February 13, 2001
Katie McHugh wrote:
Where does the slang phrase mad props come from, and what exactly does it mean?
This two-word slang expression has its origin in Black English, specifically, in the hip-hop culture of young African Americans. In this particular phrase, mad is an adjective meaning 'many, much, plenty of', as in "mad publicity, mad dough, mad friends'. But it can also be an adverb meaning 'very, extremely', as in "mad cool, mad funny, mad scared'. This use of mad dates from the early 1990s, though the adverb madly (as in 'madly talented') is much older.
Though props has several slang senses, here it means 'proper or due respect; compliments, credit, admiration, or praise'. Since the term implies public recognition, it's usually used of a performer or other person in the public eye. For example, if a musician "gets (his) props," he's gained public recognition for his accomplishments; to "give him his props" is to give him the respect he deserves. However, in my opinion, successful people who have gotten their props should then "give props to their peeps," that is, they should (at least partially) credit their parents and friends.
According to Clarence Major's Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of Black American Slang, the Black English term props also refers to any form of support or protection. So your props can include your friends, your family, and even your switchblade.
Though props in the sense of 'proper respect' is obviously derived from the adjective "proper," the sense recorded in Clarence Major's dictionary overlaps with the standard English sense of 'support; mainstay'.
Written evidence for props goes back at least ten years. And the synonymous slang term propers, as recorded in Geneva Smitherman's Black Talk, is much older. Both these terms are still current slang, especially in verbal use and in alternative (non-mainstream) publications. Searching the archives of Internet chat rooms, I found propers sometimes misspelled as "proppers."
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