What is a “Suicide Rap”?

NOTE: This post is also at Bubblews, but minus the cool video at the end.

I was watching a video of Bruce Springsteen’s performance for 12/12/12 Hurricane Sandy relief where he and Jon Bon Jovi did a raucous duet of “Born to Run.”  (See below) That includes these classic lyrics:

Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while were young
`cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Which got me to thinking —  what the heck is a suicide rap?

Rap is a little word with several definitions.  According to Merriam-Webster, the meanings are:

1
: a sharp blow or knock
2
a: a sharp rebuke or criticism

b: a negative and often undeserved reputation or charge —often used with “bum” or “bad” <given a bum rap by the press>

3
a: the responsibility for or adverse consequences of an action <refused to take the rap>

b: a criminal charge

c: a prison sentence

Have you ever heard of a “rap sheet”?  You’ll still hear this term on older American cop shows.  Now they say “priors”.  But a “rap sheet”  was all previous arrests, imprisonments or any occasion where the police hae to fingerprint you.  That rap sheet sticks to you so much that all law enforcement (or potential employers) is the rap sheet, not you.

Anyway, Springsteen is being his usual cryptic self by melding two words that don’t often go together in order to create a new meaning.  So, “suicide” and “rap” becomes “suicide rap” where “suicide” is used as an adjective for “rap.”  (“What kind of rap was it?”  “A suicide rap.”)  All of this is to better describe the town that the narrator and his lover live in.  You know – the town That Strips the Bones From Your Back (which I always think of as the entire state of New Jersey, but the actual town is not named in the song.)

So, a town (or just about anything else) described as a “suicide rap” has a reputation for making people commit suicide.

Now you know.  Rock on.

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