Infographic by Stefanie Gray
Word of Mouf is not just Ludacris’ breakthrough, but the creation of several linguistic trends, from his mouth to pop culture’s ears. Luda popularized multiple phrases on the album that were relatively unknown beforehand, including “sticky icky,” “rollout” and, most notably, “I’ve got hoes in different area codes.”
Although Nate Dogg is technically the one who says the iconic line in “Area Codes,” it’s Ludacris who lists out the actual three-digit combinations — 43 of them, which someone actually took the time to map. The iconic line has had an impact in the form of pop culture moments as ridiculous as Saturday Night Live’s “Dongs All Over The World,” featuring Anna Kendrick and Icona Pop, which echoes it almost exactly, and a cover of “Area Codes” by John Mayer. One might even place “Area Codes” in a tenuous-at-best game of connect the dots to an array of later odes to long-distance love and romance in the rapidly-changing digital age, from Soulja Boy’s more romantic “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” to Drake’s cellphone fixation on his inescapable “Hotline Bling.”
Other rappers who reference “hoes in different area codes” are often clear about Word of Mouf being the source of the line, sometimes mentioning Nate Dogg or Ludacris by name. When it makes an appearance on “Blasé,” one of the singles from Ty Dolla $ign’s debut studio album, he says, “I got hoes in different area codes / I think I’m Nate Dogg.” Similarly, when Roddy Ricch uses the line in the chorus of his not-so-subtle nod “Area Codes,” he adds, “I feel like Luda.”
There’s been concern in The New York Times over whether the phrase “area code” will even still be meaningful, as area codes get further divorced from specific locales in our more globalized world. An interviewee quoted in the piece, published in 2004, mentions “Area Codes” and laments, “That song only works if people know where each area code is located.” However, their fears might have been a bit misplaced: There are still contemporary references to area codes in rap and other pockets of pop culture, and I don’t doubt that people will continue shouting out those three numbers as a means of connecting with their local communities.
Even the song itself doesn’t seem to be going anywhere; “Area Code” is still in the top five most popular Ludacris songs on Spotify — the only track from Word of Mouf with that kind of staying power. While the same may not be said regarding real-life partners, given the precarity of cross-country hook-ups catalogued in countless songs, our “hoes in different area codes” are here to stay in the collective lexicon, and we have Word of Mouf to thank for it.
Theda Berry is a Brooklyn-based writer and the former Editor of VMP. If she had to be a different kind of berry, she’d pick strawberry.