Data analysis and music tend to go together a lot better than what you may think. And when it’s applied to the human vocabulary, the results start to get really interesting. A very clever bloke from New York named Matt Daniels has combined his love of statistics and data with his interest in the etymology of hip hop lyrics and themes. In the past he’s produced a complete lyrical and thematic breakdown of Outkast‘s career through the majesty of charts, as well as mapping the growth and evolving meanings of the word “shorty.” It’s profoundly nerdy and really, really interesting stuff. Now he’s turned his considerable talent towards the vocabularies of hip hops biggest names, comparing everyone against each other (and against literature as a whole by including benchmarks set by Shakespeare or Herman Melville) to see exactly whose wordiness is greater. And the results are staggering.
For those with intimate knowledge of the hip hop game, it should come as no surprise that the absolute runaway leader of language in the study was lyrical mastermind Aesop Rock who, when analysing his first 35,000 lyrics, registered a staggering 7,392 unique words used. This eclipses the second most verbose hip hop artist analysed, GZA, by nearly 1000 unique words used. GZA, no slouch with the pen himself, registered 6,426. To put those numbers in perspective, comparative analysis of the works of Shakespeare, where the first 5,000 words of 7 of his works were used as a sample array, returned a result of 5,170 unique words from the bard oft purported to have the largest vocabulary of anyone ever.
On the lower end of the scale, it’s surprising entries like Drake that are slouching in the language department with 3,522 unique words used. Though this still beats the lowest ranked artist in the study, DMX, whose 3,214 words rates considerably lower than his nearest compadre.
The entire study is impressive – particularly the combined efforts of the Wu-Tang Clan – and is well worth a look for those of you so nerdily inclined.
You can check out the entire study here. Go get some data all up into you!
Photo: Steve Jennings via Getty Images.