Bigger Vocabulary Than the Bard? Wu-Tang Clan

Data scientist does fascinating analysis of rap lyrics
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2014 9:03 AM CDT
Bigger Vocabulary Than the Bard? Wu-Tang Clan
Gary Grice, aka Gza, left, and Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, aka Rza, of Wu-Tang Clan perform at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, April 21, 2013 in Indio, Calif.   (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Shakespeare's works include 28,829 unique words, which gives him what some think is the largest vocabulary ever at more than 100,000 words. But is it possible he's been eclipsed—by rappers? New York data scientist Matt Daniels decided to try and figure it out, the Daily Dot reports. Daniels analyzed 35,000 of the Bard's words—the first 5,000 words of seven of his plays—and determined that in that span, Shakespeare used 5,170 unique words. Daniels then looked at the first 35,000 lyrics of 85 rappers, and found that 16 of those rappers used more than 5,170 unique words in the same span.

At the very top: an obscure indie rapper known as Aesop Rock, with 7,392 unique words. But Wu-Tang Clan was also incredibly dominant: The collective ranked No. 6 overall, with 5,895 unique words, and the solo works of five of its members also made the top 23—including GZA at No. 2. Other well-known rappers didn't fare so well: Kanye West, 2Pac, Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dogg were all in the bottom 20%. At the very bottom? DMX, with 3,214 unique words. As for what kind of words we're talking about, Daniels takes a look at some of the slang originated by No. 14, E-40 ("all good," "pop ya collar," "shizzle," "you feel me") as well as some of the techniques used by No. 15, Outkast, including portmanteau ("Stankonia") and southern drawl ("nahmsayin").

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