drop science (1987)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Apr 15 00:19:27 UTC 2005

On Thu, 14 Apr 2005 17:05:05 -0400, Orin Hargraves <orinkh at CARR.ORG> wrote:

>I wonder: is this perhaps a more general slang usage that has other
>complements? There's "drop knowledge" for example, which appears here,
>There are also a respectable number of hits of "drop knowledge" in a
>hip-hop context on rec.music.hip-hop (via Google Groups) where it
appears >to have a similar meaning -- though none I saw as old as 1987.

I believe "drop knowledge" also originated as a Five Percenter expression,
since "knowledge" is a key term in the group's discourse:

Father Allah, as his followers came to call him, taught that the 5% are
those black men with "knowledge of self." This 5% knows their divinity,
and uses that knowledge to release the hidden resources of black man. Once
a man has tapped his hidden talents, he is a God. Most members refer to
themselves as Gods rather than Five Percenters, reserving the latter term
for those who have only begun studying the knowledge.

Both "drop science" and "drop knowledge" have spread to hiphop usage
beyond the Five Percenters.  There's also "drop math", but that seems to
be limited to rappers affiliated with Five Percent such as Brand Nubian
and Big Daddy Kane:

You gettin ready to drop math on this?
--Brand Nubian, "Dance to My Ministry"
Cool as a draft, droppin math in a paragraph.
--Big Daddy Kane, "It's Hard Being the Kane"

"Math" for Five Percenters refers to the Supreme Mathematics and
Alphabets, a mystical system of analyzing numbers and letters to reveal
esoteric truths (see the Swedenburg article).

--Ben Zimmer

>>>From the OED's Sep. 2004 draft additions for "drop":
>>drop, v.
>>trans. slang (orig. U.S.).
>>a. To sing or perform (rap lyrics or rap music).
>>b. to drop science: to impart knowledge or wisdom, freq. about social
>>issues, esp. through the medium of rap or hip-hop music.
>>Recorded in 1989 on the television programme CBS This Morning in J. E.
>>Lighter's Hist. Dict. Amer. Slang (1994) I. 660/2: 'Droppin' science is
>>when she's really explainin' what's goin' on.
>>1990 'PARIS' Break Grip of Shame (song) in L. A. Stanley Rap: the Lyrics
>>(1992) 245 Paris is my name, I don't sleep I drop science and keep the
>>There are numerous rap songs from the late '80s that use the expression
>>"drop science".  Here's the earliest usage that I know of:
>>Eric B. & Rakim, "My Melody" on _Paid in Full_ (1987)
>>I drop science like a scientist, My melody's in a code.
>>Just turn it on and start rockin, mind no introduction
>>Til I finish droppin science, no interruption.
>>The following year, Marley Marl (w/ Craig G) had a song called "Droppin'
>>Science" on the album _In Control, Vol. I_.  By 1989, the expression was
>>common enough to appear on albums by Big Daddy Kane, NWA, the Beastie
>>Boys, Boogie Down Productions, and others.
>>The expression apparently originated among members of the Five Percent
>>offshoot of the Nation of Islam.  For an explanation of the Five Percenter
>>understanding of "science" (ultimately derived from the Moorish Science
>>Temple), see "Islam in the Mix: Lessons of the Five Percent" by Ted
>>Swedenburg: <http://comp.uark.edu/~tsweden/5per.html>.
>>--Ben Zimmer

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