The thousands of age old arguments amongst rap and hip hop fans are now being settled. Using a scientific analysis of data curated from various lyrics databases, we now know the answer to questions such as...
This data is being crunched and presented in tasteful fashion by the fellows over at Rapalytics, who are continuing to grow the depth and breadth of their information. They are making an effort to include not only mainstream artists but underground lyricists as well, who usually refuse to dumb it down for the masses. Of course, the only real limiting factor are which lyrics are available and how correct they are. But the margin of error should average out as the database grows.
A cool feature is pulling up your favorite rapper. You can then view their dashboard, which features meters like you'd see on your car's speedometer, such as popularity, vocabulary, rhymes, and similes.
Another cool part is seeing the breakdown of the use of naughty language. Not only can you see who's red-lining and really earning that parental advisory sticker, but you can see exactly what type of bad words they are using.
Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the individual rapper analysis is the timeline of their album releases, which show plot points across the years showing the growth (or de-evolution) of their lyrical abilities. There's a lot of intelligent battle rappers who totally dumbed it down to try to get some pop singles out there, which is sad. The graphs tell the truth, you sellouts!
And here, two rappers enter the cypher, and only one leaves. The age old arguments end today!
For instance, the "Battle" page of Rapalytics opens with a chart of the most popular rappers and then compares these metrics against word density (the number of words they use per verse). It looks like this:
While that's cool, you can go in and customize. You can go in and pit guys like Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, and Rick Ross against lesser known but equally respected rappers like Tech N9ne, Necro, Sage Francis, and Aesop Rock.
Word density doesn't mean much though, as it doesn't take into account rap styles. The best measure for intellectual content would be the number of unique words over a certain number of syllables, averaged across 50 songs or so. You couldn't do it by album since the number of tracks and track length vary too much. It's a fun experiment that I'm getting caught up thinking about already!
Anyways, I don't want to suck all of the fun out of it if you're a rap fan. Scoot over to the Rapalytics site and play around, and finally prove your friends wrong back in high school when they claimed Biggie was more complex than 2pac!