The Hip Hop Word Count: A Searchable Rap Almanac

Tahir Hemphill

Artist Bio

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.

Award Year


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. Hemphill's creative research has been fueled by the tension between his reverence for traditional models of scientific inquiry and the wisdom of uncertainty contained in the lived experience. As a native New Yorker, Tahir came of age in the 1980s and divided his time between practicing various elements of hip-hop culture and exploring cyberspace from a Queens basement with a dial-up modem connected to a Commodore 128 computer. A fundamental correlation between hip-hop culture and hacking would inform the trajectory of his professional and creative life. Hemphill's exposure to educational knowledge foregrounding STEM fields led him to acquire these values and skills while hip-hop’s ”golden era” informed his perspectives on popular culture, and politics. The theoretical frameworks that support these two 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 big data projects.