‘What's Poppin'’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on March 14, 2023

Have you heard someone say ‘what’s poppin’’ and now you’re wondering what the expression means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the definition and origin, plus provide examples of how to use the phrase correctly in a sentence.

In short:

  • ‘What’s poppin’’ simply means ‘what’s up?’ or ‘what’s going on?’

Essentially, it’s a phrase used to ask someone how they’re doing or what’s going on with them or just in general.

What Does ‘What’s Poppin’ Mean?

‘What’s poppin’ is an expression used to ask someone, ‘what’s up?’ or to ask them, ‘what’s going on’? It used to be a common greeting in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the 2000s and 2010s.

The expression isn’t used as much anymore in some areas, but you might see or hear it as much in general.

‘Poppin’ was used mostly in the African American community, but other cultures have adopted the phrase and use it regularly. It’s been a part of the hip-hop community for decades, which is what initially helped it soar in popularity.

In the early 2000s, the word ‘poppin’ was used by black women to compliment someone on something, whether it be an outfit, a hairstyle, or a new pair of shoes.

For example, you might have heard someone say in the early 2000s:

‘Ooh, that dress is poppin’, girl.’

But people don’t use the phrase as much anymore.

People also used to use ‘poppin’ when referring to opening a bottle of champagne.

  • For example, you might have heard someone say before, ‘We poppin’ bottles tonight,’ or something similar, which simply means they’re going to ‘pop’ the bottle open and enjoy drinking.

Where Does ‘What’s Poppin’ Come From?

The phrase ‘what’s poppin’ comes from the late 90s in New York. Members of the newly formed United Blood Nation (UNB) started saying ‘what’s poppin’ with an expected response of ‘5 poppin,’ 6 droppin.’’

The five represented five members of the UNB (represented by a five-point star) shooting and six rival gang members (of the Crips, represented by a six-point star) dropping dead.

The ‘pop’ in ‘poppin’’ comes from the slang word ‘pop,’ which means to shoot someone.

The phrase became popular in the early 2000s and 2010s and was incorporated into hip-hop culture to mean:

What’s happening?’ or ‘What’s up?’

Examples of ‘What’s Poppin’ in Sentences 

How would you use ‘what’s poppin’’ in a sentence?

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Back in the day, me and my friends used to always say to each other, ‘What’s poppin’? God, those were the days.
  • Jack Harlow has a song called What’s Poppin, but I don’t know if I really like it that much. I think I’d prefer to listen to music from the 90s and early 2000s. My age is starting to show.
  • I heard someone say ‘what’s poppin’ the other day, and I thought I’d been transported back to the early 2000s. I didn’t even know people still said that.
  • When my dad walked into a room full of my friends and asked, ‘What’s poppin, fellas?’ We all burst out laughing. It was hilarious. I love my dad!
  • My niece and I had an argument over the title of a Chris Brown song. She thought it was called ‘What’s Poppin’’, but I told her it’s called ‘Poppin’. She always thinks she’s right.
  • Every time I went to a house party back in the day, I’d find the prettiest girl at the party and ask her, ‘Yo, what’s poppin',’ Ma?’ And she’d always respond with a smile and a response similar to this: ‘Nothing, what’s good with you?’

Other Ways to Say ‘What’s Poppin'?'

What other words and phrases convey the same meaning as ‘what’s poppin’?'

Here are a few examples:

  • What’s up?
  • What’s going on?
  • What’s happening?
  • Sup?
  • What’s new?
  • How’s it going?
  • Wagwan (Patois version of ‘what’s going on?’)
  • What’s crackin’? (older)
  • What are you doing?
  • How goes it
  • Wassup
  • How are things
  • Howdy
  • How do you do
  • Hey there
  • How’s it hanging
  • What's good?

Concluding Thoughts on ‘What’s Poppin’

To recap, we learned that:

‘What’s poppin’’ simply means ‘what’s up?’ or ‘what’s going on?’

Essentially, it’s a phrase used to ask someone how they’re doing or what’s going on with them or just in general.

If you ever get stuck on anything, feel free to come back here to review what you learned. We’ve got a ton of content on other Idioms you might see while you’re learning this complex language. Feel free to come back anytime to browse our content library.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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