When rapping, MCs use braggadocio to boast—to speak about themselves with great pride. Braggadocio may include subjects such as physicality, fighting ability, financial riches, sexual prowess, or "coolness". Often heavily used in battle rap, braggadocio lyrics can range from just saying, "I'm the best MC ever," to using elaborate phraseology and wit.
Competition from the old-school hip hop ethic partially explains why braggadocio is used in rap—"my shit is better than yours and that's the bottom line," said MC Esoteric. Gangsta rap helped develop the idea of a "larger-than-life" persona, sometimes to a comedic extreme; however, reading braggadocio literally and seeing it as integral to rap may suppress vulnerability, i.e. an artist's ability to connect emotionally. Braggadocio may also reflect young black men's relief with being given an audience—rapper Murs said, "when you get the microphone, you want to pump yourself up."
Unlike other bragging by young men about sex, wealth, and physical strength, the subject of rap's braggadocio can also be self-referential—talking about the rapper's artistic or poetic ability. Paul Edwards's book How to Rap explains a short but complex example of braggadocio:
I'm the Alpha, with no Omega
Beginning without the end, so play the ...
Calling himself Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, then saying "no Omega" (the last letter), Rakim is suggesting that his flow could last forever—that he starts without ever stopping.
The term did not originate as a rap term; its origins are much older. The term originated in the late 16th century and denotes a boaster. It is from Braggadocchio, the name of a braggart in Spenser's The Faerie Queene. It is a composite of the word brag or braggart, and the Italian suffix -occio, denoting something large of its kind.
- Tolbert, Michael A. (October 6, 2014). "Nas: 'Illmatic' Queensbridge King". Ebony. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
In 1994, these words from the ambitious 20-year-old MC Nas were fresh, but no one knew they were prophetic—except for the MC behind them. Time Is Illmatic provides a rare opportunity to see behind the braggadocio, behind the bars, behind the struggle, and behind the triumph.
- Edwards 2009, p. 25.
- Smitherman 2003, p. 219.
- Edwards 2009, p. 26.
- Bradley 2009, p. 197.
- Bradley 2009, p. 189.
- Edwards 2009, pp. 25–26.
- Bradley, Adam (2009), Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, Basic Civitas Books, ISBN 9780465003471
- Edwards, Paul (2009), How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, Chicago Review Press, ISBN 9781569763773
- Smitherman, Geneva (2003), Talkin That Talk: Language, Culture, and Education in African America, Routledge, ISBN 9780415208642