Sometimes the key to successful branding isn’t even plugging into a viral meme—it’s just about having the most obnoxiously earworm-y tag out there. Ask any rap fan and they’ll be able to rattle off their favorites faster than a Busta Rhymes verse: “Run that back Turbo! That be Maaly Raww! Honorable C-Note! We got London on the track! Sonny Digital!”
“I told him make me a bunch of tags and one of them was ‘Ooh BigHead On The Beat,’” Bighead, the producer behind Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang,” told IllRoots. “And it kinda sounded annoying, so I’d be like, ‘I think the annoying one would be the catchiest one,’ so I just kept it.”
You can trace the idea of the tag to hip-hop’s earliest days, decades before southern rap would take over the airwaves. Early MCs would frequently shout out DJs playing the music at New York City block parties in the ‘70s and ‘80s. As rap moved to studios and the role of producers grew more pronounced, the idea of shoutouts transformed into the tags we know today.
Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins produced huge pop, R&B and rap tracks in the late '90s and early aughts. His songs frequently included a muffled, whispered tag that sounds like either “Dog Chow” or “Dark Child”—hard to say, frankly. And one of the earliest adopters of a dedicated tag in rap was undoubtedly New York rap legend Just Blaze, whose iconic “JUUST BLAZE!” first appeared at the beginning of Cam’ron’s Grammy-nominated 2002 hit “Oh Boy.”