Rap Almanac

App, Graphic design
Designer | Artist Tahir Hemphill
Year 2010

Rap Almanac Vizualisation of 50 cent’s career from hip hop word count

New York rappers, it so happens, were the first to mention champagne in songs. Tahir Hemphill determined this using his Hip-Hop Word Count, a searchable database of the lyrics of more than 40,000 songs from 1979 to the present. This tool for research and interpretation illuminates the music’s technical details, such as metaphors, rhyme style, and frequency of polysyllabic words. Any term can be searched, and the results are an exhaustive list of songs in which that term appears, along with complete lyrics, artist, location, syllable count, average syllables per word, and literary sophistication (determined by Flesch and SMOG scores, readability rubrics designed to measure ease of comprehension). Hip-Hop Word Count also converts the data into interactive visualizations that graph and connect on parallel lines. Users can select ranges in any category and see how, for example, Jay-Z’s shorter songs fare in terms of syllable count and sophistication. Hemphill notes that Hip-Hop Word Count, by assigning time and place to elements such as cultural and sociopolitical references, can be used “to chart the migration of ideas and map a geography of language.”