Rappers, Ranked By Vocabulary Size [v2.0]

Illustration for article titled Rappers, Ranked By Vocabulary Size [v2.0]

Back in May, data scientist Matt Daniels crunched some numbers to determine which rapper has the largest vocabulary in hip hop. Now, Daniels is back with a brand new version of the chart that incorporates 20 additional artists renown for their expansive command of language.


Here's some background on Daniels' project, in case you missed his first installment:

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. [Ed. Note: Lyrics were processed from data compiled by Rap Genius using NLTK.] That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

35,000 words covers 3-5 studio albums and EPs. I included mixtapes if the artist was just short of the 35,000 words. Quite a few rappers don't have enough official material to be included (e.g., Biggie, Kendrick Lamar). As a benchmark, I included data points for Shakespeare and Herman Melville, using the same approach (35,000 words across several plays for Shakespeare, first 35,000 of Moby Dick).

In the second version of his visualization, Daniels added 20 rappers who are known specifically for their wordplay, resulting in the new and improved "Flow Chart" featured up top. Click here to see the hi-res version of the chart, which features hand-drawn illustrations by the folks at Pop Chart Labs.

So what's different between this chart and the first version? Aesop Rock still leads the pack by a substantial margin, but GZA and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan have some new company in the late additions to the chart. "Jedi Mind Tricks, Action Bronson, Jean Grae, Del, Sage Francis, and Immortal Technique are all at the top, artists known for their word-usage," writes Daniels, "Even Watsky is up there, whose roots are in slam poetry."

Illustration for article titled Rappers, Ranked By Vocabulary Size [v2.0]

The New Top-Tier, Excerpted from Daniels' Chart

Of course, the same caveats apply here as last time, the big one being that vocabulary is clearly an inadequate metric for success, profundity or impact when it comes to an artist's work.


Daniels' new chart is available for purchase through Pop Chart Lab. For more analysis, check out Daniels' blog post here. Check out the original version of the chart (which was also interactive – a feature we'd love to see incorporated into the newest iteration of the chart) here.