‘Grillz’ Art Installation Uses Algorithmic Data to Visualize Hip-Hop Lyrics

‘Grillz’ Art Installation Uses Algorithmic Data to Visualize Hip-Hop Lyrics
Arts & Culture

Artist creates grills representing the music genre's lyrical patterns

Marnie Kunz
  • 15 october 2014

Artist Roopa Vasudevan brings hip-hop lyrics to life with her 3D-printed “Grillz” art installation. The project gives physical shape to hip-hop lyrics using an algorithm that analyzes certain keywords to produce geometric shapes for hip-hop anthems such as “Make It Rain,” “Been Around the World,” and “Juicy.”

Hip-hop legends Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, Rick Ross and Fat Joe all make an appearance with songs in grill form at the exhibit, which debuted at the Dumbo Arts Festival in Brooklyn.


For the project, the NYC-based artist made gold steel mouthpieces from 3D printing based on hip-hop lyrics processed by PyGenius. Vasudevan chose keywords relating to extreme wealth and extreme poverty – such as cars, cash, jewelry, the projects, drug dealing and prostitution – to create a lyrical scoring system based on the distance between words of either extreme. PyGenius, a python library that returns data from rap and hip-hop songs in an easy-to-read and understand format, helped her with the process.

To translate the lyrical algorithms into physical form for “Grillz,” Vasudevan used generative modeling – or landscaping. For this process, language is used to create 3D shapes. The result is polished gold-steel, 3D-printed grills showcasing common patterns in hip-hop language.


Vasudevan is an artist, developer, director, producer and researcher based in New York City. She uses technology to explore the influence of language, culture and social norms on the way people perceive and treat each other. Vasudevan’s work has been exhibited across the U.S., and her pieces have been featured in Slate, the Huffington Post, the New Yorker blog, Jezebel, Complex and on German public access television. She is a member of the Flux Factory community of artists based in Queens, NY.

Grillz is on exhibit as part of “Heavily Scripted” at little berlin in Philadelphia through Oct. 25, 2014.


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