I am a Hip-Hop fan and ever since I saw the Fleshmap project show how the booty is the most mentioned body part in Hip-Hop I have wanted to accomplish a pet project whose goal is to answer the question – Who is the most quoted rap artist of all time? If you pay attention to the lyrics of your average song, you’ll hear a lot of the same phrases again and again: grown ass man, me and Lorenzo rolling in a Benzo, shorty, crunk, etc… There was likely one artist who first used this phrase in a song, and afterwards it spread.
The analogy I’ve always used is citations in academia. If you’re an academic researcher, your credibility and importance is generally based on the number of other scholarly works that cite your own papers. Herbert Simon had over a thousand citations which makes him a pretty big deal. My goal with this project is to find who is the most cited artist – who coined a phrase that has been used more than any other?
Finally, after probably 2 years of letting this project sit on the sidelines, and after dragging a colleague at Infochimps away from work over enough weekends, I have started to hack away at my questions. I have imported a database of around 45,000 songs with lyrics into MySQL and am running queries against it. The data is not perfect, if you’ve ever managed an iTunes collection then you know how frustrating the metadata can be to organize, but these initial queries are probably within a reasonable ball park.
I am not yet proficient enough to run anything too complicated, so I’ve started with a dozen or so words and phrases that I know are common. What follows is the phrase, the number of artists who mention it, and then (if interesting) the top artists who mention it and their total songs that contain the word/phrase.
I am already really pleased with the results, but there is a lot more that I want to do. I have a friend that’s a brilliant designer who will work up a visualization for some of the final results. Currently my data doesn’t have any years attached to the albums, so once I manage to get that in there then I can understand who said each of these phrases first. It could be nice to attach geography to each artist, so we could possibly plot the progression of the phrase across the US.
If you have any questions you want to suggest I’d love to incorporate them into the project, and if there are any popular phrases that stick out in your mind please suggest them to me. There is also another project out there doing something similar called the Hip Hop Word Count, which looks really promising.