What Can Analyzing Hip-Hop Lyrics Teach Us About Culture?

What Can Analyzing Hip-Hop Lyrics Teach Us About Culture?

A new project on Kickstarter aims to build a 'searchable rap almanac' to better understand the evolving role and influence of hip hop in our cultural language.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 4 january 2011

The Hip-Hop Word Count (HHWC) is a new Kickstarter project that aims to build a database that will allow for the analysis of hip-hop lyrics – to ultimately ‘chart the migration of ideas and build a geography of language’ that will serve as the engine for a K-12 teaching curriculum. According to the project founders;

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. The database is the heart of an online analysis tool that generates textual and quantified reports on searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.

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?

The HHWC will lock in a time and geographic location for every ‘metaphor, simile,┬ácultural reference, phrase, rhyme style, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop’. It will then use data visualization tools to convert this data into a more comprehensible compilation to track the evolution of this cultural data over time and geography.

While we’re not certain how usable this data analysis & visualization project (needless to say profanities oftentimes color hip-hop) will be for an elementary or even junior high school setting – but we appreciate the project’s desire to use data visualization to better understand the evolution of the cultural language of hip-hop. It will also be interesting to see if the project only captures American hip hop, or if global iterations will be included, as well.

Kickstarter: The Hip Hop Word Count


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