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Posts Tagged ‘Tahir Hemphill’

Whose Rhymes Are The Deepest? Tahir Hemphill’s Hip-Hop Word Count Has An Answer (Video)

You’ve probably argued with folks about which emcees’ rhymes displayed lyrical skill… and whose were garbage. Ever wish you had some statistical standard by which you could settle the argument? Well… Harvard University’s WEB Du Bois Hip-Hop Archive Institute Fellow Tahir Hemphill wanted the same thing – a way to mathematically measure the educational level of Hip-Hop lyrics. The result: Hip-Hop Word Count, an online searchable database with over 40,000 rap songs from 1979 to present. The application figures word count, average syllables per word, average letters per syllable, longest polysyllabic word, and educational level needed to grasp the meaning of a song’s lyrics. Hip-Hop Word Count also counts “cleverness” (use of similes, metaphors, cultural references, and rhyme patterns). The final score is a number between 0 (illiterate) to 20 (post-graduate degree).

So, how do some of rap’s standards measure up? Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” scores 16, as does Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents 2.” The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Warning” gets 11, and so does Lil Wayne’s “I’m Me.” 50 Cent’s “I Get Money” comes in at a 7.

The program can also find out when a particular word or phrase (like references to champagnes or the word ‘Hater’) first appeared in a rap song and how many times it has been mentioned since.

PLUS: Using Hip-Hop Word Count and its features, Hemphill makes some interesting observations about the state of Hip-Hop and society above. Bonus clip after the jump below.

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