You might already be aware, but for those of you who aren’t, Big Shaq’s “Man’s Not Hot” is not a track meant to be taken seriously. However, here’s some quick maths (Ed. note: Yes, maths) for you: Man’s Not Hot is currently #8 on the US Viral 50 and the Global Viral 50. The hit single, whose beat sounds like one of many current rap songs coming out of London’s hip–hop scene right now, is anything but one of those braggadocious UK grime tracks. In reality, “Big Shaq” is actually a character created by Michael Dapaah, a British comedian. While this article tries to seriously analyze some of the UK rap stereotypes that Dapaah utilizes for his parody, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the nature of Man’s Not Hot’s tone is closer to a song from the Lonely Island than to one from Skepta.
Dapaah became famous for his on BBC Radio 1, where his opening line, “2 plus 2 is four, minus one that’s three, quick maths” instantly garnered enough fame for Dapaah to incorporate it as the opening line for “Big Shaq’s” successful single. The line itself, along with other lyrics, clearly mocks a pattern in the UK rap scene for artists who love incorporating mathematics into their lyrics. South London rapper 410, in his song “Mad About Bars” previously rapped “8 2 that’s eighty two/times five now we’re onto you," while the hook on Skepta’s “Numbers” includes the lyrics “quit talkin’ numbers, calculator/quit talkin’ numbers at you haters/that’s a three, talkin’ numbers, n–n–numbers.” Big Shaq’s line about additional and subtraction is purposefully nonsensical, poking fun at this “mathematical” fad in the UK grime scene. The line sets the stage for the ridiculousness of the song, parodying some of the absurd trends in London rap one by one.
One of Shaq’s more preposterous pieces of “wordplay,” “when the ting went quack quack quack, you man were ducking,” makes fun of many British grime artists’ use of “ting” in the lyrics, especially when referred to as a gun. Skepta rapped in his song Are You Ready, “Murder another 25 MCs/So dig me a larger grave/Spray my ting like aftershave,” using “ting” seriously as a stand–in for gun. Shaq’s use of “ting” as a gun is obviously a bit more playful, mocking not only the use of the word for “gun,” but also the overuse of the word in general—even Drake has used the word to exhaustion, rapping “Now you man are on a diss ting/Just know man like Chubbs/He's a fixer if I ever gotta fix tings/Just know man like Fif, he’s a sickaz/You get tanned, he don’t miss tings.” Ting has become one of the symbolic words for Drake’s capitalization of the surging grime wave, as the Canadian artist not only uses the word extremely often, but also gave legendary artist Skepta an Interlude on his latest album, More Life. While it has been as to whether or not Drake is in the wrong for utilizing cultural slang that isn’t his, it’s evident that many including Dapaah believe that “ting” has reached a point of being overused.
Arguably the most famous (and memed) aspects of “Man’s Not Hot” is the line of the song itself, along with Big Shaq’s insistence that he will refuse to take off his jacket throughout the song. Before becoming viral as Big Shaq, Michael Dapaah had another alternate persona by the name of “Roadman Shaq,” a parody of the British “” Roadmen, a term unbeknownst to many Americans (including me), typically applies to teenage boys that commit petty crimes who tend to exclusively wear tracksuits and/or jackets, in addition to Nikes, Adidas, or any fashionable streetwear brand. Thus, Big Shaq’s “Man’s Not Hot” lyrics reflect the roadman’s aggressive insistence on a certain lifestyle, especially the puffy jacket aspect. What appears to be an insignificant, yet humorous, theme in the music video (and song title) is yet another parody the followers of the thriving UK hip–hop scene.
Dappah’s viral track is undoubtedly a joke song, but without even realizing it, many of the actual jokes initially went over my head. For some Penn students (such as myself) not attuned to some of the stereotypes of grime, “Man’s Not Hot” seems like a parody song thanks to the pairing of ridiculous lyrics and a “serious” beat. Yet, many of the ridiculous lyrics are simply an exaggeration of the reality of some of the trends in British rap, where there is no shortage of rappers making nonsense with numbers, lyrics using “ting” to the point of exhaustion, and cultish followers who love their jackets.