It’s not often said enough, but rappers truly are today’s modern poets. Though mainstream hip-hop has had a bad habit of promoting misogynistic and violent behavior, you can’t take away the sheer wealth of terms and vocabulary that the genre has produced in the past 30 odd years. I mean, fo shizzle right?
In this data visualization, Matt Daniels has put together the vocabularies of 85 different rappers using Rap Genius and charted their lyrical word choice in relation to that of Shakespeare and Herman Melville. To be clear, Daniels is not making any sort of statement about the content of these comparative vocabularies but solely basing this chart upon each artist’s choice of individual words (# of unique words). Shakespeare, in his entire corpus used about 800,000 words with 28,829 of them being unique. In this chart though, Daniels chose the first 35,000 words of each artist (including Shakespeare and Melville) to compare data – Shakespeare ends up around the 5,000 unique-words-mark. By this methodology, the Bard is out-worded by 15 rappers!
Up at the top, with nearly 7,392 unique words, is one of my favorite artists – Aesop Rock. Though he’s not incredibly well known, he is probably one of the most adventurous wordsmiths to spit into the mic. Other artists who made a high standing in this chart include much of the Wu Tang Clan, MF Doom, Outkast, and The Roots. Check out the entire infographic and explanation here.143