holds special significance. Beyoncé’s birthday is September 4, while Jay-Z’s is December 4. The two married on April 4, 2008, and they have matching ‘IV’ tattoos on their wedding fingers. Beyoncé named her fourth album 4. In addition, fans speculated that the couple’s first child’s name, Ivy, is also a phonetic pronunciation of the Roman number IV (Ivy). Jay Z, in his album 4:44, explained that he woke up at 4:44 to write the single, which became his album title. Coincidence? I think not. And he has a club named 40/40.

Kanye West - 808

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 have not heard of the machine that made them before. The rap genius Kanye recorded the album in Hawaii, where the telephone code is, coincidentally, 808.

Future - 56

This number, coming off of his mixtape 56 Nights, Future pays a tribute to his friend and DJ, Esco. After the Atlanta rapper performed at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, DJ Esco was arrested for marijuana possession at a nearby airport. He spent 56 days in jail. Future timed the mix tape’s release to coincide with Esco’s return home.

Drake - 40

Perhaps the most recurrent number in Drake’s lyrics is the number 40, a shout-out 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 would still be working. And they would be like, your work never stops. You work for 40 days and 40 nights.”

YG - 03192009

If you look closely, the placard YG wears in the mocked-up mug shot 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 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 same day.

Wu Tang Clan - 36 chambers

One would without a doubt question what exactly 36 Chambers in the title of the Wu-Tang Clan’s legendary debut album mean. As the clan’s de facto leader, RZA explained to Billboard Magazine: “…there are nine members and four chambers in each of their hearts. Nine multiplied by four is equivalent to 36.”

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