Hip-Hop Word Count: A Searchable Rap Almanac

Tahir Hemphill has created an incredible interactive Hip-Hop reference guide.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Hip-Hop Word Count: A Searchable Rap Almanac

There are more websites than people in the world, and enough music sites out there to fill an ocean of bad taste. But how many of them serve a genuinely great purpose? Very few – but a music lover taking part in a project like The Hip-Hop Word Count, however, undoubtedly feels a sense of beaming pride in the fact that they’re building something special and unique, to be used as a reference point for the entirety of the genre’s history.

The Hip-Hop Word Count (HHWC) is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 40,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day. It’s the cumulative results of an online analysis tool that generates textual and quantified reports on searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.

In other words, Tahir Hemphill has built a tool that would help give answers by charting the culture described within Hip-Hop music, how a word or concept was integrated within the rap scene. If you’ve ever wondered who uses the word "bitch" most in Hip-Hop, or whether Adidas or Nike are deeper in the scene, this is the project for you.

Watch a demonstration video:

In Hemphill’s own words:

The idea to build the Hip-Hop Word Count came out of having hundreds of heated & passionate discussions about Rap music: Who was the best rapper of all time? Which rapper had the smartest songs? Which was the most popular champagne in Hip-Hop during 1999-2003? Which rapper uses the most clever metaphors? Which city’s rap songs use the most monosyllabic words? Does living in higher altitudes create a natural proclivity for Gangster Rap?

Tired of having these answers left up to conjecture or whoever had the loudest voice, I decided to

How can analyzing lyrics teach us about our culture?

The Hip-Hop Word Count locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop.

The Hip-Hop Word Count then converts this data into explorable visualisations which help us to comprehend this vast set of cultural data.

This data can be used to chart the migration of ideas and builds a geography of language and is the engine for a teaching curriculum.

Having enlisted nearly 350 financial backers contributing over $8500 for research and development, Hemphill has hit his fundraising goal and has joined with Kickstarter in Brooklyn, NY to launch the project at a time of great cultural significance in the Hip-Hop world.

Keep up with the HHWC project and Hemphill’s other work at Kickstarter.