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Mike D of the Beastie Boys came to set the record straight on the proper usage of the word “illin'” during a recent appearance on The Colbert Report.

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Host Stephen Colbert invited the veteran rapper on the program to settle a recent linguistic beef that freelance writer Julieanne Smolinski had kicked up when she disputed the accuracy of an answer in a New York Times crossword puzzle.

In an email sent to the Times, she wrote:

“The clue for 28 down reads ‘Wack, in hip-hop,’ and the answer provided is ‘ILLIN’. “These are not the same things, at all!”

In defense, Times puzzle expert Will Shortz wrote back:

“According to the Dictionary of American Slang, edited by Robert L. Chapman,’illin” means ‘stupid, insane.’ ‘Wack’ is defined as ‘worthless, stupid.’ The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, by Tony Thorne, defines “illin’” as ‘bad, uncool,’ and says it is a buzzword in the rap and hip-hop cultures. It seems to me that’s roughly the same as ‘wack’ in the sense of worthless or stupid.”

So Colbert figured who better to enlist than Mike D—the “only authority with a license to ill” and who’s also versed in matters of ill communication—in order to settle the score.

Watch a particularly professorial Mike D break down who actually won the beef.


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