17 May 2014

The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop

A screenshot of Mathew Daniels' chart of vocabulary size in hip hop. See the interactive chart here.

As a musical genre built on wordplay, hip hop is home to some of the wordiest lyricists about. New York data scientist Matthew Daniels took it upon himself to work out just how wordy rappers are, analysing the catalogues of 85 rappers via the Rap Genius lyric website and plotting the results as an infographic.

Daniels also tallied the word usage in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and the work of William Shakespeare as a yardstick to measure rappers by. He found that artists like Outkast's Andre 3000, a handful of members of the Wu-Tang Clan plus the wordiest rapper of them all, Aesop Rock - all have more unique words in their arsenal than both Shakespeare and Melville.

Sam Wicks talks with Matthew Daniels about mapping rap lexicons for The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop project.

Playlist

Artist: GENIUS/GZA
Song: Liquid Swords
Composer: Brigati, Cavaliere, Diggs, Grice
Album: Liquid Swords
Label: Geffen

Artist: Jack Edwards
Song: Sonnet IV
Composer: W.Shakespeare
Album: The Sonnets
Label: Helios

Artist: Schoolboy Q
Song: Man of the Year
Composer: Brigati, Cavaliere, Diggs, Grice
Album: Oxymoron
Label: Top Dawg, Interscope

Artist: Jay-Z
Song: 99 Problems
Composer: S.Carter, N.Lansberg, F.Pappalardi, B.Squier, J.Ventura, L.Weinstein
Album: The Black Album
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Artist: Jay-Z
Song: Moment of Clarity
Composer: S.Carter, M.Mathers, L.Resto
Album: The Black Album
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Artist: Eminem
Song: Role Model
Composer: M.Mathers, A.Young, M.Bradford
Album: The Slim Shady LP
Label: Aftermath, Interscope

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.
Song: 10 Crack Commandments
Composer: Wallace, Martin
Album: Life After Death
Label: Bad Boy

Artist: Aesop Rock
Song: Fast Cars/Number Nine
Composer: I.Bavitz
Album: Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives
Label: Definitive Jux

Artist: DMX
Song: Ruff Ryders Anthem
Composer: E.Simmons, K.Dean
Album: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot
Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam

Artist: 50 Cent
Song: In Da Club
Composer: C.Jackson, A.Young, M.Elizondo
Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Label: Shady, Aftermath, Interscope

Artist: Talib Kweli
Song: Beautiful Struggle
Composer: T.Greene, T.Cottrell
Album: The Beautiful Struggle
Label: Rawkus, Geffen

Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Song: good kid
Composer: K.Lamar, K.Duckworth
Album: Good Kid M.A.A.D City
Label: Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope