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Hip-Hop Word Count Analyzes the Story Behind The Music

Hip-Hop Word Count sounds like a pretty simple application. It counts the number of words in hip-hop songs or something, right? Wrong. On the surface, it may seem like HHWC performs a simple task, but it goes way deeper than that. If you have ever wanted to perform serious analysis on the music you listen to or compare it to the music you avoid, this is probably your best bet for getting the job done.

“The Hip-Hop Word Count (HHWC) is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 50,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day. The database is the heart of an online analysis tool that generates textual and quantified reports on searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.”

What we have here is a database that describes the technical details of most of your favorite hip-hop songs. This data can then be used to not only figure out interesting things about the songs themselves, but to describe the culture behind the music. How can analyzing lyrics teach us about our culture? The analysis tool is able to discern the education level needed to understand each song. In addition, it rates the artistic sophistication of the piece by looking at how metaphors, similes, cultural references, alliteration, and other techniques are used.

To get a better understanding of how this works, let’s compare “Microphone Fiend” by Rakim to “I Get Money” by 50 Cent. According to Hip-Hop Word Count analysis, Rakim gets a score of 16 while 50 comes away with a 7. Rakim, using words like “hypochondriac,” is on a University Degree education level, and a reading level of “Atlantic Monthly.” 50’s money word is “millionaire,” is at a Junior High education level, and a reading level of “True Confessions.”

Hip-Hop Word Count has been on the hush for a while now and is currently in private beta. It looks like it will appeal to extremely technical types as well as people just looking for interesting hip-hop comparisons. The searches in HHWC database are done using Apache’s Lucene, which allows for some pretty advanced queries.  It is the brain child of Tahir Hemphill, who currently operates the creative enterprise Staple Crops. Also, if you love hip-hop, spreadsheets, and dealing with data, Tahir is looking for an intern to help with the project.

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Comments

Gwen Clinkscales says:

I'm going to share this with all of my teachers in grades 5-12. I'm sure they'll find a way to integrate the concept into English Language Arts and Mathematics; I envision high student engagement.

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