How many times have you had this debate? You know, who is the best MC of all time? It’s a pretty subjective argument, but what if you had science on your side?
The Hip-Hop Word Count is a searchable ethnographic database comprised of 40,000 songs from 1979 to present day. The database collects technical information about your favourite hip-hop songs, allowing the operator to draw some interesting statistics and conclusions from the data. The software is then used to create visualizations of the data, allowing the user to draft a chart of specific keywords, artists’ careers, flows, and more.
The most interesting application Hip-Hop Word Count so far has been the “readability score” analysis. Because the database keeps track of a song’s total words, syllables per word, letters per word, educational level, and reading level, it gives a user the ability to compile a song’s synactic and semantic scores to achieve an overall readability score out of 20, from illiterate (0) to post-graduate (20).
So far only a handful of songs have been run through the program’s readability score assessment, but the two songs that rank highest are Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” and Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents 2,” both earning 16 out of 20. 50 Cent’s “I Get Money” scored a dismal 7 out of 20, and interestingly enough, when speeches by both Barack Obama and John McCain were analyzed, they both earned scores of 12 out of 20. That’s right — a Jay-Z song is more advanced than a Barack Obama speech in the world of Hip-Hop Word Count.
Check out a quick interview with the Hip-Hop Word Count’s founder, Harvard University archiver and lifelong hip-hop fan Tahir Hemphill, via the YouTube embed above, and explore the database here.