Would you believe it if I told you that Snoop, 2pac, Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne were just average rappers? That’s according to a data visualization of the largest vocabularies in hip-hop by designer Matt Daniels.
Daniels was on a quest to show that rappers can stand alongside literary greats when it comes to discussions about lyrical dexterity. He took 85 artists and compared their first 35,000 lyrics, and what he found was fascinating. Longtime indie rapper Aesop Rock came in at number one, which isn’t surprising if you’ve ever listened to his first LP “Labor Days.” All of Wu-Tang’s 10 members were ahead of the pack generally, but GZA led the group. The Roots were also near the front of the pack. Meanwhile, Outkast and E-40 came in at numbers 14-15.
To summarize what it all means, Robert Gonzalez at io9 quoted Jay Z’s “Black Album:”
I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars
They criticized me for it, yet they all yell “holla”
If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be
Lyrically Talib Kweli
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did 5 mil - I ain’t been rhyming like Common since
* This piece has been updated.