New York-based “designer, coder, and data scientist” Matt Daniels has taken on a number of nerdy, statistically minded rap projects over the years. Most recently, Daniels decided to do some mining and uncover “The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop.”
Starting from the literary assumption that Shakespeare had the largest vocabulary ever, Daniels compared the number of unique words in each rapper’s first 35,000 lyrics to the first 5,000 words of seven Shakespeare plays and the first 35,000 words of Moby-Dick. And hey, the literary legends don’t fare as well as you might think.
Rhymesayers associate Aesop Rock, actual genius GZA, and licensed doctor Kool Keith, perhaps unsurprisingly, lead the pack, eclipsing even Moby-Dick. Shakespeare’s works land somewhere in the middle, beat out by the likes of Kool G Rap, MF Doom, Raekwon, and E-40, among others.
Drake, Too Short and DMX all fall about 3,000 unique words shy of the Shakespearean benchmark, maybe proving that it doesn’t take a showy vocabulary to make a great record.
You can check out the full chart, and get exact figures on each rapper’s lyrical vocabulary, over at Daniels’ website.