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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What's in a name? That which you call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...


Shakespeare had a wildly extensive vocabulary. He used 29,000 different words across his works. Eight hundred thousand words total. But does that beat this?


WU-TANG CLAN: (Rapping) I smoke on the mic like smoking Joe Frazier, the hell raiser, raising hell with the flavor. Terrorize the jam......


Hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and some other rappers give The Bard a run for his money. That's according to Matt Daniels. He charted the vocabularies of hip-hop artists against Shakespeare and Herman Melville.

MATT DANIELS: This is not a serious academic study. This is an, like, I thought it'd be cool on the Internet.


BLOCK: Daniels has analyzed a pool of 85 different rappers, with the help of a website called Rap Genius. It catalogs lyrics and their meanings.

DANIELS: Using that database, I created a visualization that maps out how these artists' vocabularies stand up against one another.

BLOCK: He used a sample size of 35,000 words for each artist, that's about the number of lyrics in 3-to-5 studio albums. At the top of the list, rapper Aesop Rock had 6400 unique words. And the Wu-Tang Clan had 5,895 unique words.

SIEGEL: Using the same sample size, Shakespeare had about 5,000 unique words. To quote from "Hamlet..."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This bodes some strange eruption to our state.

SIEGEL: In fact, The Bard was out-worded by 15 rappers, Melville by three. But Daniels says he isn't trying to make some sweeping statement about the lyrical prowess of hip-hop.

DANIELS: Really, my inclusion of Shakespeare was just to say if using the same methodology here's how he would compare with some hip-hop artists

BLOCK: Daniels says that picking a style of vocabulary is a challenge every artist faces: To be complex or dumb things down?

DANIELS: A certain style gives me a certain audience. And that audience might attract to a certain fan base and wealth that I otherwise wouldn't have.

SIEGEL: Daniels doesn't quantify how many of hip-hop's unique words can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. But then again, Shakespeare was quite creative in making up words himself.

BLOCK: Fo shizzle.


JAY-Z: (Rapping) Feel my truths The music business hate me because the industry ain't make me. Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be making, I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars. They criticize me for it yet they all yell, Holla. If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be lyrically Talib...


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