Matt Daniels is a designer, coder, and data scientist at Undercurrent in New York City. His past works include the Etymology of “Shorty” and Outkast, in graphs and charts. He decided to examine the vocabulary of hip hop artists, and this is what he found. – May 2014
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.
Matt decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. He 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. He 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, Matt 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).
Read the entire analysis here.