Tahir Hemphill

Tahir Hemphill

Brooklyn, NY

Tahir Hemphill is a creative technologist whose practice investigates the role systems play in the generation of form and the role collaborative knowledge production plays in the resilience of communities. Tahir uses computational analysis to draw out what is usually unseeable in the semantic structures within large bodies of archival text. Coming of age in the 1980’s, Tahir divided his time between practicing different elements of Hip-hop culture and exploring cyberspace with a dial up modem. Today, Tahir considers community-focused Open Source to be the theoretical framework that supports these two early educational influences, and it fuels the tension between his reverence for traditional models of scientific inquiry and the critical reflection he applies to creative technology projects. As a result, Tahir’s work straddles art, technology and archival research. The frameworks that support these influences are synthesized into his current creative pursuits at the Rap Research Lab, where they catalyze critical discourse through the production of VR, AI, and community data projects. To do this, Tahir leads cross-functional teams of artists, radical educators, narrative designers, software developers and researchers who explore rap music as a text to pressure notions of identity, race, gender, class, place, and justice in our modern era.

Tahir is the inaugural 2021 UMBC Faculty Diversity in the Arts Fellow, 4th Chair in Education at the Library of Congress, 2019 Verizon 5G EdTech Challenge winner, 2019 Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media Studies Fellow, 2018 LACMA Art + Technology Lab Grantee, 2017 Autodesk Pier 9 Artist-in-Residence, 2016 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Behavioral Science Resident, 2016 Spotify Media Artist-in-Residence, 2015 National Endowment of the Arts Art Works Grantee, 2012 Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and 2010-2012 Eyebeam Artist-in-Residence. Tahir’s work is featured in the Talk to Me exhibit at MoMA which explores design and the communication between people and objects.

Rap Almanac: The Hiphop Word Count

Tahir Hemphill

Artist Bio

The Rap Almanac database is a “big data” cultural research platform built around the cataloging, transcription and linguistic analysis of approximately 1,000,000 rap songs. The database provides sophisticated critical analysis tools that allow users to discover and track the emergence, distribution and circulation of ideas, references and concepts as they appear in rap lyrics.

Award Year