Discover Which MC Lyricist Reigns Supreme As Hip-Hop’s Top Wordsmith (Infographic)
Matt Daniels, designer, coder, and data scientist at Undercurrent in New York, has just compiled the first 35,000 lyrics from 85 of the most well respected, sought after MC talents in the industry into one of the greatest user friendly infographics for Heads in some time, to discover who reigns supreme as “Hip-Hop’s William Shakespeare.”
Before delving into who exactly is #1, it’s pertinent to begin by mentioning Wu-Tang Clan’s reign as a whole over the rest of the pack. The Wu-Tang Clan as a group sits at number six on the chart, but given the fact that GZA, RZA, Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah as solo artists sit within the Top 20 proves the depth of their skill set and may give deeper insight into their tireless working relationship as a group.
Another interesting tidbit about this graphic was the fact that some of the biggest names (often cited as dominating culture-changers) including Kanye West, 2Pac, Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dogg, have fallen to the back of the chart. Although at first this seems completely out of whack, the methodology behind evaluating these MCs is defensible.
Firstly, while artists like ‘Pac and Kanye have made considerable strides as political and cultural influences through their musical efforts, their focus was not necessarily on wordplay. As Cyhi The Prynce recently noted in an interview with AllHipHop, he explained the reason behind Kanye West’s sometimes limited verbal resources. This inference may similarly explain 2Pac’s placement as well.
“A lot of rappers could use the whole dictionary. They could kill a nigga on one bar. They could ride in a Lambo on the next bar. Be in the G4 on the next bar. Then back at a club on the next bar. Then sold 20 bricks on this bar. I got a plethora of words and a plethora of imagination to work with. When you have a responsibility, ALL of that shrinks and you have to work with these words. How Kanye can make these little bitty word bigger than all of the words you used.”
Secondly, the mainstream is where a lot of greenbacks float around, and in order to keep their own wallets and fans satisfied, artists need to be conscious of the average citizen’s personal lexicon. Here’s a quote Daniel’s picked up from the Jay Z track, “Moment of Clarity,” to summarize:
“I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars / They criticized me for it, yet they all yell ‘holla’ / If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be / Lyrically, Talib Kweli / Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did 5 mil – I ain’t been rhyming like Common since”
Now, who reigns at #1?
The answer, which may be surprising to most outside his core group of diehard fans, is Aesop Rock. Taking the reigns as the Hip-Hop Shakespeare is no easy feat, as the former Def Jukie-turned-Rhymesayer has launched over 7,000 unique words from his arsenal. According to Daniels, he should literally be off the chart itself. If it were a popularity contest he may lose out to a bigger name, but mainstream and underground fans alike have to respect Aesop’s intellect and attention to detail. We all know “Billy Shakes'” would. Not up on game?
Here’s some vintage Aesop:
Do these results surprise you?