A section of The Pudding’s new lyric study on ‘The Language of Hip-Hop’ that maps the lyrical similarities of different rappers; Photo: The Pudding


In 2014, The Pudding, a weekly online journal of visual essays, released an article that ranked rappers by the number of unique words used in their lyrics. It analyzed a treasure trove of lyrics, and they eventually dubbed Aesop Rock as the wordiest rapper in the game.

As a sequel, The Pudding has wowed folks yet again with an essay entitled “The Language of Hip-Hop.”

The purpose of the article is to determine which words rappers use most often (they also did this with pop music in the spring of 2017, as well). They started by gathering over 26 million words from 500 charting artists, about 50,000 songs in total.

They then compared this with another data set of non hip-hop songs to see which words are disproportionately used by rappers. For example some of the least used words in hip-hop are: ‘alone’, ‘mountain’, and ‘cried’. Some of the most used words are: ‘goon’, ‘hoe’, and ‘chopper’.

The Pudding takes the data a step further, and finds out which words are central to each profiled artist. You can search alphabetically or by decade. Tupac was fond of the words ‘outlaw’, ‘soulja’, ‘untouchable’ and ‘immortal’. Method Man consistently utilized ‘cheeba’, ‘doc’ and ‘Redman‘. And Kanye took a liking to ‘celebrity’, ’embarrass’ and ‘racism’.

As far as the visual element, the essay begins with a graphic of 308 rappers grouped by lyrical similarity. It’s no surprise that members of Wu-Tang are all clustered together or that Migos, Young Thug and Future share similar vocabularies.

Some of the best random word oddities appear in this realm, like “noise of the year,” ‘skrrt’, that finds a lineage between Migos, Kodak Black and Lil Yachty.

Further into the essay it’s possible to group the rappers by region or era. Surprisingly regional factors aren’t as influential as the decade, meaning that current trends can often dictate the entire scope of lyricism regardless of geographical location.

As far as lyric science goes, “The Language of Hip-Hop” is at the very least entertaining, and will definitely help bolster your bookish knowledge of lyrics and rappers.

To that end, we’ll leave you with Aesop Rock on one of his most densest joints.