Does "Why We Thugs" mean "Why Are We Thugs?" or is thug meant to be a verb (I was able to find this word only in Irish) and it should be "Why We Thug?" without the "s"?

Is "thug" in this case a noun or a verb?

If it's OK in everyday English and it's not Ebonics, could you, please, show me some example with different words than "thugs"?

Excerpt for the lyrics:

They give us guns and drugs
Then wonder why in the fuck we thugs
They wanna count the slugs
Then come around here and fuck with us (Uh huh)
They give us guns and drugs
Then wonder why in the fuck we thugs
They wanna count the slugs
Then come around here and fuck with us

Here is the whole song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRZ3TdpEn-o

  • 4
    Good question. But be careful in using the term Ebonics; it is not used by linguists, and in ordinary speech it is today used only as a derogatory term by people ridiculing the speakers of AAVE, African American Vernacular English. Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 15:13

3 Answers 3


Thug is a noun. The copular verb are is omitted. This omission is characteristic of AAVE (African American Vernacular English), which is what you're referring to as Ebonics. And no, this is not acceptable in Standard English, which is what I assume you're referring to as everyday English.

AAVE allows the copular verb to be omitted only in specific situations. What's relevant here is that the omitted verb has to be the unstressed are. In AAVE, be is possible as a non-standard form of the copula with a habitual meaning, but the habitual be can't be omitted, so we can rule that out.


Thug is definitely a noun. It means a brainless, muscular, criminal type, or sometimes a gangbanger type (like in your example).

Also, "why we thugs" is actually short for "why we are thugs", not "why are we thugs". Like the title is saying "We are thugs, and this is why...."

Thug in FreeDictionary: n. A cutthroat or ruffian; a hoodlum.

Thug in UrbanDictionary: As Tupac defined it, a thug is someone who is going through struggles, has gone through struggles, and continues to live day by day with nothing for them.


By analyzing the hook, 'thug' is a noun; treated like a title or occupation. It also sounds as if a message is directed to someone. Saying these are the reasons you're wondering why we are thugs. Also, the bars/lines give meaning to what a thug may be from the writer's perspective.

A little research about the song and its composer (Tupac Shakur) may further help you understand what the rap truly means. The known rapper would usually speak about his struggle and his experiences inside and beyond the neighborhood he grew up in, or as he would say, the ghetto.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .