Beyond rhythm and lyrics: pragmatic strategies of verbal humour in Nigerian hip-hop


Nigerian hip-hop
humour strategies
humour techniques

How to Cite

Bamgbose, G. A. (2020). Beyond rhythm and lyrics: pragmatic strategies of verbal humour in Nigerian hip-hop. The European Journal of Humour Research, 7(4), 16–31.


Extant studies on Nigerian hip-hop have approached the genre as an act and as an art from psycholinguistic, social, sociolinguistic and pragmatic dimensions. However, the possibility of evoking humour through the careful deployment of language by Nigerian hip-hop artistes is a phenomenon which has largely escaped the attention of scholars within the ambit of linguistics. This research therefore investigates how the Nigerian hip-hop artistes, beyond the rhythm and lyrics of their songs, poke humour at the listeners. The study employs Sperber and Wilson’s Relevance Theory to analyse the humourous utterances in four purposively selected hip hop songs: Jo o, by Jahbless, Eyan Mayweather by Olamide Penalty by Small Doctor and Lyrically by Lil Kesh. The choice of artistes was based on consideration for the two popular subgenres for Nigerian hip-hop which are rap and dance hall while the choice of tracks was consideration for their humorous potentials. The humorous utterances are either name-induced or object/phenomenon induced. The study finds that metaphor, hyperbole, punning, teasing, putdown and litotes, complemented with linguistic devices such as polysemy and repetition, are the humour techniques that are deployed to amuse listeners. Humour strategies adopted by Nigerian hip-hop artistes are comparing, contrasting and extending corresponding concepts, distorting collective knowledge of people, social events and situations and manipulating shared cultural representations. Nigerian hip-hop songs are spiced with humorous utterances which can only be deciphered by people who share the socio-cultural world of the artistes.


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