Artist Projects

The Hip Hop Word Count: A Searchable Rap Almanac

Tahir Hemphill

The Hip Hop Word Count is a visualization series of data abstracted from a searchable database of lyrics from over 50,000 Hip Hop songs spanning 1979 to the present day. Drawing on a dataset that locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile and cultural reference used in the corpus of Hip Hop, The Hip Hop Word Count data visualization series produces textual views of searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas, charting the migration of these themes and building a geography of language in Hip Hop.

Project Updates

  • 2014: Hemphill founds The Rap Research Lab, a studio to produce creative technology projects as well as a lab to teach art, design, data analysis and datavis to students from the Bronx using my project based curriculum that visualizes Hip Hop as a cultural indicator

  • 2013: Hemphill presents Actual Facts: A Hiphop Word Count Case Study at the Remixing the Art of Social Change Teach-In, Washington DC. 

  • 2013: Hemphill is awarded a fellowship at The Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. He has full access to the fabrication lab where he uses their 3D printers, laser cutters and router cutters to make sculptural representations of data extracted from the Hip Hop Word Count

  • 2013: Hemphill is a Research Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University in the 2012-13 academic year. As part of the classes he taught, he gave students full access to the Hiphop Word Count Database and helped them develop research topics based on the database.