Vocabulary Capacity and Rappers

Matt Daniels at The Pudding ranked rap artist by the number of different words used in their first 35,000 words of lyrics.

“I used a research methodology called token analysis to determine each artist’s vocabulary. Each word is counted once, so pimpspimppimping, and pimpin are four unique words.”

“35,000 words covers 3-5 studio albums and EPs. I included mixtapes if the artist was just short of the 35,000 words. Quite a few rappers don’t have enough official material to be included (e.g., Biggie, Kendrick Lamar). As a benchmark, I included data points for Shakespeare and Herman Melville, using the same approach (35,000 words across several plays for Shakespeare, first 35,000 of Moby Dick).”

It comes at no surprise that the Wu-Tang Clan and its members dominate the scene; yet, none of them reach the standard of Aesop Rock, whose vocabulary is so expansive that Daniels would have had to adjust his graphics in order to show the magnitude of the disparity. (Similar disparities are often seen in the realm of business where the industry leader far outperforms those in second and third place. At this point, there is often a clustering of those who are not at the top. For example, Google is the number one search engine outside of China and is leagues away from their competitors Yahoo and Bing.) I was thoroughly pleased to see Outkast among the top rankings and somewhat surprised to find that popular rappers from the 90s and early 2000s unable to make the cut.

Author: Deric Tilson

I am a classically-trained economist and doctoral student at George Mason. I'm an ecopragmatist and interested in the cross-section where economics, ecology, and ethology meet. I hope to work for non-for-profits specializing in economic development and eventually moving to either the public sector or a think tank. My research interests include the political economy of war, resource economics, the applications of complexity theory, the mitigation of risk by impoverished individuals, and global water scarcity.

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