Harvard Fellow Measures Educational Slope of Hip Hop

By Lora Neng
WWW.STREETGANGS.COM STAFF WRITER
July 17, 2013

Want to settle the debate on the greatest rap song of all time? A fellow of Harvard University’s WEB Du Bois Hip Hop Archive Institute has found one way of approaching it. With the creation of “Hip Hop Word Count,” Tahir Hemphill attempts to standardize the measurement of rap songs through an objective calculation of their complexity–that is, amassing a database of semantically and mathematically searchable rap lyrics.

Hip Hop Word Count allows users to determine average syllables per word, average letters per syllable, longest polysyllabic word, and, purportedly, the educational level needed to grasp the meaning of a song. It also takes into account clever turns in figures of speech, rhyming patterns, cultural references, and the catching of endemic phrases, reports AllHipHop.

So what tops the Hip Hop Word Count meter? Ranking from 0 (illiterate) to 20 (post-graduate level), top scores include Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” (16), Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents 2” (16), 2Pac’s “Trapped” (12), and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Warning” (11), and it keeps sliding down toward our contemporary era. An infographic has already been posted on the frequency of champagne mentions by geography over the last three decades.

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