I'm currently watching the TV show "Breaking Bad" and I dont understand what seems to be slang.

Context: some characters (who are drug users) are listening to music on a brand new sound system. They are enjoying it, especially the light effects. One of the character stands that he could watch it all day, and another answers

"Totally makes me wanna crank old Sabbath and blaze one".

I understand that "blaze one" means smoking marijuana, but I dont understand the beginning. To me it could either be a reference to Black Sabbath (metal music band) but they are listening to rap-music, or it could be a jewish reference but I dont think any hint indicates that the talking character is Jewish (I may have missed the reference though).

The episode I refer to is 4.2, "Snub 38" (timemark around 7:50) if it helps.

  • According to you what makes the references to BS obvious (from an English native speaker POV) ? Is it considered to be a drug user music ?
    – May.D
    Oct 15 '19 at 19:13
  • 8
    May - If you're not familiar with "cranking old Sabbath," put your headphones on, turn up the volume, and give this a listen.
    – J.R.
    Oct 15 '19 at 20:25
  • 2
    @May.D I submit to the court this nigh-irrefutable evidence as "Exhibit B", and this supporting evidence as "Exhibit C".
    – Doktor J
    Oct 16 '19 at 13:50
  • 2
    Doktor J and J.R. I gotta say that your evidence did convince me, especially @J.R., this music is dope !
    – May.D
    Oct 16 '19 at 18:05

From Collins,

If you crank an engine or machine, you make it move or function, especially by turning a handle.

While this definition does not fit in perfectly, it can be used informally to mean to turn something on and then increase the intensity (e.g., crank up the radio).

Edit: The meaning of the phrasal verb "crank something up" is "to increase or improve something" (Cambridge).

This is the meaning that is implied in the Breaking Bad context/dialogue - "makes me wanna crank old Sabbath". I did not use this definition initially because of the missing "up" in the dialogue. Without the "up" it is just the verb "crank" which I did mention.

In this context, it means that the brand new sound system is so great that it makes them want to play some music from Black Sabbath (at really high volume) while smoking marijuana.

Edit: Note that the transcript for the episode says "Savage" (as pointed out by Em in the comments) but the subtitle (in the ones I checked) says "Sabbath". I am not familiar with either, but I presume they make music.

  • 4
    @May.D "What makes the references to Black Sabbath obvious"? Well, I connected the dots. They are enjoying the new sound system, they are listening to something, the quality of sound is so great that they want to listen to the music produced by that band (BS), and smoke at the same time. This is what we call "chillin". It seems unlikely that people will talk about religious matters while listening to music being played from a brand new sound system and smoking weed.
    – AIQ
    Oct 15 '19 at 19:23
  • 2
    @May.D I checked this transcript and it says “old Savage”. Google tells me Savage is a rapper. Is it possible for you to confirm what you heard was Sabbath or Savage?
    – Em.
    Oct 15 '19 at 19:32
  • 4
    @May.D, "Black Sabbath" is often referred to as "Sabbath". For example, the 5th urbandictionary definition of the word "sabbath" is "short form of Black Sabbath". So, "cranking some Sabbath" would invariably hint at some music from Black Sabbath.
    – urnonav
    Oct 15 '19 at 19:48
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    I just watched that clip on Netflix.. He is definitely saying "Sabbath", which makes far more sense (since Black Sabbath is a legendary band, and I've never heard of Savage).
    – pfalstad
    Oct 16 '19 at 6:27
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    I just watched it on Netflix as well; it definitely sounds like "Sabbath", not "Savage", and the Netflix captions back that up. Combined with the fact that (Black) Sabbath, especially in the seventies (their older stuff), was associated with and even promoted drug use. See the two tracks I linked in a comment on your original question.
    – Doktor J
    Oct 16 '19 at 14:02

As mentioned by AIQ, crank [something] means to make the something operate or function, especially by crank. The relevant device here is the stereo.

When it comes to music, we can say crank it up! to mean turn it up, turn up the volume:

crank up

  1. To cause to intensify, as in volume or force: cranks up the sound on the stereo.


Given all this, we understand crank [artist name] to mean play [artist name] (on the stereo), especially loudly. In this case, that artist is "Sabbath", which short for the band Black Sabbath, as you suspected.

I checked this transcript, and it says "old Savage". Wikipedia says Savage is a rapper, which makes a little more sense in the given context. Regardless, the usage of crank [artist] is the same.

I also wanted to make a minor point about “old”. Let’s pretend for a moment that the speaker says “Sabbath”. Notice that it was not just “Sabbath”, but “old Sabbath”. This seems to me like a joke by the writers. Often, when an artist becomes really big, or mainstream, the original fanbase will complain that the artist’s new music sucks. They don’t want to hear the new stuff. They want to hear the old stuff.

  • 6
    I think that's a key point, not a minor point. I think old in this context roughly means classic, and would often be used with just part of a well-known group's name: crank up some old Zeppelin; crank up some old Hendrix; crank up some old Stones, etc. (referring to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones, respectively).
    – J.R.
    Oct 15 '19 at 20:39
  • There’s probably a relevant link I could find about when KISS took their makeup off or when Van Halen added keyboards, but I’m at work right now ....
    – ColleenV
    Oct 15 '19 at 20:39
  • There's a bit about Metallica's selling out here. That album is also usually considered the cutoff point between "old" and "new" Metallica.
    – urnonav
    Oct 16 '19 at 1:06
  • 2
    Sabbath provides lots of opportunities for drawing a dividing line between "the old stuff" and something else — "everything up to Vol. 4" and "everything before Dio replaced Ozzy" being easy choices.
    – hobbs
    Oct 16 '19 at 12:27
  • Anecdotally, speaking as a former Midwestern teenager of the early 80s, Black Sabbath was considered by its fans as a group that could only be played LOUD. After school the boys (it was only boys) would jump in their cars, lower the windows, and crank some Sabbath. Think Billy from Stranger Things.
    – djs
    Oct 16 '19 at 21:44

In addition to the possibility that it is a shortened version of "crank up" (i.e. increase the volume) suggested by the other answers, there's also the fact that old-fashioned record players were literally operated by crank. So perhaps the speaker is thinking of playing old Sabbath on something like the image below (credit: Fredrik Tersmeden, from wikimedia commons), or just using "crank" to refer to a turntable in the same way that we still use "dial" when referring to phones which no longer have a dial.

enter image description here

"Old [Black] Sabbath" probably means from 1970-79, under their original line-up with Ozzy Osbourne; their sound did change somewhat after Ronnie James Dio replaced Osbourne (and Vinny Appice subsequently replaced drummer Bill Ward). This period includes the album Masters of Reality, which is often cited as the first example of "stoner rock" (see the Wikipedia article of that name); in addition to being a major influence on the genre's sound, its opening song Sweet Leaf is about marijuana.

  • Interesting theory, but the sound system is a digital one and no crank is to be seen around.
    – May.D
    Oct 16 '19 at 18:04
  • @May.D - Yes, but don't be so quick to dismiss the theory! After all, we still say things like "she dialed the phone number" even though rotary-dial phones are getting harder and harder to find. (I think pressed or punched would be more accurate verbs, but sometimes old terminology hangs on.)
    – J.R.
    Oct 16 '19 at 18:31
  • Well to me the reference to a turntable could be plausible for some music styles like techno or rap since vinyle records are still used by DJs, but no so much for heavy metal like "old Sabbath". However I admit that "crank" and "old" might be related.
    – May.D
    Oct 16 '19 at 18:49
  • @May.D Really? Not so much for a record that originally came out on vinyl? Oct 16 '19 at 19:15
  • @May.D hard rock groups from the era did release their albums on vinyl (like everybody else) and vinyl is popular with the audiophile crowd. Even though I never use vinyl I wouldn't think it weird if somebody used terminology associated with it.
    – gormadoc
    Oct 16 '19 at 19:15

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