It's been pretty cool to see hip-hop come under the umbrella of art that is seriously studied in America's most prestigious universities. Nas gets a scholarship in his name, ?uestlove teaches classes at NYU, GZA helps kids learn about science through rap. Not to mention countless classes at major intitutions studying the words of Tupac and Biggie. Who would've guessed that the art born of the streets would progress far enough to be something people with lots of letters behind their name study for a living?
Here's another step: Havard University archiver Tahir Hemphill is a big rap fan, and wanted to figure out a way to catalogue and study trends in rap lyrics. He created a searchable database, Hip Hop Word Count, to accomplish this task. Its database has over 40,000 rap lyrics, each of them geotagged and searchable through the words they use. Using this info, he can search for how trends in rap lyrics came about, from namedropping champagne brands to saying "bitch." It's pretty cool stuff. Maybe he could use it to research more recent trends, like popping molly or smoking "loud", or rappers referring to themselves as pretty.
The database can also rank rappers based on the complexity of their rhymes. Apparently, Rakim is the wisest MC of them all, with a complexity score of 16 out of 20. That's apparently comparable to the diction used in The Atlantic Monthly! I also find it ironic that he raps at the level of a "university degree" but did not attend college. Hell, I'm barely in college and I think I can understand most of "Microphone Fiend." I guess I should be thankful.