DJ DMD – “25 Lighters”

The song 25 Lighters by DJ DMD featuring Lil Keke and Fat Pat dropped in 1997.[1] I never understood what 25 lighters meant, the hook, “25 lighters on my dressir/yessir/ I got’s to get paid,” had so much weight, as a 13 year old I just accepted it as true without knowing its significance. I think everyone at the time took the hook the same way, which is why after asking around 14 years later, still nobody knows the significance of 25 lighters.

I am not going to mention any names because I do not want to put anyone on blast, but I asked some Texas rappers, hip hop heads, and block bleeders. I received answers like, “shit, I don’t know, I was too young when that song came out,” “shit, it don’t matter what 25 lighters means, cuz them playas was just trying to get paid,” my buddy from the south side of H-town even said, “maaahn, them dudes didn’t even know what 25 lighters meant, they just be saying shit sometimes.” Online, all I could find was this Urban Dictionary definition of 25 lighters. But then I came across this 99’ DJ DMD interview, hidden a few pages deep on a Google search.  Here, DJ DMD explained the meaning behind 25 Lighters:

I wanted it to mean … to be a symbol for, uh, just people getting their money on, getting their hustle on,” he says. “Working a nine-to-five or you doing whatever, you know. I’m just trying to get people to concentrate on getting their money on in a feel-good type of way. You know what I mean, ’25 Lighters’ is just like a symbol of that. ‘Cause if you really think about it, how can lighters get you paid anyway? Everybody has been having their own, like, ideals of what ’25 Lighters’ mean. I done heard, uh, dope, crack. I’ve heard people use some of the wildest things in what they thought ’25 Lighters’ was. It can mean whatever anybody wants it to be about in a feel-good type of way.”

Although it can probably be argued that the subtext of DJ DMD’s statement above displays that he also doesn’t know the meaning behind 25 lighters, on its face it seems like DJ DMD tried to stipulate a new meaning to the sign 25 lighters. In other words, DJ DMD added another dimension to bulk ownership of lighters—the signifier, 25 lighters signified getting paid in a “feel-good type of way.”

In a de facto listen of 25 Lighters, re-defining or giving additional money-making- meaning to a box of lighters was likely the creative intent of DJ DMD.  DJ DMD raps about pimpin’ with 25 hoes, rippin’ 25 flows, doin’ 25 shows, and tryin’ to “make a quick 25 mill.” Lil Keke raps about earning money by waking up early and slangin’ on the ‘vard. Finally, Fat Pat touches on the harsher aspect of not getting robbed, once the money is made; “grip wood grain/ on the shirt I leave a stain/ cuz you try to jack a real true G/ comin’ down the boulevard/ can they see me?”—Droopy

Take a listen. What does 25 Lighters mean to you?

And here’s the screwed version, just in case


[1] It tended to be Houston’s battle cry until Lil Keke’s Southside dropped in 1998.


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