Who would you bet had the bigger vocabulary: Drake or Ghostface Killah? What about Common or Ludacris?
A coder and designer named Matt Daniels put together a data analysis of rap lyrics to see which rappers had the biggest vocabularies and some of the results are surprising. Ghostface blows Drake out of the water when it comes to diversity of vocabulary: The Wu-Tang Clan member uses 5,774 unique words in his lyrics, while Drake only uses 3,522. In Common v. Ludacris, meanwhile, it’s almost a tie — Common uses 4,974, but Luda is close behind with 4,806.
Daniels took a sampling of 35,000 words from each rapper’s lyrics and determined how many of those words were unique. For reference he compared those results to 35,000 words from the writing of Shakespeare (5,170) and Melville (6,022) and then plotted all the data. Aesop Rock crushed the competition, coming in with the biggest vocabulary by a landslide. His 7,392 words outpaced the next highest, GZA, by 1,000 words. The whole Wu-Tang Clan hovered in the highest range, around 6,000 words. Most rappers sat around 4,500 words. Taking up the rear with the least varied vocabulary were big names like DMX, Drake, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliot and Kanye West.
Note that the test isn’t telling you who uses the biggest words, merely who uses the widest variety of words. So Kanye’s, “I am a god/I am a god/Hurry up with my damn massage/ Hurry up with my damn ménage/ Get the Porsche out the damn garage/ I am a god” falls short of Nelly’s, “My grammar be’s ebonics/Gin, tonic and chronic/F–k Bionic, it’s ironic/Slamming n—-s like Onyx/Lunatics til the day I die.” For whatever that’s worth.