For sh*ts and giggles, data-scientist Matt Daniels used a metric of 35,000 words (using Shakespeare as a point of reference) and examined the lyrics of a slew of rappers to determine who in Hip-Hop has the largest vocabulary.
Daniels studied the lyrics of some 85 rap artists and ranked them. He demonstrated this in an interactive visual, which positions each rapper according to the size of their vocabulary.
Because Shakespeare is said to have used 28,829 words throughout the course of his work, the data scientist used the artist’s first 35,000 lyrics as a yard stick. The results? In short, only one rapper is above Wu-Tang’s GZA, and that’s Aesop Rock.
Daniels tells i09.com:
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.
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).
Some interesting stuff really. See for yourselves on the next page. As Daniels previously stated, he would rather the reader examine the actual design versus go down a list of numbers. Let us know what you think in the comments.