Hip Hop Vocabulary: XXL Freshmen

Heads up: This post is inspired by this lexicon analysis of some of the top names in Hip Hop. If you are a fan of Hip Hop and rap, I strongly suggest you take a look!

Hip Hop is the genre that sparked my general interest in music. My earliest recollection of bopping my head to a beat is listening to Feelin’ It by Jay-Z; I was three years old at the time. I think that introduction to music heavily informed my current music taste. While my interest has branched out to other genres like Jazz, Indie Pop and Electronic; Hip Hop, I feel, has always been my home genre. I have tremendous appreciation for the production and beat making that goes on in the background but lyrics are the most feasible part to quantify so I wanted to shine a spotlight on that.

The analysis in the article linked above does a good job breaking down the lexicon size of the top rappers in Hip Hop history but I’ve been wondering about the new talents that have been entering the scene. I decided to take a quick look at how they stack up against each other in terms of perceived vocabulary size.

I took a different approach in regards to methodology. I used the artists on the XXL Freshman classes of 2012-2017 as they’re probably the top or most popular talent to break into the scene that year. Using Python and the genius.com API, I extracted all the lyrics from their ten most popular songs. I’ve only taken the top ten songs to account for some artists’ being new to the scene and not necessarily having a a lot of content on Genius. I removed all stop words (such as “the”, “is”, “which” etc.) from the lyrics and then counted the remaining unique words. I’m happy to share the code I used to scrape and organize all the lyrics upon request.

For context, here are the artists in each class (I had to exclude a couple because they had little to no presence on genius.com):

  • 2012: Future, Kid Ink, Danny Brown, French Montana, Macklemore, Don Trip, Hopsin, Iggy Azalea, and Roscoe Dash
  • 2013: Schoolboy Q, Trinidad James, Joey Badass, Ab-Soul, Logic, Action Bronson, Kirko Bangz, Travis Scott, Dizzy Wright, Angel Haze, and Chief Keef
  • 2014: Chance the Rapper, Rich Homie Quan, Isaiah Rashad, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Durk, Kevin Gates, Troy Ave, Vic Mensa, Jon Connor, Lil Bibby, Jarren Benton, and August Alsina
  • 2015: Fetty Wap, Dej Loaf, Raury, OG Maco, Shy Glizzy, K Camp, Vince Staples, Tink, and GoldLink
  • 2016: Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, Denzel Curry, G Herbo, Dave East, Lil Dicky, Anderson Paak, Desiigner, and 21 Savage
  • 2017: Kamaiyah, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, PnB Rock, Playboi Carti, Aminé, Kap G, Kyle, Ugly God, MadeinTYO and XXXTentacion

I averaged the number of unique words used by artists in each freshman class to get a feel for any yearly trends. It’s actually much closer than I expected, although I did foresee the class of 2017 having the lowest average unique words used. The “trap” style of artists like XXXTentacion or Playboy Carti doesn’t rely much on lyricism. Of the 61 artists I looked at, the four with the least unique words were from the 2017 class.

I was surprised by how high the average was for the class of 2013. Looking at the overall data, it’s clear that one artist skewed the average heavily. His name? Joey Badass. If you’re into modern Hip Hop then you’ve no doubt heard of Joey. His skillful lyricism is very apparent on any track he gets on but I wouldn’t have guessed that he stood so far above the rest of his peers in terms of unique word usage.

Exclude Joey Badass and you won’t see that much of a disparity between the artists of all the different classes. It seems each year you have the more lyrical performers who hover around 1,200 unique words, the medians at about 800 words and the less lyrical styles at 700 or less.

The obvious disclaimer here is that unique word usage is not an indication of how good an artist is. As the Pulitzer winning rapper, Kendrick Lamar, says: “I know some rappers using big words to make their similes curve my simplest shit be more pivotal.”

As a reward for making it to the end of this post, I’ve added the raw unique words data and also columns with each artists’ top five most used words. Enjoy!

artist
unique_words
most_used_1
most_used_2
most_used_3
most_used_4
most_used_5
class_year
Joey Badass 5769 ('ft', 98) ('one', 76) ('album', 71) ('song', 62) ('lil', 62) 2013
Lil Dicky 1962 ('im', 213) ('like', 173) ('dont', 79) ('aint', 74) ('know', 74) 2016
Hopsin 1700 ('im', 82) ('like', 68) ('get', 59) ('got', 58) ('know', 55) 2012
Don Trip 1691 ('im', 140) ('like', 72) ('got', 68) ('bitch', 58) ('aint', 55) 2012
Ty Dolla Sign 1644 ('im', 127) ('nigga', 82) ('niggas', 77) ('like', 63) ('got', 60) 2014
Macklemore 1506 ('im', 100) ('like', 75) ('got', 53) ('dont', 51) ('love', 45) 2012
Jarren Benton 1440 ('im', 71) ('like', 66) ('fuck', 51) ('nigga', 46) ('niggas', 41) 2014
Dizzy Wright 1435 ('im', 147) ('shit', 59) ('nigga', 58) ('niggas', 54) ('like', 45) 2013
Dave East 1385 ('im', 130) ('dont', 74) ('aint', 62) ('got', 62) ('get', 57) 2016
Action Bronson 1350 ('im', 74) ('like', 59) ('shit', 37) ('man', 34) ('baby', 28) 2013
Vic Mensa 1345 ('like', 80) ('know', 60) ('dont', 56) ('im', 52) ('oh', 47) 2014
G Herbo 1284 ('im', 126) ('know', 98) ('shit', 78) ('nigga', 68) ('dont', 67) 2016
Chance the Rapper 1266 ('im', 119) ('dont', 89) ('got', 73) ('like', 57) ('juice', 52) 2014
Logic 1257 ('im', 102) ('like', 101) ('know', 98) ('dont', 67) ('yeah', 61) 2013
Angel Haze 1255 ('im', 125) ('like', 83) ('bitches', 58) ('shit', 47) ('bitch', 46) 2013
Kevin Gates 1239 ('get', 109) ('im', 106) ('dont', 103) ('one', 86) ('really', 71) 2014
Danny Brown 1233 ('dip', 112) ('im', 81) ('like', 79) ('kush', 56) ('coma', 53) 2012
Troy Ave 1217 ('im', 85) ('nigga', 63) ('money', 51) ('dooo', 48) ('like', 45) 2014
Denzel Curry 1207 ('im', 87) ('nigga', 86) ('bitch', 76) ('dont', 60) ('niggas', 52) 2016
Jon Connor 1135 ('im', 71) ('like', 68) ('aint', 42) ('shit', 38) ('dont', 33) 2014
Isaiah Rashad 1094 ('im', 78) ('live', 51) ('niggas', 49) ('aint', 41) ('nigga', 38) 2014
Schoolboy Q 1071 ('nigga', 76) ('part', 66) ('im', 46) ('fuck', 36) ('get', 35) 2013
Ab-Soul 1058 ('im', 45) ('like', 37) ('wanna', 37) ('aint', 34) ('light', 31) 2013
Lil Bibby 990 ('nigga', 78) ('aint', 77) ('niggas', 69) ('cant', 63) ('got', 62) 2014
Vince Staples 978 ('right', 92) ('yeah', 92) ('lift', 42) ('know', 40) ('boy', 35) 2015
Kap G 964 ('yeah', 102) ('like', 100) ('need', 84) ('im', 81) ('want', 79) 2017
Iggy Azalea 943 ('bounce', 160) ('im', 64) ('ima', 60) ('change', 59) ('life', 59) 2012
Trinidad James 940 ('nigga', 120) ('dont', 89) ('niggas', 84) ('fuck', 83) ('shit', 75) 2013
OG Maco 921 ('em', 132) ('fuck', 126) ('got', 66) ('bitch', 64) ('nigga', 57) 2015
August Alsina 901 ('love', 128) ('im', 99) ('luv', 65) ('like', 61) ('cause', 60) 2014
Aminé 891 ('like', 77) ('im', 72) ('thats', 48) ('dont', 39) ('girl', 37) 2017
Kyle 887 ('dont', 61) ('keep', 56) ('real', 53) ('like', 53) ('wavy', 53) 2017
Kid Ink 886 ('know', 103) ('dont', 70) ('aint', 69) ('go', 65) ('like', 65) 2012
Shy Glizzy 885 ('im', 169) ('like', 73) ('nigga', 53) ('awesome', 48) ('dont', 46) 2015
Raury 871 ('im', 26) ('savior', 23) ('run', 21) ('love', 20) ('want', 20) 2015
Lil Durk 833 ('like', 79) ('im', 79) ('aint', 76) ('know', 61) ('dont', 60) 2014
Kodak Black 832 ('im', 159) ('got', 74) ('aint', 72) ('like', 60) ('dont', 59) 2016
GoldLink 822 ('im', 72) ('like', 59) ('dont', 51) ('ya', 44) ('baby', 43) 2015
A Boogie wit da Hoodie 820 ('im', 113) ('fuck', 100) ('nigga', 66) ('dont', 59) ('bitches', 57) 2017
Kirko Bangz 814 ('got', 77) ('im', 71) ('know', 64) ('fuck', 64) ('wanna', 52) 2013
21 Savage 796 ('im', 134) ('savage', 100) ('nigga', 93) ('bitch', 58) ('mad', 58) 2016
French Montana 786 ('gyal', 68) ('freaks', 64) ('im', 48) ('aint', 43) ('like', 40) 2012
K Camp 719 ('bitch', 87) ('aint', 73) ('like', 61) ('good', 61) ('bad', 60) 2015
Travis Scott 706 ('niggas', 74) ('yeah', 63) ('night', 63) ('know', 59) ('trill', 51) 2013
Chief Keef 706 ('like', 114) ('dont', 93) ('nigga', 87) ('im', 86) ('bitch', 71) 2013
Rich Homie Quan 705 ('fuck', 81) ('get', 62) ('know', 61) ('nigga', 59) ('like', 54) 2014
Dej Loaf 688 ('aint', 57) ('back', 48) ('im', 47) ('like', 44) ('bitch', 41) 2015
Ugly God 688 ('bitch', 175) ('fuck', 79) ('ugly', 59) ('god', 58) ('like', 57) 2017
Kamaiyah 674 ('got', 59) ('break', 57) ('im', 50) ('dont', 49) ('niggas', 47) 2017
Tink 666 ('like', 53) ('im', 44) ('yeah', 38) ('love', 38) ('know', 37) 2015
Lil Uzi Vert 664 ('yeah', 98) ('got', 97) ('ayy', 74) ('want', 56) ('like', 53) 2016
Desiigner 649 ('get', 76) ('tiimmy', 70) ('got', 52) ('niggas', 52) ('im', 48) 2016
Fetty Wap 622 ('baby', 142) ('ayy', 122) ('im', 63) ('know', 50) ('yeah', 44) 2015
Anderson Paak 616 ('dont', 27) ('time', 24) ('get', 22) ('momma', 22) ('carry', 22) 2016
Lil Yachty 610 ('like', 120) ('peekaboo', 92) ('know', 56) ('bitch', 53) ('cant', 46) 2016
Future 599 ('fuck', 64) ('like', 48) ('yeah', 48) ('lets', 46) ('im', 45) 2012
Roscoe Dash 552 ('way', 91) ('turnt', 77) ('got', 52) ('good', 38) ('night', 34) 2012
MadeinTYO 550 ('want', 113) ('skr', 105) ('get', 101) ('yeah', 67) ('go', 57) 2017
Playboi Carti 548 ('like', 62) ('im', 45) ('niggas', 43) ('fetti', 39) ('aint', 38) 2017
PnB Rock 518 ('yeah', 100) ('girl', 83) ('like', 80) ('im', 67) ('know', 67) 2017
XXXTentacion 409 ('dont', 71) ('im', 48) ('wanna', 46) ('go', 35) ('ayy', 33) 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *