'Hip Hop Word Count' Database Calculates The Educational Level Of Popular Hip Hop Songs

Tahir Hemphill’s ‘Hip Hop Word Count’ Sheds Light On The Language Of The Culture

(AllHipHop News) Now when rap fans are in a heated debate about which emcee is the greatest lyricist of all time they will have mathematical information to back up their claims. Harvard University’s WEB Du Bois Hip Hop Archive Institute Fellow and rap music follower Tahir Hemphill wanted to find a scientific way to measure the educational level of Hip Hop lyrics. The result was the creation of “Hip Hop Word Count” an online searchable database with over 40,000 Hip Hop songs from 1979 to present day.

Hip Hop Word Count allows Hemphill to calculate data like 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. It also takes into account artistic cleverness such as use of similes, metaphors, cultural references, and rhyme patterns when tallying its final number on a scale between 0 (illiterate) to 20 (post-graduate degree).

The site has conducted scores for Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” (16),  The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Warning” (11), 2Pac’s “Trapped” (12), Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents 2” (16),  Lil Wayne’s “I’m Me” (11), Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar” (12), and 50 Cent’s “I Get Money” (7).

The program can also find out when a particular word or phrase first appeared in a rap song and how many times it has been mentioned since. For example, the total count a particular brand of champagne has been rapped about.

Hemphill says the program demonstrates the dumbing down of lyrics in commercial Hip Hop over the years, and he maintains the growing misogyny in Hip Hop is a result of the greater American culture it represents.

“Hip-Hop is always villainized, but people have to understand that Hip Hop is a reflection of American culture, probably in one of its most distilled and pure forms,” says Hemphill.

[ALSO READ: Smarten Up, Nas: Harvard Begins Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship]

Watch videos about Tahir Hemphill and Hip Hop World Count below.