‘Rap Stats’ & ‘The Language Of Hip Hop’

I don’t really know why things like this excite me as much as they do. Hip-hop’s big business and in the digital age where data is power I shouldn’t really be surprised or overly impressed when someone applies a formulaic model to it. But I am, and as such have dedicated countless hours to over analysis of moments in music and can truly appreciate when someone else does the same. As a middle class white kid from Australia who likes rap, records and his MPC, I’ve always been fascinated with analysis of hip-hop, consuming records, breaks, documentaries and books on a genre that started so far from what I knew growing up, but for which I constantly return to in my listening.

Genius (formerly Rap Genius) has taken up more than one afternoon at work with their Rap Stats tool, which allows you to search for words and phrases in rap lyrics, comparing their usage against each other over periods of time. Here’s a quick one I ran on music systems. the 2008 spike in iPod makes sense, though I’m a bit confused as to who’s still rhyming about them in 2017.

It’s worth digging in to, or at the least checking out a few more examples here (which matters to rappers more – sex or money?): https://genius.com/Sameoldshawn-rap-stats-breaking-down-the-words-in-rap-lyrics-over-time-annotated

There’s actually a whole statistical analysis of rap and rappers section on Genius that you could get lost in. Sections include Encyclopedia of Rappers Flow (by Earl Sweatshirt), Rappers Ranked by Vocabulary Size (Aesop Rock followed by GZA)and my personal favourite Rap Metrics, which ranks rappers by Rhyme Density (out to DOOM for taking poll).

Rap fans are no doubt familiar with the above given Genius’ influence online (gawd, remember rewinding to try and decipher lyrics?), but I was reminded of the above again today with the arrival of a new statistical model online from Matt Daniels (check …Vocabulary Size link above) on The Pudding.

Daniels follows up his original 2014 data-visualisation of 85 artists lyrics with a truly mind-blowing essay / analysis of 305 rappers and the language of hip-hop. As well as establishing what words are the ‘most and least hip-hop’, phrases unique to the genre and a breakdown of rappers favourite words, Daniels also mapped the lyrical similarities of rappers in an interactive feature.

Perhaps the best bit of the whole thing is the simple explanation of the modelling science Daniels used to put it together. It’s explained beautifully making the whole thing a piece of art that needs to be shared.

Check out the full essay – ‘The Language Of Hip-Hop‘ – here: https://pudding.cool/2017/09/hip-hop-words/

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