Words, Lyrically Speaking

Via Matt Daniels:

Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.

I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

So, Aesop Rock is the most verbacious, DMX the least and were Shakespeare penning his stuff nowadays, he’d fall somewhere among the members of Wu-Tang Clan.

Read through for Daniels’ analysis and methodology.

Image: Screenshot, # of Unique Words Used Within an Artist’s First 35,000 Lyrics, by Matt Daniels. Select to embiggen.

H/T: Reddit.

This is fun.

I just tweeted at Matt suggesting that he do an analysis of the changing role of the rapper’s vocabulary from the late 70’s through today. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d find a massive expansion during the 80’s and 90’s followed by a contraction as new MCs start emulating their most popular peers (remember when everyone started sounding just like Dre, Mase, Eminem, and Biggie?) I would expect another expansion in the 2000s as the Internet expands its reach

Related: Shakespearean Mythbusting I: The Fantasy of the Unsurpassed Vocabulary

I made this and it’s internet famous.