The phonetic guide to pop noises

Author: Richard Hanney

You know when your favourite popstar makes an indiscriminate noise you just can't put into words? You do, don't you?

Well here's ilk's phonetic guide to the sounds you've always wondered how to spell, as well as simple how-to-say instructions to help you impress your friends and colleagues with uncanny aural replications of them.

Pusha T


Relaxed face. Turn corners of mouth down. Tongue out. Imagine you've just seen a cat convulse with a vomit. Ensure the 'c' catches at the back of your throat. Bring strepsils and water.

Mark E. Smith


Sneery face. Someone's just cold-called you about an accident you definitely weren’t in, making you cross, but you've simultaneously began drinking an extremely refreshing, ice-cold glass of milk. Open mouth, throw head back and allow the hhhh to fade out with conviction. Able to be tacked on to any preceding word with simple deployment of a hyphen.


mmussedornabeat, HO!

Slack mouth, lazy tongue. It's all in the slur, so pretend you've just been accidentally tagged with a horse tranquilliser in an unfortunate veterinary mix up. Remember to suddenly increase diction and clarity when you reach the 'HO!' as if you've been surprised by sitting on a cold, wet garden chair. The actual words may be 'mustard on the beat, hoe', but please keep that far from your thoughts. Saying 'sizzurp' approx. 50 times prior may also help your delivery.



Pretend it’s 2009. Pretend you remember anything that Dappy actually said or did apart from this brilliant noise. Put on a non-seasonally-appropriate hat, pull your mouth into a painful grimace smile, and make the most annoying sound you can. You’ll find it’ll automatically be a whingey ‘naa’ noise. Repeat twice, holding the last ‘na’ for a troublingly long time, allowing it to morph into a ‘naiii’ sound. Watch everyone around you recoil with delight.

Sean Paul

udda udda udda yow!

Not many people know how into dairy farming Sean Paul actually was (he fell out of love with it in 2017 after deciding the retail supply chain could no longer sustain feasible margins), but this ingenious noise is one of the few clues to his secret passion. Anyway. Close your eyes. Imagine you’re rhythmically milking a heffer, and saying ‘udder’ with every squeeze. Make each syllable count, linger on the d’s but disrespect the vowels, until you’ve achieved peak ‘udda’. Repeat three times, before realising that the milk has run out. Register your surprise with a yelpy ‘yow!’ Now collect your Grammy.

Zack De La Rocha


Begin with a very deep breath. You need to be sucking in at least 50% of all air available to you. Hold for a second, and think back to that time when you bought that triple scoop and then that fuckwit seagull swooped down and pecked it clean off the cone. Let the anger build deep within your solar plexus, rise steadily through your chest, and erupt out of your mouth with a deep guttural roar. We find a half-open mouth makes it easier to control the desired deep pitch, but please feel free to experiment.

NB - Be careful that your breakfast doesn’t erupt out of your mouth at the same time. Frowned upon.

Chief Keef


It’s 6pm. The kids are with the Grandparents. You drive the Prius to the Tesco car park (Sunday trading laws ensure it’s reasonably empty) for a couple of delicious smokey doughnuts of the asphalt variety. As you yank the hand-brake up, listen carefully to the high-pitched wail as the tyres burn across the deserted bays, and the Hybrid careers towards the HGV goods entrance. Emulate the sound you hear with a harmonising (you go lower) underbite teeth clench. Once achieved, simply condense until you are left with a more manageable number of Rs.*

Kanye West


As you can see, there is scope for variation here, with both core vowel sounds and final consonants available to be decided according to personal preference. Furrowed brow, half open mouth, eyes boggin’ out, optional addition of wide arm gesticulations. Let an exasperated, indignant and yet also slightly confused noise escape from deep within you. If it helps with pre-noise visualisation, it’s essentially the natural noise you might make in a boulangerie when the waiting staff refuse to speed up how quickly your damn croissants are being served. **

Young Jeezy


We did Skrrrrrrrt, so it’s only right we include its first cousin and forerunner. An entry level pop noise, it’s all in the lips and throats. Mentally, you need to channel the combination of a toddler playing cars and a small, stroppy dog warning you to keep your distance. Like YEEEEUUUUUUUCH, you want the MMMM sound to catch in your throat, and like YEEEEUUUUUUUCH, you may also want to consider soothing confectionary.

*Further developed by many, including Kodak Black & Migos. But hey, we’re saying Keef was at the vanguard.

**Some attribute HAAAAAN to French Montana, but we’re sticking with Kanye because otherwise the whole croissant thing wouldn’t work.