Author’s note: This is Detroit slang, but it’s been over fifteen years since I’ve lived there, so some of these terms might not be common anymore. I’ve added a glossary at the end.
Fiddy was sitting by the window at American coney in the D having Vernors and fries, when Lil G rolled up: “What up, doe?”
“Yo, doe, what up?”
“Pop a squat.”
Lil G sat down and a tired waitress in a stained apron came over, “Can I get youse anything?”
“Yeah, gimme a pop.”
“Sure.” Lil G waited a beat until she walked away, “So, Fiddy, we gots to talk about our yung dawg Sherman.”
“Why, what up?”
“Well, my dog Lee tell me Sherman shootin’ shit with them bustos instead of them custos. Lee say the hook rolled up and he ain’t even notice til they was up on him.”
“Where was his eyes?”
“Right next to him, talkin’ to them freak girls too.”
“Where he be at?”
“Out on Wooderd.”
“Go fetch him for me.”
The waitress came back with Lil G’s pop as he walked out. Fiddy looked out the window. He’d been slinging a long time. Back in the 80’s, when he was still radish, he worked for a MFIC slinging rock. He didn’t even have rotation, but he managed on the freight. It only took him a year before he had his own turf and yung dawgs, and was off the streets. He thought about how nice it was to just be a slinger and not have to worry about shit like this. Nowadays, rock was dead. White, lotto, and ganz was where it’s at.
Fiddy’s pa worked at Jimmy’s his whole life driving a hi-lo. When he was just a kid, Fiddy swore he wouldn’t live like his pa. He would do whatever it took to avoid the big 3. He started when he was little running for the party store, buying loosies and beer for a buck here and there, and when he reached double digits, he started slinging. He’d done alright for himself.
Sherman and Lil G came back and sat down. The same tired waitress asked the same tired question. No one said anything until she had gone, come back with another pop, and gone again. Fiddy watched Sherman, who sat with his head down fiddling with his hands.
“You all right? Lil G told me what he tell you,” Sherman started, “I ain’t mean to…”
Fiddy raised a palm and cut him off. He took a sip of Vernors, long and slow. He swallowed as if he was swallowing a big marble. Finally, he said, “Sherman, we was solid. I gave you a patch. This is how you do me? What did the hook get?”
“Nothin’, Fiddy! I swear! They ain’t seen nothin’. They just slow and roll.”
“Damn straight. You know if they get my stash, Ima beat the bitch out of you.”
“I know. These skeezers roll up and I thought they was custos, but they wouldn’t bug. That’s all. And then the 5-0 show, but they ain’t got nothin’ on us.”
“Where was your eyes?”
“He came over a try to get them scrubs to leave, but they was leaking real bad and wouldn’t go. He know it was wrong of him to come over.”
“Fuck, Sherman. Ain’t you got no sense up in that head? Why you got eyes?”
Sherman just looked down and didn’t say anything.
“I’m ’bout to go ham in this bitch. Why you got eyes?”
“To watch for the hook.”
That’s right. To watch for the hook. What good do eyes do lookin’ right at you?”
“Now you’re gettin’ it. Where do eyes belong?”
“Down the street.”
“You a smart boy, Sherman. You mean to tell me you cain’t take care of some old skeezers on your own?”
“No, Fiddy. Course I can.”
“Good. I expect you’ll handle your bidness from now on. If you don’t, Ima send you over to Gary in Wasteland. See how you like it.”
Sherman looked at Fiddy with fear in his eyes. “Really, Fiddy, I got it.”
“Aight then. Go on. And you tell your eyes the same. If he ever come up on you again, he get the same.” Fiddy watched Sherman walk out. “Lil G, you got to keep an eye on these young’uns. You to blame too.”
“I’m on it, Fiddy.”
“Aight then. I don’t wanna hear about Sherman and his crew no more. You beat that boy if he mess up again.”
Fiddy walked out of the coney and turned down Lafayette. Lil G followed, “Where we goin’?”
“Windsor ballet. Gotta talk to a supplier.”
They stepped around a sheeny on the sidewalk. Lil G asked, “Can I bum a square?”
Fiddy took a pack of Kools from his chest pocket and pulled out two. It was going to be a long night.
Fiddy – slang for fifty. I actually knew a drug dealer named Fiddy. The rumor was that they called him that because he either had fifty weapons or fifty thousand dollars on him at all times.
Coney – Coney Island, a type of restaurant very common in Detroit best known for chili fries and chili dogs. The oldest are American and Lafayette right next to each other in downtown Detroit.
The D – the city of Detroit. Probably derived from the Detroit Tigers baseball team logo, which is a capital D.
Vernors – a delicious carbonated ginger soda made in Michigan.
What up, doe? – a common greeting like “How are you?”
All right – All is right. It’s equivalent to “fine” when asked “How are you?”
Pop a squat – sit down
Youse – plural of you like “y’all.” For some reason, a lot of Michigan waitresses use this term.
Pop – soda
Yung dawg – young dog. A junior.
Shootin’ shit – talking.
Busto – street prostitute
Custo – a customer purchasing drugs
The hook – the police
Eyes – someone whose job is to watch out for the cops, a lookout.
Freak girl – another word for street prostitute.
Wooderd – common pronunciation of Woodward Ave, the central north/south avenue that separates Detroit’s east side from the west side.
Aight – alright, pronounced “ite.”
Slinging or slanging – selling drugs
Radish – Short for hoodratish or like a hood rat. A hood rat is a young hooligan who doesn’t take care of business.
MFIC – Mother Fucker In Charge, a term for someone who owned a certain territory to sell drugs.
Rock – Crack, a form of cocaine sold in small rocks that could be broken up and freebased.
Rotation – transportation, a variation of wheels.
The freight – a department of transportation (DOT) bus
Off the streets – a drug dealer who is successful enough to have his own crew to sell drugs so he doesn’t have to be out on the streets himself.
White – cocaine.
Lotto – Heroin, the drug was often sold in old folded up lottery tickets.
Ganz or gans – A very high quality strain of marijuana from Detroit.
Jimmy’s – the car manufacturer General Motors (GM). It is very common in Michigan that a family will have allegiance to one auto manufacturer, and more often than not, will work for the same company as the rest of their family.
Hi-Lo – forklift
The big 3 – the big three automotive companies in Michigan: Ford, GM and Chrysler.
Running for the party store – convenience stores like 7-11 are called party stores or beer stores in Detroit. Running means running errands up to the party store to buy things for neighbors and taking a small cut.
Loosies – In poor neighborhoods, cigarettes were sold individually at party stores for anywhere from 10 to 25 cents. They were usually in a cup at the cash register.
You all right? – A common greeting like “How are you?”
Patch – patch of land, a small territory.
Slow and roll – when the cops drive a squad car down a street very slowly without stopping, sometimes shining searchlights, sometimes, dark.
Skeezers – female drug addicts who will sell themselves for drugs, not quite professional prostitutes.
Bug – bug off, leave.
5-0 – police, pronounced five-oh. Detroit police cars were Ford Crown Victoria interceptors with 5.0 litre engines.
Scrub – Another word for skeezer.
Leaking – out of drugs and desperate to get more.
Go ham in this bitch – “go ham” – go crazy, ham from hog-wild. “in this bitch” – in here.
Wasteland – Local nickname for the city of Westland, MI.
Windsor Ballet – strip clubs across the Detroit river in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Sheeny or sheenie – a trash picker, not necessarily homeless. Sheenies searched for scrap metal or other things of value that they could sell to make a living.
Bum a square – have a cigarette
Kools – A brand of mentholated cigarette very popular in Detroit along with Newport, another brand of the same.