They don’t play what I’m playingThey don’t see what I’m sayingThey be balling in the D-LeagueI be speaking Swaghili
We sought out David Peterson, the man who constructed the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for Game of Thrones. He was game (even though, as he said, he “stopped listening to rap when Montell Jordan came to fame.”) He then broke it down for us.
Swaghili, he said, should be a creole that mashes English (“swag”) up with Swahili — though, despite what many people think, Kanye’s name isn’t Swahili, he says; it’s Igbo, a Nigerian language. Swaghili should occasionally use rap slang, too. Preferably Chicago-area. But most importantly, Swaghili should rhyme constantly. Rapping should just ooze out of it — swag incarnate.
Within a day, David actually put together the foundations of an entire language. So here’s an example of it, from Kanye’s now-famous New York Times interview (and so you know: the i‘s sound like hard e‘s; the e‘s sound like hard a‘s; and the a‘s themselves are soft):
- From: I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.
- To: Mi ta sababishaya na kompanili i tathaminiwa bilingi dolingi, kami mi nawa ansringi. Mi nayelewa kultili. Mi nuklili.
Fking cool, right? Rhymes everywhere. You can practically see Kanye’s non-mic hand chopping the air on its natural beat and accents.
But it is not our responsibility, as self-proclaimed ambassadors of Swaghili, to just show you the language. It is our job to teach you how to speak it. So let’s do this. This, everyone, is how you speak Swaghili:
- I » Mi (pronounced like me)
- You » Ya
- He/She/It: I
- We: Wi
- They: De
- Me » -mi
- You » -ya
- Him/It/Her/Them » -m
- Us » -s
- Present tense » na-
- Past » me-
- Future (think of this essentially as the word will) » ta-
- Rhyme » -Raimia-
- Score » -Skoria-
- Try » -Traya-
- Fuck » -Fucka-
There is no verb for “to be” in Swaghili. So “I am Kanye” is just Mi Kanye. This streamlines the rhymes. You get used to it.
|David Peterson, Swaghili constructor|
- I rhymed it » Mi (I) me- (past tense) raimia (rhyme) -m (it) » Mi meraimiam
- Fuck you » Fuckaya
- I hear you » Mi nasikiaya
- They heard me » De mesikiami
- You’ll hear us » Ya tasikias
- I hear you » Mi nahiriaya
You’ve got options. Embrace it.
- You hear me? » Je ya nasikiami? OR Ya nasikiami, je?
- Lyric » Lyrili
- Records » Rekadili
Plural and Collective Nouns
- Lyrics » Lyringi
- Books » Bukingi
- Lyrics » Use the root neno, which means “word” » Neningi
- Skills » Use the root ustadi, which means “skill” » Ustadingi
- Money » Use the root jibini, which means “cheese,” which is Chicago slang for “money” » Jibiningi
- Basketball court » Basketbalini
- Office » Fanyani (from the root fanya, which means “to do”)
Replacing -er Words
- Rapper » use the root tema, meaning “to cut up, to spit out” » Temaya
- Microphone/speaker » use the root sema, “to speak” » Semaya
- Possessive » Ya
- And, With » Na
- At » Ka
- Hot » use the Swahili word for “fire” — moto — and then add -as » Motas
- Untrustworthy, potential back-stabber, disrespectful » use the word for “snake,” nyoka » Nyokas
EXAMPLES: Basic, Useful Phrases
- Hello » Hala
- How are you? » Hisha
- Yes » Ye
- No » Na
- This » Emi
- That » Em
- Give me a whiskey » Pami whiskili
- Please » There is no word for “please” in Swaghili. At least in not in the “please and thank you” sense.
- I like you » Mi nakamaya
- What did you say to me? » [Chu] mesemami, je?