In case you haven’t been paying attention to the ads on the sides of NYC bus stops, the Grammys are tonight. If this doesn’t make you excited, well that’s actually pretty understandable. This award show hasn’t been interesting for a while, but the dunk contest rebounded into something worth watching this weekend, so I’ll give the Grammys a chance to cook.
Tonight though, a rap album might actually take home Album of The Year. Kendrick Lamar’s unapologetically black To Pimp A Butterfly none the less. Some would say this is a big deal, since The National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences has a history of snubbing rap albums. Currently only Outkast’s Speakerbox/The Love Below and Lauryn’s Miseducation have taken home the grand prize. The only way they could be more disdainful would be if they held the Best Rap Album ceremony at the Red Lobster down the block from the theater.
But I digress. In honor of this we decided to take a look at the rap album category and break down the nominees lyrically. In this category we have:
- Kendrick – To Pimp A Butterfly
- Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint
- J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
- Dr. Dre – Compton
- Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
While going through this breakdown we will be looking only at verse (no hooks), and omitting featured artists. Without further ado, here are our findings:
- Most Used Words – For this we’ve removed the obvious recurring words (“the,” “a,” “him/her,” “nigga,” etc) to get a better picture of what’s going on in these lyrics. Drake and Kendrick shared the same word, “Know,” with 64 and 71 uses respectively. Cole, dropped “Love” 49 times and Nicki used the related pair of “say” and “tell” 15 and 16 times. For Dre the most used word, with a count of 48, was “fuck.” Don’t ever change, Dre.
- Cursing – While Kendrick, Dre, Drake, and Cole averaged 46 uses of “fuck” and 33 uses of “shit,” Nicki only came in with 16 and 5 of the two curses respectively. This can probably be attributed to her history of radio friendly singles. Basically, everyone else said “fuck” more because they gave less fucks.
- Bitch Vs. Woman – The use of “bitch” in hip hop has been debated so long that most people have tuned it out by this point. We’re going to leave that argument up to Kanye and Taylor Swift’s brother and just bring you the facts. J. Cole’s Bitch-To-Woman ratio (BWR), which figures in the word “girl” as well, was 3.00. That means 3 uses of bitch to every use of woman. Nicki and Dre were in a similar state with BWRs of 3.25 and 3.33. Kendrick came in lower at 1.57, but it was Drake the stood out in this metric, with a remarkably low 0.13.
- Stated Blackness – Across Cole, Drake, Nicki, and Dre’s albums, use of the word “black” averaged only 4 instances per album. With 16 uses on TPAB, Kendrick’s total was 4.5 times that. Makes sense for an album about the modern black experience in America.
- What Happened To Gangsta Rap? – Of the five albums nominated, Kendrick’s was the only one on which any variation of the word “gang” appeared more than once, and there it only was used 5 times. References to guns were also low, averaging 3.4 uses per album. While there definitely has been a decline in gangsta rap in the post-Kanye era, we’d largely chalk this stat up to The Academy not being comfortable nominating a Vince Staples album.
- A Sad Year For Ass – The word ass only averaged 2.6 appearances across these albums. “Shameful… Just shameful…” mutters Sir Mix-A-Lot from somewhere in the distance.
- Total Vocab – When tallying up the total number of different word across each album we were unsurprised to find that Kendrick, with his ambitious content and complex rhyming, came in on top with nearly 1,983 different words. Cole came in a distant 2nd with 1,289 and Drake was hot on his heels at exactly 1,200. Nicki was a good deal below this at 836. Dre, with his simpler style more focused on intensity than lyricism, rounded out the bottom at 698.
Got questions or other lyrics you’d like to see analyzed? Give us a shout in the comments.