Recently, The Pudding (a weekly journal of visual essays) published a study about the vocabulary of rappers. Using a research method called "token analysis," writer Matt Daniels was able to rank MCs -- highest to lowest -- in order of the most unique words used within their first 35,000 lyrics.
Here's what he discovered: The rappers who ranked highest -- Aesop Rock at No. 1 (7,392 uniques) and the GZA at No. 2 (6,426 uniques) -- have larger vocabularies than Shakespeare's first seven works, and a word count that outpaces Herman Melville's classic "Moby Dick." Conversely, Drake, DMX, and Too Short were ranked lowest on the list -- all using less than 4,000 unique words.
The top two spots shouldn't be surprising though -- Aesop Rock's a walking thesaurus and the GZA, well, he's a genius when compared to Shakespeare's 5,170 score and the 6,022 unique words used within the first 35,000 of Melville's 1851 opus.
As one of Wu-Tang's deepest thinkers, the GZA is also one of the easiest to comprehend and with his cohesive wordplay, it's easy to understand why he's at the top of the list.
On April 11, the famed MC brings his immense vocabulary to town, hosted by the Humanities Department at San Diego State University. He'll be giving a discussion about race, globalization, and hip-hop music's influence on American culture.
You know that adage about being the smartest person in the room? If you're the sharpest one there, you're probably in the wrong place. Chances are though, if the GZA's speaking, you won't be.