Were the ’90s the Golden Age of Hip Hop?

A lot of ink has been spent discussing the Golden Age of Hip Hop. There are, of course, disputes as to exactly when this golden age occurred and whether or not there were multiple golden ages. In its broadest conception, it runs from the late 1980s to 1999. Some say the original golden age occurred in the 1980s, but there was a second golden age at some point in the 1990s. Some say the golden age was shorter, running from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

The specific demarcation of when the golden age happened or whether it was the first or second golden age is largely irrelevant to the argument that stems from saying the golden age came and went, which is that hip hop since then has been inferior. Mainstream media outlets, bloggers and even other rappers agree with this assessment, and have been pushing the argument almost since the dawn of the millennium.

I was always dismissive of this idea because of my perception that it was just another case of golden age syndrome, even though I prefer some of the hip hop from that era over most present day offerings. I recall a time when I was riding in a colleague’s car from Las Vegas to Mesquite on a work trip. He was 15 years my senior, 40 years old at the time, and put a disc he had burned into his CD player. It comprised gangsta rap from the last few years, the type of music I listened to and was familiar with. I asked him, “You listen to this?” He replied, “I don’t want to be one of those guys from New Jersey who listens to Bruce Springsteen his whole life and wishes high school never ended.” That point stuck with me, and it has colored my opinion of how it requires an act of will to not get stuck in a generational music rut. Every time I see the comments section for a new music video full of comments like, “this isn’t even music anymore,” or “no talent,” or a comments section for an old video that says, “back when music was music,” or “this guy has more talent in his pinky finger than any so-called musician today,” I feel that I can quickly determine who the people stuck in high school their whole lives are.

This all changed, however, when I started hearing actual high school and college kids and young adults uttering the same sentiments about hip hop and its decline since the 1990s. How could it just be golden age syndrome if people currently in a time in their lives that will forever define their musical tastes were saying that about music that was made before they were even born? Did they really relate to the older music? Was it really objectively better? Or, was something else at work, such as the influence of so much media telling them that the new music their parents had never heard of wasn’t as good as the stuff from before their time? When I was that age, I wasn’t interested in hearing about how great the music from my parents’ generation was. I liked some of it and I disliked some of it, but nobody was going to tell me that it was objectively better than the music of my time.

Given all of this opinion circulating in conversations both online and off, I decided to try to look at the situation objectively, through numbers and data. Some of the central arguments put forth by proponents of the theory that hip hop has diminished since its heydey are that the lyrics of modern hip hop are vapid and meaningless, that lyrics are not only meaningless but also more simplistic and that emceeing as an artform has become unsophisticated, or that hip hop lost its way in terms of being a socially conscious movement grounded in black youth culture. It is hard to analyze subjective opinions such as, whether something has any meaning or whether it is vapid; I think that what is meaningful to one person, yet meaningless to another, is a product of culture. The youth culture of a 20 year old today is not the same as it was to a 20 year old 20 years ago, so it is simply not possible for me to elaborate on that in a concise, objective way. To do that, I would have to speculate as to whether the entire youth culture has diminished, which, I think, is above everyone’s paygrade. I also am not able to quantitatively analyze whether hip hop is as socially conscious as it was, since the very definitions of social consciousness change with time. For that, I will leave it to KRS-One’s distinction between “emceeing” and “rapping” drawn from the track, Classic, and to the reader to decide whether one or the other of those is more in evidence today as compared to past eras:

This is the difference between emceeing and rap
Rappers spit rhymes that are mostly illegal
Emcees spit rhymes to uplift their people
Peace, Love, Unity, havin’ fun
These are the lyrics of KRS-One

KRS One is saying he’s an emcee and, for the record, I agree. However, it is the remaining quality, that of lyrical sophistication, that I can attempt to analyze in an objective, mathematical way. To accomplish this, I have turned to a text analyzer. This is a tool used to assess the readability of a passage of text, often from books, to assign that text an approximate reading level. In general, something that makes heavier use of longer, polysyllabic words will be considered more difficult to read. This, of course, makes total sense, as we all progressed from learning words like “cat” and “let” in the early years of elementary school to words like “concatenation” and “replete” when we were studying for vocabulary tests in high school. My conjecture, then, is that lyrical complexity will mirror literary complexity in its use of a more sophisticated lexicon. It is true that lyrical complexity consists of a lot more than just big words, such as assonance, alliteration, allusion, metaphor, reference, syncopation, and many other elements of structure and delivery, but much of this simply cannot be done with a string of monosyllabic words. Consider, for example, the following passage that closes out Black Thought’s verse on the track, Meiso, produced by DJ Krush:

Remember me the Thought I represent essentially and
Mentally eventually, ya mention me as most high
My decibels are most fly, I come to paint ya Thought’s Black
Yo Krush, where’s it at?!!!??!

This level of sophistication with regard to assonance and internal rhyming requires the use of polysyllabic words, and when you hear the verse instead of just reading it, you also hear how the syncopation is only rendered through a careful choice of long and short words working together. So, with this in mind, I have analyzed a bevy of hip hop tracks from the 1990s and the 2000s. I compared songs from those two decades on the basis of total word count, characters per word, and syllables per word. Total word count is not as useful a metric for sophistication, even though it can point toward rappers having higher delivery speeds, because the speed is often dictated by the beat. If a track is meant to be slow and mellow, it serves no purpose for a rapper to fill it up with an overabundance of words. That said, a rapper who consistently shows up with low-word tracks might be lazy or uncreative, but if a random track happens to have a low word count, I don’t think it is indicative of low quality lyricism. Characters per word, much like the already-discussed syllables per word is a legitimate metric for judging lyrical complexity, because consonant clusters can require and allow for more lyrical maneuvering. For instance, it is far easier to alliterate a single consonant sound like “B” or “D” than it is to alliterate clusters like “Bl” or “Dr,” simply because there are more words that start with “B” than “Bl” or “D” than “Dr,” given that the latter are subsets of the former. The same applies to rhyming syllables containing consonant clusters as opposed to single consonants.

Methodology

In order to test the idea of whether lyrical complexity increased, decreased, or stayed the same from the 1990s to the 2000s, I started by finding a list at Complex of all the chart-topping rap singles in history. I analyzed the singles from the 1990s and 2000s, which consisted of 17 from the 1990s and 34 from the 2000s. Right away, one might get the idea that, seeing as how there were 34 number one hit rap singles in the 2000s versus only 17 number one hits in the 1990s, that the 2000s were the more productive decade in terms of high quality output, but it is important to remember that hip hop was only starting to gain mainstream acceptability in the early 1990s and that far more music was produced in the 2000s than the 1990s. To see a full list of these number one hits and the other lists of songs used for purposes of this study, please scroll to the end.

The results for the complexity of chart-topping hits are as follows, given by number of singles examined, average characters per word, and average syllables per word, along with the standard deviation and standard error for each value. Average word count is available in the data at the end of the article, but was not included here:

1990s:

N = 17
Characters Per Word = 3.84
(SD=0.214,SE=0.052)
Syllables Per Word = 1.31
(SD=0.056,SE=0.014)

2000s:

N = 34
Characters Per Word = 3.74
(SD=0.184,SE=0.031)
Syllables Per Word = 1.28
(SD=0.062,SE=0.011)

I determined that the complexity of one track in particular, Laffy Taffy, was not represented accurately by the evaluation process, because, of its 642 words, 122 of then comprised either “laffy” or “taffy,” meaning that five-letter, two-syllable words were being artificially inflated. When correcting for this by simply omitting “laffy” and “taffy” from the lyrics that were analyzed, the numbers for the 2000s song set came out to be very slightly less complex:

2000s (Corrected):

N = 34
Characters Per Word = 3.73
(SD=0.176,SE=0.030)
Syllables Per Word = 1.28
(SD=0.062,SE=0.011)

We see from these values that, in fact, the number of characters per word and syllables per word in hit rap songs did go down from the 1990s to the 2000s. Characters per word dropped from 3.84 to 3.73, and syllables per word dropped from 1.31 to 1.28. Given the limited sample size, we can only be about 91% confident in asserting that the the C/W value for rap hits in the 1990s was higher than the C/W for the 2000s, and also about 91% confident in asserting the same for the respective S/W counts.

At this point, you may be doubting the validity of using these metrics, and you may also question the value of only analyzing hit music. In answer to the first, I checked to see if a widely-accepted example of a lyrically complex rap song would show up as such in the analyzer, so I used the track Alphabetic Aerobics by Blackalicious, that even Harry Potter himself performed as a testament to its difficulty and complexity. It did, indeed, prove to be lyrically complex relative to the hit tracks, with a C/W score of 4.99 and a S/W score of 1.67, both values being multiple standard deviations above the means for rap hits in the 1990s or 2000s.

The objection to only using hit singles is sensible, because only looking at hits introduces biases that aren’t present in broader samples of hip hop. For example, one could contend that hit songs follow certain formulae, and those formulae may lead to simplicity for the sake of appealing to ever-widening demographics, appealing to lower and lower common denominators. If true, it would stand to reason that individual artists whose careers spanned this timeframe and who gained more popularity over that time would be catering to more people by dumbing down their lyrics, so to speak. Unfortunately, we lost 2Pac and Biggie too early, and some artists like Eminem were not prolific enough before the turn of the millennium to get decent samples in both decades, but one artist in particular was prolific in both decades, and achieved tremendous commercial success later in his career: Jay-Z. I looked at Jay-Z’s first 10 singles listed at Wikipedia in the 1990s and his last 10 singles listed in the 2000s and compared their values similarly to the previous study conducted on number one hits. The results were as follows:

Jay-Z in the 1990s:

N = 10
Characters Per Word = 3.85
(SD=0.135,SE=0.043)
Syllables Per Word = 1.29
(SD=0.031,SE=0.010)

Jay-Z in the 2000s:

N = 10
Characters Per Word = 3.90
(SD=0.131,SE=0.042)
Syllables Per Word = 1.32
(SD=0.042,SE=0.04)

We see from this data that, not only does it appear that Jay-Z did not dumb down his lyrics, but his lyrical complexity increased as his career matured. Given the sample size of 10 tracks each from the 1990s and 2000s, we can be about 58% confident that Jay-Z’s use of characters per word increased, and about 74% confident that his use of syllables per word did, as well. Similar analysis of a smattering of tracks from other artists who appear in the various lists used in this study, such as OutKast, Eminem, Missy Elliott, shows no trend of individual artists dumbing down their work between the 1990s and 2000s, nor of the group as a whole dumbing down their lyrics. In all cases, they maintained a consistent level of complexity, or showed an increase similar to that of Jay-Z.

Even given all of that, it is clear that any argument about hip hop complexity drawn solely from hit songs is incomplete, so I turned to other sources to find data to use in comparing the two decades. Rolling Stone recently published a list of the 100 greatest hip hop songs of all time. Of the 100 songs, 40 were from the 1990s and 17 were from the 2000s. This is a curated list created by music insiders and critics, so right away, given that disparity in representation on the list of all time greats, we see that, either Rolling Stone itself is heavily biased, or there really was a lot better hip hop being created in the 1990s, despite, how was already mentioned, that substantially more music was produced in the 2000s than the 1990s. There is also the issue that the same critics who liked certain songs from one era might pick the same types of songs from another era, that the song list reflects more on their tastes than on the music of the era itself. This is a valid concern, and it is why curated lists can never be taken at face value.

With those objections and limitations in mind, we can look at the data and see what it tells us. We find the following values for the selected songs in each decade:

Rolling Stone all time greatest rap songs (1990s):

N = 40
Characters Per Word = 3.89
(SD=0.176,SE=0.028)
Syllables Per Word = 1.31
(SD=0.052,SE=0.008)

Rolling Stone all time greatest rap songs (2000s):

N = 17
Characters Per Word = 3.79
(SD=0.202,SE=0.049)
Syllables Per Word = 1.29
(SD=0.063,SE=0.015)

We see again that both characters per word and syllables per word dropped across the decades, from 3.89 to 3.79 and from 1.31 to 1.29, respectively. Given the size of the samples in this case, if we assume that other mainstream critics follow similar parameters to those employed by Rolling Stone, we can be about 91% sure that the critically-acclaimed tracks in the 1990s had more characters per word than those in the 2000s, though only about 74% sure that critically-acclaimed tracks in the 1990s had more syllables per word than those of the 2000s. We also see that, in all cases, the curated list has higher character per word and syllable per word scores; in general, it would seem the critics prefer more complexity than the masses.

It is a big assumption to suggest that other critics will have similar approaches to analyzing and evaluating music that Rolling Stone does. In fact, I personally find that Rolling Stone engages in fogey-ism, routinely overrating older music, as evidenced by their decades-long Beatles worship and general love affair with bygone eras. I decided to compare this to lists obtained through new media, and to do that I turned first to AllMusic, one of the internet’s largest repositories of information about music. In order to see if AllMusic felt the same as Rolling Stone, I performed album searches, filtering them to only include 5-star rated rap albums, removing compilation albums from the results. I found that there were 46 rap albums from the 1990s and 10 from the 2000s that had been awarded 5-stars ratings. This fit the trend I found in Rolling Stone. However, despite being new media, AllMusic was founded in 1991 and, by new media standards, is a dinosaur. The alleged Golden Age of Hip Hop was in full-swing when AllMusic started, and it could have easily influenced the direction of AllMusic’s ratings.

In order to eliminate the fogey bias from critical opinion data, I turned next to newer new media in the form of the aggregating site, Album of the Year, or AOTY. I conducted a search for the most critically-acclaimed albums in hip hop history and combed through the results again. This time, I set AOTY to aggregate from all of the sources it checks, and it returned a list of the 100 highest rated albums that included 15 from the 1990s and 43 from the 2000s. I personally take issue with any list that ranks Liquid Swords above Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), but it did, and there you have it. Maybe I’m being the fogey now. These numbers are more in keeping with what you would expect if you assumed that music quality did not diminish over time, given that substantially more music was produced in the 2000s than the 1990s. However, the aggregation algorithm requires a minimum number of reviews before an album appears on their list. Given that reviews for current albums are more likely at any given time than reviews for old albums, because people want to know about things they haven’t heard yet, and given that many of these sites postdate the hip hop golden age, it stands to reason that older albums are underrepresented among the reviews as compared to a randomly-selected album. With that potentially extreme bias favoring the inclusion of newer albums on the list, it is, for one, remarkable that Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys top that list, and, more to the point, wholly useless as a means of tapping into what younger listeners really prefer.

An alternative to this list for gauging the preferences of listeners across a wider age range, and potentially one that skews younger than the staff of Rolling Stone or its readership, can be found at *rym, where the 1990s are again represented more highly than the 2000s, with 61 of the top 100 albums coming from the 1990s and only 26 coming from the 2000s, and 58 of the top 100 singles coming from the 1990s and only 16 coming from the 2000s. These numbers are drawn from users of the site, not critics, which results in hundreds or even thousands of ratings for each album or single, but there is no way to discern whether the numbers are rigged in some way or whether shills are skewing the data. In theory, the presence of shills should influence the results randomly, largely moving the average of all results up. With those limitations in mind, we can perform the same analysis on these tracks as we did for the number one hits and the critics’ choices, and we obtain the following results:

1990s:

N = 58
Characters Per Word = 3.95
(SD=0.236,SE=0.031)
Syllables Per Word = 1.31
(SD=0.052,SE=0.007)

2000s:

N = 16
Characters Per Word = 3.92
(SD=0.132,SE=0.033)
Syllables Per Word = 1.31
(SD=0.054,SE=0.013)

These results are quite similar, with the characters per word dropping a mere 0.03 from 3.95 in the 1990s to 3.92 in the 2000s, and the syllables per word holding steady at 1.31. The difference in these results is not statistically significant; we can only be 51% confident that the songs on the list for the 1990s were more sophisticated than that on the list for the 2000s, hardly better than a coin flip. Of note, however, is that these values are at least as high as the values for the hit songs and for the critically-acclaimed songs, meaning that the users who rated songs prefer more lyrical complexity than critics or the various forces that combine to determine what is a hit. This probably indicates something about the population of users at sites like *rym, suggesting that they may be savvier than the average person. After all, it takes someone who is familiar with a song or album to rate it, but a person listening to music on the radio, Pandora, or other similar service need not know the name or have an opinion about a song at all. The users at *rym, then, are more actively engaged with their music than the general public, who may only be passively engaged.

These results, then, tell us about people who are engaged with their music, that they demand more sophistication from their artists than the general public or even critics, who are likely victims to their own biases and poor judgment compared to a large sample of enthusiasts, presumably of many ages and from diverse backgrounds. The vastly higher number of songs from the 1990s on the *rym list, despite the higher levels of production in the 2000s, does suggest that enthusiasts found more gems to be mined in the 1990s, while they were still able to find gems in the 2000s, as well. Note, too, that the enthusiasts who took the time to rate music at *rym are not the hardest of hardcore, subgenre-obsessed fans, as there are countless underground and independent songs that appeared on none of the popular or critically-acclaimed lists. For example, the earlier Blackalicious track, Alphabet Aerobics, did not appear on any of the lists, and was more complex than any track on any of the lists. This implies there are other, more complex tracks out there that are not being accounted for in the lists for either decade. However, as they represent niche and specialist cultures, they do not speak to broader hip hop culture, but in a way defy it.

Music enthusiasm is something that waxes and wanes for people over time, due largely to constraints put on them by life. It is simply easier to get more exposure to different music and devote more time to delving into music as a teenager and young adult than it is as an older adult, when more responsibilities consume our time. Thus, it is easier to be an enthusiast and enjoy the breadth and depth of a genre as a youth, while as an adult you may go through long periods of only being exposed to new music passively. To such a person, it will certainly seem that hip hop (or anything, really) has grown more simplistic, because passivity in sampling novelty yields less sophistication, and, as we have seen, hip hop hits unequivocally have gotten less sophisticated than hits from the 1990s. This speaks to the commercialization of a nascent genre; as soon as establishment commercial forces recognize heavy profit potential in something new, they will apply their formulaic, proven approach to the medium to extract maximum financial value from it, even at the expense of cultural value. We see that this has been successful in hip hop; as the quality of mainstream offerings has diminished, sales and appearances at the top of the charts have increased. It was not until 2003 that a hip hop artist made it into the Forbes Celebrity 100, which happened again in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and now many hip hop moguls with net worths approaching the $1 billion mark have emerged. I believe this was all done on the backs of the labor put forth by hip hop pioneers who created the art in the 1970s and 1980s and ultimately brought it to its lyrical heights in the 1990s.

In conclusion, with the bulk of the data pointing to a likely decline in lyricism, I am inclined to agree with the GZA who argued in 2015 that:

I’m sure there are great lyricists out there today, but when you look at mainstream hip-hop, lyricism is gone.

GZA’s arguments are broader than mine — he discusses the unquantifiable, intangible aspects of the art — but, the end result is the same. And, while GZA is certainly biased, the numbers don’t lie. The commodification of hip hop has changed hip hop, and one of those changes is the diminution of lyrical complexity. The numbers bear this out; only enthusiasts, those who are either currently in their formative years, or those who refuse to let their formative years forever encapsulate their tastes, are mining the ocean of songs out there to find the great lyricists that GZA is talking about. Others are evidently satisfied enough with the bass drop in Dark Horse to be too concerned with things like lyrical complexity or the cultural value of songs, and either don’t have the luxury or the desire to put time into exploring modern offerings more deeply.

There is one ray of hope in all of this, as suggested by the song lists at *rym. It may be that hip hop did not see a golden age in the 1990s so much as it saw a dark age in the 2000s, and we may be emerging from that now. While only 16 songs from the 2000s appear on the *rym list, 13 from 2010 or later are present, including six from Kendrick Lamar alone. That’s 13 in a 6.3 years as opposed to 16 in 10 years, which is an increase in the production rate of top-rated singles of 58%. Is Kendrick Lamar here to resurrect hip hop from the death-clutch of commercialism? I, for one, will be keeping my ears open, because I don’t want to believe that hip hop is really dead.

Appendix

Below are the song lists used to analyze lyrical complexity. Included with the songs are the year, the word count, the characters per word, and the syllables per word. Lyrics were extracted primarily from Google Play, but also from MetroLyrics when they were unavailable from Google Play. Lyrics were pasted into the Document Readability analyzer at Online-Utility. In some cases, raw lyrics were modified prior to analysis. As an example, OutKast lyrics have many instances of “super words” that comprise strings of words thrown together without spaces. These were separated into their constituent words prior to analysis. Numbers listed in totals blocks have the format mean/standard deviation/standard error. Confidence intervals for comparison of the means of computed values were calculated using the T-statistic.

I: Hit Songs

1990s:

Vanilla Ice — Ice Ice Baby (1990): W 616, C/W 3.87, S/W 1.32

Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch — Good Vibrations (1991): W 437, C/W 3.83, S/W 1.3

P.M. Dawn — Set Adrift on Memory Bliss (1991): W 388, C/W 3.87, S/W 1.31

Kriss Kross — Jump (1992): W 578, C/W 3.88, S/W 1.28

Sir Mix-a-Lot — Baby Got Back (1992): W 699, C/W 3.82, S/W 1.25

Snow — Informer (1993): W 910, C/W 3.49, S/W 1.27

Coolio — Gangsta’s Paradise (1995): W 504, C/W 4.08, S/W 1.36

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony — Tha Crossroads (1996): W 723, C/W 3.87, S/W 1.38

2Pac — How Do U Want It (1996): W 941, C/W 3.63, S/W 1.29

2Pac — California Love (1996): W 471, C/W 4.00, S/W 1.39

Puff Daddy/Ma$e — Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down (1997): W 624, C/W 3.85, S/W 1.29

The Notorious B.I.G. — Hypnotize (1997): W 734, C/W 4.20, S/W 1.38

Puff Daddy/Faith Evans — I’ll Be Missing You (1997): W 595, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.38

The Notorious B.I.G./Puff Daddy & Ma$e — Mo Money Mo Problems (1997): W 722, C/W 3.78, S/W 1.25

Will Smith — Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It (1998): W 602, C/W 3.35, S/W 1.26

Lauryn Hill — Doo Wop (That Thing) (1998): W 567, C/W 4.16, S/W 1.31

Will Smith — Wild Wild West (1999): W 766, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.19

1990s Hit Song Totals:

N = 17

Words: 640/152/37

C/W: 3.84/0.214/0.052

S/W: 1.31/0.056/0.014

2000s:

Outkast — Miss Jackson (2001): W 708, C/W 3.96, S/W 1.38

Crazy Town — Butterfly (2001): W 672, C/W 3.88, S/W 1.34

Ja Rule/Ashanti — Always on Time (2002): W 676, C/W 3.74, S/W 1.30

Nelly — Hot in Herre (2002): W 695, C/W 3.62, S/W 1.21

Nelly f/ Kelly Rowland — Dilema (2002): W 722, C/W 3.66, S/W 1.32

Eminem — Lose Yourself (2002/2003): W 804, C/W 3.97, S/W 1.38

50 Cent — In Da Club (2003): W 674, C/W 3.55, S/W 1.26

50 Cent f/ Nate Dogg — 21 Questions (2003): W 634, C/W 3.47, S/W 1.23

Nelly, P. Diddy & Murphy Lee — Shake Ya Tailfeather (2003): W 968, C/W 3.70, S/W 1.27

Ludacris f/ Shawnna — Stand Up (2003): W 632, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.22

Outkast f/ Sleepy Brown — The Way You Move (2004): W 555, C/W 3.49, S/W 1.30

Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx — Slow Jamz (2004): W 693, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.29

Juvenile f/ Soulja Slim — Slow Motion (2004): W 827, C/W 3.69, S/W 1.24

Terror Squad — Lean Back (2004): W 400, C/W 3.86, S/W 1.24

Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell — Drop It Like It’s Hot (2004): W 782, C/W 3.55, S/W 1.18

50 Cent f/ Olivia — Candy Shop (2005): W 591, C/W 3.69, S/W 1.27

Kanye West f/ Jamie Foxx — Gold Digger (2005): W 654, C/W 3.70, S/W 1.26

D4L — Laffy Taffy (2006): W 642, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.36

Nelly f/ Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp — Grillz (2006): W 839, C/W 3.78, S/W 1.32

Chamillionaire f/ Krayzie Bone — Ridin (2006): W 1,011, C/W 4.00, S/W 1.33

Fergie — London Bridge (2006): W 487, C/W 3.88, S/W 1.29

Ludacris f/ Pharrell — Money Maker (2006): W 730, C/W 3.67, S/W 1.38

Mims — This Is Why I’m Hot (2007): W 846, C/W 3.33, S/W 1.18

Timbaland f/ Justin Timberlake & Nelly Furtado — Give It To Me (2007): W 609, C/W 3.39, S/W 1.24

Soulja Boy — Crank That (Soulja Boy) (2007): W 720, C/W 3.70, S/W 1.29

Kanye West — Stronger (2007): W 552, C/W 3.75, S/W 1.28

Flo Rida — Low (2008): W 678, C/W 3.82, S/W 1.20

Lil Wayne f/ Static Major — Lollipop (2008): W 704, C/W 3.55, S/W 1.27

T.I. — Whatever You Like (2008): W 637, C/W 3.60, S/W 1.36

T.I. f/ Rihanna — Live Your Life (2008): W 895, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.42

Eminem f/ Dr. Dre & 50 Cent — Crack A Bottle (2009): W 874, C/W 3.99, S/W 1.31

Flo Rida f/ Ke$ha — Right Round (2009): W 573, C/W 3.89, S/W 1.27

Black Eyed Peas — Boom Boom Pow (2009): W 501, C/W 3.80, S/W 1.18

Jay-Z f/ Alicia Keys — Empire State of Mind (2009): W 679, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.30

2000s Hit Song Totals:

N = 34

Words: 696/133/23 (692/137/23)*

C/W: 3.74/0.184/0.031 (3.73/0.176/0.030)

S/W: 1.28/0.062/0.011 (1.28/0.062/0.011)

(*)Values in parentheses take into account the correction for Laffy Taffy.

II: Jay-Z Across the Decades

Jay-Z in the 1990s:

In My Lifetime: W 810, C/W 3.82, S/W 1.27

Dead Presidents: W 286, C/W 3.99, S/W 1.31

Ain’t No Nigga: W 834, C/W 3.82, S/W 1.31

Can’t Knock the Hustle: W 613, C/W 4.08, S/W 1.32

Feelin’ It: W 787, C/W 3.84, S/W 1.26

Who You Wit: W 724, C/W 3.93, S/W 1.29

Sunshine: W 707, C/W 3.72, S/W 1.27

Wishing on a Star: W 381, C/W 3.61, S/W 1.23

The City is Mine: W 550, C/W 3.76, S/W 1.28

A Million and One Questions: W 289, C/W 3.89, S/W 1.33

Jay-Z in the 1990s totals:

N = 10

Words: 598/213/67

C/W: 3.85/0.135/0.043

S/W: 1.29/0.031/0.010

Jay-Z in the 2000s:

Lost One: W 558, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.25

Hollywood: W 628, C/W 3.98, S/W 1.39

Blue Magic: W 587, C/W 3.94, S/W 1.32

Roc Boys: W 596, C/W 3.97, S/W 1.27

I Know: W 686, C/W 3.63, S/W 1.31

Swagga Like Us: W 969, C/W 4.03, S/W 1.37

Jockin’ Jay-Z: W 512, C/W 3.91, S/W 1.32

D.O.A.: W 493, C/W 3.79, S/W 1.34

Run This Town: W 710, C/W 3.89, S/W 1.34

Empire State of Mind: W 679, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.30

Jay-Z in the 2000s totals:

N = 10

Words: 642/136/43

C/W: 3.90/0.131/0.042

S/W: 1.32/0.042/0.040

III. Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs

1990s:

Geto Boys — Mind Playing Tricks on Me (1991): W 716, C/W 3.92, S/W 1.28

Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Doggy Dogg — Nuthin But a ‘G’ Thang (1992): W 688, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.24

Public Enemy — Fight the Power (1990): W 426, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.35

Notorious B.I.G. — Juicy (1994): W 612, C/W 4.01, S/W 1.34

Wu-Tang Clan — C.R.E.A.M. (1993): W 687, C/W 3.84, S/W 1.32

Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth — They Reminisce Over You (1992): W 614, C/W 3.85, S/W 1.31

Jay-Z f/ UGK — Big PImpin’ (1999): W 782, C/W 3.60, S/W 1.24

2Pac — Dear Mama (1995): W 657, C/W 3.91, S/W 1.37

A Tribe Called Quest — Scenario (1992): W 817, C/W 3.93, S/W 1.33

Craig Mack, Rampage, the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes — Flava In Ya Ear (Remix) (1994): W 751, C/Ws 3.80, S/W 1.34

LL Cool J — Mama Said Knock You Out (1990): W 531, C/W 3.98, S/W 1.37

Notorious B.I.G. — Hypnotize (1997): W 734, C/W 4.20, S/W 1.38

Nas — N.Y. State of Mind (1994): W 791, C/W 4.20, S/W 1.31

Mobb Deep — Shook Ones Part II (1995): W 860, C/W 4.10, S/W 1.33

Outkast — Rosa Parks (1998): W 526, C/W 3.79, S/W 1.27

Ice Cube — It Was A Good Day (1992): W 512, C/Ws 3.81, S/W 1.30

Eminem — My Name Is (1999): W 775, C/Ws 3.58, S/W 1.21

2Pac and Dr. Dre — California Love (1995): W 471, C/W 4.00, S/W 1.39

Lauryn Hill — Lost Ones (1998): W 629, C/W 4.04, S/W 1.34

Notorious B.I.G — Big Poppa (1994): W 696, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.27

Snoop Doggy Dogg — Gin and Juice (1993): W 625, C/W 3.76, S/W 1.31

The Pharcyde — Passin’ Me By (1992): W 676, C/W 3.62, S/W 1.23

Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Doggy Dog — Deep Cover (1992): W 800, C/W 3.75, S/W 1.28

Cypress Hill — How I Could Just Kill a Man (1991): W 436, C/W 3.91, S/W 1.35

Black Sheep — The Choice is Yours (Revisited) (1991): W 728, C/W 3.67, S/W 1.23

Sir Mix-A-Lot — Baby Got Back (1992): W 699, C/W 3.82, S/W 1.25

Ol’ Dirty Bastard — Brooklyn Zoo (1995): W 417, C/W 3.99, S/W 1.36

Wu-Tang Clan — Protect Ya Neck (1993): W 900, C/W 4.02, S/W 1.28

Gang Starr — Mass Appeal (1994): W 394, C/W 3.94, S/W 1.27

A Tribe Called Quest — Can I Kick It? (1990): W 295, C/W 3.74, S/W 1.26

Naughty By Nature — O.P.P. (1991): W 856, C/W 3.76, S/W 1.30

Nas — It Ain’t Hard to Tell — Illmatic (1994): W 341, C/W 4.30, S/W 1.35

Raekwon f/ Ghost Face Killah, Method Man, Cappadonna — Ice Cream (1995): W 769, C/W 4.27, S/W 1.41

Jermaine Dupri f/ Jay-Z — Money Ain’t a Thang (1998): W 947, C/W 3.84, S/W 1.27

Digital Underground — The Humpty Dance (1990): W 765, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.27

B.G. f/ Big Tymers and Hot Boys — Bling Bling (1999): W 789, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.36

Souls of Mischief — ’93 ’til Infinity (1993): W 978, C/W 3.80, S/W 1.24

Missy Elliott — The Rain (1997): W 290, C/W 3.66, S/W 1.26

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — Tha Crossroads (1996): W 723, C/W 3.87, S/W 1.38

Brand Nubian — Slow Down (1990): W 781, C/W 3.91, S/W 1.28

Rolling Stone 1990s totals:

N = 40

Words = 662/175/28

C/W = 3.89/0.176/0.028

S/W = 1.31/0.052/0.008

2000s:

50 Cent — In Da Club (2003): W 674, C/W 3.55, S/W 1.26

Eminem — Lose Yourself (2002): W 804, C/W 3.97, S/W 1.38

Kanye West — Jesus Walks (2004): W 553, C/W 3.89, S/W 1.29

Jay-Z — 99 Problems (2004): W 799, C/W 3.80, S/W 1.29

Missy Elliott — Get Ur Freak On (2001): W 514, C/W 3.26, S/W 1.13

OutKast — B.O.B (2000): W 666, C/W 3.94, S/W 1.33

Clipse — Grindin (2002): W 600, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.31

Eminem f/ Dido — Stan (2000): W 1,348, C/W 3.71, S/W 1.28

Lil Wayne — A Milli (2008): W 561, C/W 3.93, S/W 1.33

T.I. — What You Know (2006): W 675, C/W 3.69, S/W 1.29

Dead Prez — Hip-Hop (2000): W 480, C/W 3.79, S/W 1.25

Outkast — Ms. Jackson (2000): W 708, C/W 3.96, S/W 1.38

M.O.P. — Ante Up (2000): W 605, C/W 3.83, S/W 1.24

UGK f/ Outkast — Int’l Players Anthem (2007): W 747, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.31

Jay-Z f/ Alicia Keys — Empire State of Mind (2009): W 679, C/W 4.05, S/W 1.30

M.I.A. — Paper Planes (2007): W 408, C/W 3.67, S/W 1.35

Lil Jon and the East Side Boys f/ Ying Yang Twins — Get Low (2002): W 859, C/W 3.61, S/W 1.20

Rolling Stone 2000s totals:

N = 17

Words = 687/209/51

C/W = 3.79/0.202/0.049

S/W = 1.29/0.063/0.015

IV. AllMusic 5-Star Hip Hop Albums:

1990s:

LL Cool J — Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)

Ice Cube — AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990)

Public Enemy — Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

Digital Underground — Sex Packets (1990)

Ice Cube — Death Certificate (1991)

Cypress Hill — Cypress Hill (1991)

Public Enemy — Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black (1991)

A Tribe Called Quest — Low End Theory (1991)

Ice-T — O.G. Original Gangster (1991)

P.M. Dawn — Of the Heart, Of the Soul, and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience (1991)

Gang Starr — Step in the Arena (1991)

Main Source — Breaking Atoms (1991)

Leaders of the New School — A Future Without a Past… (1991)

Organized Konfusion — Organized Konfusion (1991)

Black Sheep — A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (1991)

Beastie Boys — Check Your Head (1992)

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth — Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992)

Dr. Dre — The Chronic (1992)

The Pharcyde — Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (1992)

Gang Starr — Daily Operation (1992)

Das EFX — Dead Serious (1992)

Snoop Dogg — Doggystyle (1993)

A Tribe Called Quest — Midnight Marauders (1993)

Wu-Tang Clan — Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

Souls of Mischief — 93 ’Til Infinity (1993)

Freestyle Fellowship — Inner City Griots (1993)

Nas — Illmatic (1994)

The Notorious B.I.G. — Ready to Die (1994)

Jeru the Damaja — The Sun Rises in the East (1994)

The Genius/GZA — Liquid Swords (1995)

2Pac — Me Against the World (1995)

Mobb Deep — The Infamous (1995)

Raekwon — Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

Goodie Mob — Soul Food (1995)

Aceyalone — All Balls Don’t Bounce (1995)

Jay-Z — Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Fugees — The Scorce (1996)

2Pac — All Eyez on Me (1996)

Dr. Octagon — Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)

Missy Elliott — Supa Dupa Fly (1997)

Company Flow — Funcrusher Plus (1997)

Lauryn Hill — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

OutKast — Aquemini (1998)

Black Star — Black Star (1998)

Eminem — The Slim Shady LP (1999)

Mos Def — Black on Both Sides (1999)

2000s:

Eminem — The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

OutKast — Stankonia (2000)

Jurassic 5 — Quality Control (2000)

Kid Koala — Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (2000)

Jay-Z — The Blueprint (2001)

The Streets — Original Pirate Material (2002)

Kanye West — The College Dropout (2004)

Dizzee Rascal — Boy in da Corner (2004)

Kanye West — Late Registration (2005)

Clipse — Hell Hath No Fury (2006)

V. *rym Highest Rated Hip Hop (and all subgenres) Singles:

1990s:

Mobb Deep — Shook Ones Part II (1995): W 860, C/W 4.10, S/W 1.33

Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth — They Reminisce Over You (1992): W 614, C/W 3.85, S/W 1.31

Wu-Tang Clan — C.R.E.A.M. (1993): W 687, C/W 3.84, S/W 1.32

Souls of Mischief — ’93 ’til Infinity (1993): W 978, C/W 3.80, S/W 1.24

Geto Boys — Mind Playing Tricks on Me (1991): W 716, C/W 3.92, S/W 1.28

DJ Shadow — Midnight In A Perfect World (1996): W 139, C/W 4.22, S/W 1.31

Wu-Tang Clan — Protect Ya Neck (1993): W 900, C/W 4.02, S/W 1.28

Camp Lo — Luchini AKA This is It (1996): W 694, C/W 4.28, S/W 1.40

Ice Cube — It Was A Good Day (1992): W 512, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.30

A Tribe Called Quest — Award Tour (1993): W 695, C/W 4.04, S/W 1.33

UGK — One Day (1996): W 601, C/W 3.83, S/W 1.31

GZA — Shadowboxin’ /4th Chamber (1996): W 1,168, C/W 4.39, S/W 1.41

Notorious B.I.G. — Juicy (1994): W 612, C/W 4.01, S/W 1.34

Nas — The World Is Yours (1994): W 626, C/W 4.22, S/W 1.29

Crooklyn Dodgers ’95 — Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers (1995): W 729, C/W 4.59, S/W 1.44

Nas — It Ain’t Hard to Tell — Illmatic (1994): W 341, C/W 4.30, S/W 1.35

Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Doggy Dogg — Nuthin But a ‘G’ Thang (1992): W 688, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.24

The Pharcyde — Passin’ Me By (1992): W 676, C/W 3.62, S/W 1.23

A Tribe Called Quest — Jazz (We’ve Got)/Buggin’ Out (1991): W 1581, C/W 3.95, S/W 1.33

OutKast — Spottieottiedopaliscious (1998): W 453, C/W 4.28, S/W 1.42

A Tribe Called Quest — Electric Relaxation (1994): W 486, C/W 3.72, S/W 1.29

Nas — Life’s a Bitch (1994): W 446, C/W 4.17, S/W 1.35

DJ Shadow — What Does Your Soul Look Like (1994): W 330, C/W 4.00, S/W 1.41

Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Doggy Dog — Deep Cover (1992): W 800, C/W 3.75, S/W 1.28

OutKast — ATLiens/Wheelz of Steel (1996): W 1,201, C/W 3.78, S/W 1.29

Genius — Liquid Swords/Labels (1996): W 839, C/W 4.07, S/W 1.32

Mobb Deep — Survival of the Fittest (1995): W 757, C/W 3.91, S/W 1.30

Wu-Tang Clan — Shame on a Nigga (1994): W 451, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.31

A Tribe Called Quest — Check the Rhime/Skypager (1991): W 917, C/W 3.88, S/W 1.31

Wu-Tang Clan — Can It Be All So Simple/Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit (1994): 980, C/W 3.95, S/W 1.29

The Pharcyde — Runnin’/Drop (1995): W 895, C/W 3.91, S/W 1.30

Wu-Tang Clan — Da Mystery of Chessboxin’/Method Man (Remix) (1993): 1,258, C/W 3.89, S/W 1.32

Ol’ Dirty Bastard — Brooklyn Zoo (1995): W 417, C/W 3.99, S/W 1.36

Warren G. & Nate Dogg — Regulate (1994): W 591, C/W 3.74, S/W 1.23

The Roots — You Got Me (1999): W 666, C/W 3.87, S/W 1.29

Outkast — Rosa Parks (1998): W 526, C/W 3.79, S/W 1.27

De La Soul — Stakes Is High (1996): W 721, C/W 4.24, S/W 1.38

A Tribe Called Quest — Scenario (1992): W 817, C/W 3.93, S/W 1.33

Snoop Doggy Dogg — Gin and Juice (1993): W 625, C/W 3.76, S/W 1.31

Common Sense — I Used to Love H.E.R./Communism (1994): W 1,047, C/W 3.87, S/W 1.28

Big L — Put It On (1995): W 739, C/W 3.52, S/W 1.21

Jay-Z — Ain’t No Nigga (1996): W 834, C/W 3.82, S/W 1.31

Jay-Z — Dead Presidents (1996): W 286, C/W 3.99, S/W 1.31

Beastie Boys — Sabotage/Get It Together (1994): W 911, C/W 3.77, S/W 1.25

Raekwon f/ Ghost Face Killah, Method Man, Cappadonna — Ice Cream (1995): W 769, C/W 4.27, S/W 1.41

Nas — Half Time (1992): W 626, C/W 3.79, S/W 1.25

Black Star — Respiration (1999): W 972, C/W 4.35, S/W 1.37

Mos Def — Ms. Fat Booty/Mathematics (1999): W 1,329, C/W 4.20, S/W 1.39

OutKast — Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994): W 777, C/W 4.09, S/W 1.37

A Tribe Called Quest — Can I Kick It? (1990): W 295, C/W 3.74, S/W 1.26

OutKast — Da Art of Storytellin’ (Part 1) (1990): W 530, C/W 3.74, S/W 1.23

Ghost Town DJs — My Boo (1996): W 86, C/W 3.24, S/W 1.31

Raekwon — Crimonology/Glaciers of Ice (1995): W 1,190, C/W 4.16, S/W 1.34

Craig Mack, Rampage, the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes — Flava In Ya Ear (Remix) (1994): W 751, C/Ws 3.80, S/W 1.34

Gang Starr — Mass Appeal (1994): W 394, C/W 3.94, S/W 1.27

Ol’ Dirty Bastard — Shimmy Shimmy Ya (1995): W 336, C/W 3.59, S/W 1.35

Beastie Boys — So What’cha Want (1992): W 507, C/W 4.08, S/W 1.33

Massive Attack — Risingson (1997): W 312, C/W 3.95, S/W 1.33

*rym 1990s totals:

N = 58

Words = 701/296/39

C/W = 3.95/0.236/0.031

S/W = 1.31/0.052/0.007

2000s:

UGK f/ Outkast — Int’l Players Anthem (2007): W 747, C/W 3.81, S/W 1.31

OutKast — B.O.B (2000): W 666, C/W 3.94, S/W 1.33

The Roots — The Seed 2.0 (2003): W 535, C/W 3.80, S/W 1.21

Outkast — Miss Jackson (2001): W 708, C/W 3.96, S/W 1.38

M.I.A. — Paper Planes (2007): W 408, C/W 3.67, S/W 1.35

Madvillain — Curls/All Caps (2004): W 532, C/W 3.98, S/W 1.29

Jay Electronica — Exhibit C (2009): W 559, C/W 4.09, S/W 1.41

Gorillaz — Feel Good Inc (2005): W 358, C/W 3.99, S/W 1.34

Gorillaz — Clint Eastwood (2001): W 541, C/W 4.08, S/W 1.39

Kanye West — Jesus Walks (2004): W 553, C/W 3.89, S/W 1.29

M.O.P. — Ante Up (2000): W 605, C/W 3.83, S/W 1.24

Kanye West — Through the Wire/Two Words (2003): W 1,008, C/W 4.03, S/W 1.29

Rich Boy — Throw Some D’s (2006): W 446, C/W 4.00, S/W 1.28

Kanye West — Flashing Lights (2007): W 352, C/W 4.10, S/W 1.32

Big Boi — Shine Blockas (2009): W 601, C/W 3.88, S/W 1.28

Eminem f/ Dido — Stan (2000): W 1,348, C/W 3.71, S/W 1.28

*rym 2000s totals:

N = 16

Words = 623/252/63

C/W = 3.92/0.132/0.033

S/W = 1.31/0.054/0.013

Just the facts: Writer. Gamer. Feminist. Educated in Astrophysics. Professional Gambler. Student of Language. Satanist. Anarchist.

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