Some authors are revered for the amount of unique words they’re able to utilize in their prose over the course of their lifetime. For example, Shakespeare used 28,829 different words in his body of work, which suggests that he had arguably one of the largest vocabularies ever.
When it comes to hip hop, most emcees earn the respect of heads for their lyrical ability. However, many people remained disinterested in rappers individual lexicons. Matt Daniels, a designer, coder, and data scientist living in New York City, set out to examine this very topic by analyzing the vocabulary of 85 emcees. By limiting the data to unique words in each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics, Daniels evened the playing field for vets and newcomers.
To get to the 35,000 word count, Daniels used “3-5 studio albums and EPs, and included mixtapes if the artist was just short.” While some artists don’t have enough material to be analyzed, including Kendrick Lamar and Biggie, Daniels still manages to paint quite an interesting picture.
It turns out that Aesop Rock (not A$AP Rocky) is by far the artist with the most extensive vocabulary, followed by GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. The Wu actually has multiple representatives in the top percentile of the chart, which include RZA, Ghostface, Raekwon, and Method Man. At the opposite end of the spectrum is DMX, which reaffirms that lyrics aren’t everything in hip hop. Sometimes a dog bark or 200 is enough to win over potential fans.
Find out where your favorite artists rank, including some surprisingly big names towards the bottom percentile, by checking out the full breakdown here.