Illustration Showcases Hip Hop Artists’ Wordsmith Skills

Illustration Showcases Hip Hop Artists’ Wordsmith Skills
Arts & Culture

Data analyst digs into Rappers' vocabs to produce colorful pictorial

Marnie Kunz
  • 3 september 2014

When it comes to vocabulary, Shakespeare’s got nothin’ on some rappers, according to The Hip Hop Flow Chart, a pictorial showcasing hip hop artists’ wide ranging use of different words. The chart, adapted from designer, coder and data analyst Matt Daniels‘ data in the “Largest Vocabulary in Hip-Hop,” features 100 had-drawn portraits of rappers. Each rapper has a number based on the amount of unique words used in his or her first 35,000 lyrics (roughly equal to 3-5 albums).

In the colorful study of language and hip hop, rappers are also color coded based on the region they’re from, with the East Coast (blue) and Southern (yellow) rappers dominating the color scheme. According to Daniels’ data, the Southern rappers have the lowest average word variety (4,268). The East Coast rappers score the highest, with an average of 4,804. There are exceptions to the regional rule, however. Although only 4 of the 17 Southern-based artists in the dataset are above average, for instance, hip-hop cult favorite Outkast ranks in the top 20, with an impressive 5,212-word score.


As a benchmark, Shakespeare would come in just below Outkast, according to Daniels’ findings, with a score of 5,170. So who comes in at the top, reigning as king of hip hop wordsmiths? Rapper Aesop Rock ranks as number one by far, with a whopping 7,392 unique words in his first 35,000 lyrics. He beats out Shakespeare and Moby Dick, not to mention Wu Tang-Clan (who still ranks in the top 10, with an impressive 5,895) and currently popular rappers like Jay-Z and Kanye West. In fact, big-time rappers Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and Tupac didn’t rank as high as hip hop fans might expect in the wordsmith department, coming in below average on the Hip Hop Flow Chart.

For the study, not all hip hop artists were included, as quite a few rappers don’t have enough official material to be included (such as Biggie and Kendrick Lamar).

The Hip Hop Flow Chart is available at Pop Chart Lab for $29. Each 24″ x 18″print is signed and numbered by the illustration artists from a first printing of 500. The posters are made of 100 lb. archival stock certified by The Forest Stewardship Council and pressed on an offset lithographic press with vegetable-based inks in Long Island City, Queens.


[h/t]: Pop Chart Lab, Matt Daniels, Undercurrent


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