Hypeology [The terminology of the turn-up]

List the components of a flawless party night and it will probably read something like this: floor-shaking sound, a stellar line-up on the decks, the perfect venue, big sponsors. On to aesthetics and atmospherics and we might add: the crowd; the colours; the threads; the kicks; the lexicon of intoxications we inhale, imbibe and ingest; the moves we make with and towards others. What is very unlikely to make the list is all the talk that circulates around parties.

We often forget that a significant part of our nightclub cultures come from how we speak about them. We utter the hype into existence as talk takes on the role of festive foreplay. It’s our dancefloor dialect; our pre-game parlance; our jive jargon; our night-time nomenclature. All these speech acts are a significant site for young people’s creative production. Through talk/type/emoji we inject the words of our music into real times and places. We engage in local-global exchanges. We manufacture a mood — sculpting the ways that parties are lived, remembered and imagined. To testify to the terminology of the turn up, and document the dialect of our night times and spaces, we’ve put together this small catalogue of party phraseology.

  1. Turn Up/ Turnt

First appears in Urban Dictionary in May 2013.

Tonight we’re gonna turn up; It’s time to turn up! (verb) 

Meaning: It’s time to get loose, go wild, have fun, get hyped, party.

May also connote getting drunk/high. 

 Last night was turnt (adjective) To describe the state of a person/party as having been crazy/wild/next level.

That party was a turn up (noun) The ‘turn up’ in its noun form is yet to be acknowledged by Urban Dictionary, but is fully a thing (as evidenced in its twitter usage).


To turn up/ be ‘turnt’ operates implicitly as a prefix. It’s a call and a solicitation, gesturing towards multiple possibilities for what might need to ‘turn up’: Turn up the volume, turn up the heat, turn on, to be turned on. It implies the activation of a different register — that one enters a higher frequency. To ‘turn up’ suggests that we switch on, implying that we take on a particular mode of performance that is enhanced, flamboyant, confident.

But what is wonderfully complex about the term ‘turn up’ is that it simultaneously evokes performance and genuineness. Consider this: In its flattened, traditional usage, to ‘turn up’ simply means to arrive, to show face, usually in the most casual terms. Embedded, then, in the re-imagining of the word ‘turn up’ is a provocation: ‘Why turn up if you aren’t going to turn all the way up?’ ‘If you came, but didn’t TURN UP, were you ever really here?’ By inviting someone to ‘turn up’, we ask them to be fully present, to give their all, to show themselves as they truly are.


In a beautiful and powerful paragraph, the Crunk Feminist Collective captures the multiple connotations of ‘turn up’ as follows:

“Turn up is both a moment and a call, both a verb and a noun. It is both anticipatory and complete. It is thricely incantation, invitation, and inculcation. To Live. To Move. To Have –as in to possess– one’s being. The turn up is process, posture, and performance — as in when 2Chainz says “I walk in, then I turn up” or Soulja Boy says, “Hop up in the morning, turn my swag on.” Yet it holds within it the potential for authenticity beyond the merely performative.   It points to an alternative register of expression, that turns  up to be the most authentic register, because it is who we be, when we are being for ourselves and for us, and not for nobody else, especially them”.

With this in mind, Lil John and DJ Snake’s club banger ‘Turn Down For What?’ is charged with existential meaning. Everyday life is so often infused with an imperative to turn down, self-regulate and self-censor — particularly if we are young, or women or black (or a potent combination). As Crunk Feminists suggest,  ‘Turn Down For What?’ asks ‘Why?’ ‘For whom?’ ‘To what effect?’ More so, it pummels this question through our chests on the dancefloors of our every-night lives, imploring us to explode our full expressive selves.

The relationship between ‘turning up’ and being 100 percent authentic may explain why the ‘100’ emoticon regularly accompanies our type-hype online.


[Speak]er Box

Lupe Fiasco  — Turnt up (2009)

Soulja Boy– All The Way Turnt Up (2010)

Beyonce/ Dream/ 2Chainz —  ‘Turnt’ (2013)

Lecrae —  ‘I’m Turnt’ (2013)

Ciara — Super Turnt Up (2013)

DJ Snake & Lil John — ‘Turn Down for What?’ (2014)

Cassper Nyovest — Turn Up Gang (2015)

2: Lit

First appears in Urban Dictionary in May 2015.

This party is lit (adjective). Meaning: The party is live, amazing, hyped.

The lituation (noun) Equivalent of ‘the party’/ ‘the turn up’

Regularly accompanied or supplemented by the flame emoji.


‘Lit’ is a derivative of much of the fire terminology that surrounds parties. ‘That party was fire’; ‘The DJ brought flames last night’; ‘We gonna burn up the dancefloor’. To be ‘lit’ connotes being alight or ignited. It’s no wonder that fire imagery is so often projected into nightclub cultures, given its symbolic potency as a place for ritual gathering, trance, music and dance. We associate fire with passion, sexuality, action, and the untamed. Heat and flame ignite much of our party phraseology, with terms like ‘Siyasha’, ‘Siyashisa’, or ‘DJ brought the heat’ frequently captioning our online club catalogues.


[Speak]er Box

ASAP Rocky — Get Lit (2011)

Young Futura — We get Lit (2015)

Ludacris — Get Lit (2015)

BenchMarq ft Tweezy (2015)

K2 ‘Lit’ (2015). Includes the lyrics:  ‘My Situation is a Lituation’

3: H.A.M.

First appears in Urban Dictionary in April 2008

Tonight we’re going h.a.m. (adverb, pronounced ham) Accronym for hard as a motherfucker.

Meaning: To go balistic, wild, or be super hyped.


[Speak]er Box

Gucci Mane- Go Ham on Em (2008)

Kanye and JZ  – H.A.M (2011)

4: The Jump

Last night was a jump/ That place is The Jump (noun)

This party ‘bout to jump (verb)

Describing a party as ‘jumpin’ or ‘a jump’ dates back to the nineties, perhaps speaking to a burgeoning nineties nostalgia in contemporary youth culture. Contributing to the term’s current popularity among Jozi youth is the Yfm show #TheJump. ‘iJumpile Boy!’



 [Speak]er Box

Kriss Kross — Jump (1992)

Destiny’s Child — Jumpin’ Jumpin’ (1999)

Busta Rhymes — Pass the Courvousier Part 2 (2001)

Anatii and Cassper Nyovest — Jump (2016)

5: Going in

First appears in Urban Dictionary in September 2008.

Tonight, we’re going in/ That party went in/ I went in on the dancefloor last night (verb).

Meaning: to enter an activity with maximum enthusiasm, hype or energy.


Related in the lexicon to phrases like #S[i]yabangena, loosely translated as ‘We’re going in’/ ‘It’s going down’/’I’m ready’.


6. Make a Movie

Appears in Urban Dictionary December 2011.

Tonight’s gonna be a movie (noun).

Tonight we ’bout to make a movie (verb)

Meaning: It’s going to be/we’re going to make it a big night. This usually involves drawing attention to oneself (whether positive or negative), particularly in a nightclub context.

Genealogy most likely related to phrases like ‘tonight is gonna be epic’. If tonight can be ‘epic’, then it can surely be on the scale of a cinema epic. ‘Sishaya ama movie!’


[Speak]er Box

Neyo — Makin’ a Movie (2010)

Riky Rick  ft. Okmalumkoolkat — Amantombazane (2013), includes the lyric ‘Sishaya ama movie’

7: #Habashwe

Directly translates to ‘let them die’/ ‘let them be defeated’. Chimes with DJ SPEEDSTA’s repeated refrain: ‘You’re killin’ em son!’


Yfm listeners (2014) translate #Habashwe as ‘time to rock’, ‘let the good times roll’, ‘lets do this’, ‘let’s get it’.


Whereas much of our turn-up terminology is a derivative of American hip-hop, ‘habashwe’ is most often associated with the South African house and kwaito scenes. Radio shows undoubtedly deserve a shout-out for the role they have played in shaping our music/dance/party lexicon. S/O to Yfm, Metrofm and TransAfricaRadio in particular.


[Speak]er Chronology

Flipside – Habashwe (2012)

Ntukza ft Red Button  – Habashwe (2016)

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