May 5, 2014

DMX has smallest vocabulary of any rapper

A new study of rappers' vocabulary sizes finds that DMX has, by far, the smallest, most repetitious vocabulary, which doesn't surprise me, having reviewed his 2003 movie:
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- I had originally guessed that "Cradle 2 the Grave" would be a Masterpiece Theatre-style historical drama about the British Labor Party's creation of an all-encompassing "cradle to grave" welfare state. That assumption turned out rather wrong, however. 
"Cradle 2 the Grave," which stars rapper DMX and martial arts legend Jet Li, is actually a black-Asian hop-fuey action flick in the tradition of 2000's "Romeo Must Die." ...
Action movie producer Joel Silver (who, I was somewhat surprised to discover, is a different person than action movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer) has been trying to develop product to serve both markets simultaneously.

That reminds me of my friend Pat's story about Joel Silver (or maybe Jerry Bruckheimer, but probably not Joel Schumacher). A friend down the hall is a pool guy named, say, Tim Jones. Pat's drinking beer with Tim the Pool Guy when Tim's phone rings. He answers, "This is Tim."

Pat then hears a tiny screaming voice coming out of the phone. Tim puts his hand over the microphone and whispers to Pat, "It's Joel Silver, and he's got me confused with a different Tim. This happens a couple of times per year."

Tim turns on the speakerphone and Pat listens, fascinated, to the famous producer scream for five minutes at Tim for what he let slip to Channing Tatum's agent when he was supposed to only tell Ryan Gosling's agent, or something. 

Finally, Tim breaks in and say, "But, Mr. Silver, is there something unsatisfactory with the cleanliness of your swimming pool? This is Tim Jones, your pool service man."

"Oh ... Tim Jones? ... Oh, no ... My assistant alphabetized my contacts by first name! I thought I was talking to a different Tim. No, no, the pool is great. It's ... pristine. Fantastic job you're doing. In fact, next month there'll be a little extra in your envelope."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Silver." And Tim hangs up and tells Pat, "You know, I've done pretty well off him making that same mistake over the years."
           

58 comments:

Tim Wheaton said...

I would have thought Ja Rule myself. His 'music' consists of him going 'Uh, yea, uh, yea'.

Anononymous said...

"Low" Parody - *Shakespeare Rap*

Anonymous said...

Fun facts about Canibus, who's one of the highest ranked on the hip-hop list:
* He's a former data analyst for AT&T.
* He joined the U.S. Army in 2002, but got kicked out for smoking weed.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

Although DMX is one of TBG's South Cakalaky(sp?) homies...he ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

Smaller than Lil' John?

What? WHAT???? WHAT???



*nods head*



Yeah!

Peter Akuleyev said...

And the largest vocabulary, by a a significant margin, belongs to "Aesop Rock", aka Ian Bavitz. Not a huge surprise.

Grey Enlightenment said...

hmm looks like more words doesn't equal more sales. The highest selling artists use fewer words.

Hail said...

DMX was interviewed in March 2008. The interviewer raised the subject of Obama. DMX had never heard of the man. DMX then proceeded to insist that "Barack" must not be his real name. See here.

Here is the relevant excerpt. The interviewer from a Hip Hop magazine's words are in bold. DMX's are in normal font. Conducted in March 2008. (This is NOT a parody or satire; this interview actually occurred verbatim).

___________________________
[Interviewer:] Are you following the presidential race?
[DMX:] Not at all.
You're not? You know there's a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there's Hillary Clinton.
His name is Barack?!
Barack Obama, yeah.
Barack?!
Barack.
What the f*** is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?
Yeah, his dad is from Kenya.
Barack Obama?
Yeah.
What the f***?! That ain't no f****n' name, yo. That ain't that n*gga's name. You can't be serious. Barack Obama. Get the f*** outta here.
You're telling me you haven't heard about him before.
I ain't really paying much attention.
I mean, it's pretty big if a Black...
Wow, Barack! The n*gga's name is Barack. Barack? N*gga named Barack Obama. What the f***, man?! Is he serious? That ain't his f****n’ name. Ima tell this n*gga when I see him, “Stop that bulls**t. Stop that bulls**t” [laughs] “That ain't your f****n' name.” Your momma ain't name you no damn Barack.
So you're not following the race. You can't vote right?
Nope.
___________________________

The PDK Herald/Crier Project said...

The phone call scenario is Three Stooges hilarious.

Tim the pool man is the go to, 'dummy". Joel is fearful, perhaps cowardly afraid to talk from his superiority with power at the intended Tim.

Tim the dummy solves the problem, Joel vents or unloads, at least someone sees his superiority, power and self righteousness.

But then no one is hurt, all remains well and good.

For this Joel owes the pool Tim and apparently pays, the bonus.

Cheaper, more relieving and more satisfying than a psychiatrist.

On negro rappers, with the negro physically smaller, lower IQed cerebrum it should be expected that rappers, mostly negros, have a smaller vocabulary than others in the music(?) venue.

That one rapper has the smallest of all could be one of those mirror, mirror moments.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what rapper has the smallest vocabulary of them all?

And the mirror said, DMX you dummy.

From the Sanctuary @ http://the-pdk.blogspot.com/
I'm PDK: Thank you.

Cail Corishev said...

As the Rifftrax guys say during the credits of Top Gun, "This Kenny Loggins song is almost as repetitive as his other classic, where he sings, "Everybody cut, everybody cut, everybody cut, everybody cut, everybody cut, everybody cut, everybody cut, everybody cut footloose."

el supremo said...

Not surprising, given that large sections of any given DMX track feature him barking like a dog for several bars.

in ohio said...

A similar analysis of C&W music would almost certainly show Hank Williams' vocab to the smallest, at least as a per-song average. And yet he's revered. Why? For a reason similar to why rap fans like DMX: the ability to do a lot with a little conceptually while exuding passion and vulnerability.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=S8VwXeMA-vo

I know gangsta rap is not popular in the steveosphere. I suppose I'd hate it myself if I lived in that kind of neighborhood. But I think the appeal is easy to see. DMX would be famous in any era. He's charismatic.

Harry Baldwin said...

I hate rap/hip hop with the exception of DMX's stuff. Catchy beat and funny memorable rhymes like

Listen . . . yo' ass is about to go missin',
You know who gon' find you? Some old man fishin'


I found it cathartic on my way home from another long day at the ad agency. What was bizarre is that in a CD full of songs about murder and mayhem, he'd end with a sincere sounding prayer.

Anonymous said...

All Jet Li Hollywood movies were crap... His Chinese/Hong Kong work from the 80s and early 90s still is his best stuff.

Anonymous said...

Used to be ACLU and SPLC.

Now, they should merge into

ASPLCU

Anonymous said...

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-02-15-census-black-migration_N.htm

If whitest states--with least fear of black crime--tend to be Democratic, even fewer blacks will mean they will become more Democratic... like Maine and Vermont..

But with blacks swelling in the south, the south will become more Democratic.

Harry Baldwin said...

I'm glad things worked out for Tim Jones. I work freelance, and I had a similar experience when one of my clients called me up accidentally when he was drunk. It took me a few minutes for me to realize he clearly meant to call someone else and a few minutes more to get him to understand that. He was clearly embarrassed, but rather in it resulting in a little something extra in my pay envelope it resulted in my not getting any more work from him.

Anonymous said...

As a a former hip hop fan (adolescent phase) this chart is pretty interesting. The rappers fall pretty much according to the IQ of their fanbases, with rappers loved by white hipster/backpacker fans on the far right, and rappers loved by the impovershed ghetto on the far left, with typical best sellers dominating the middle. A few exceptions here and there though.

Anonymous said...

Eminem is seriously not among those on the list?

Anonymous said...

Brother of Michelle Obama reportedly fired as basketball coach at Oregon State

Mr. Anon said...

I wonder how Mr. DMX came by that name? "DMX" sounds like the name of a weapons system or an industrial solvent.

nooffensebut said...

Rap music is usually incredibly stupid. Intelligent rap gets its novelty from its contrast with mainstream rap. None of the somewhat intelligent rap music with which I am familiar appears to be on the list, such as the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, MC Paul Barnum, or nerdcore artists. The guy who made the post was pressured to add Aesop Rock, the one at the top. I had never heard of him, but I like what I’m hearing. A lot of mainstream rap sometimes works as glorified George Clinton remixes, but it is a joke to consider that a new form of music. I recently listened to The Greatest Rap Album of All Time, Illmatic by Nas. It’s sounds canned and banal. Nas literally took the cliché “life’s a bitch, and then you die” and made it into a song title and chorus.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Canibus is West Indian from Jamaica, not the descendant of chattel slaves in the South.

Anonymous said...

I met E-40 once at a Hollywood nightclub. He may use a diverse vocabulary (he invented words like "shizzle," after all) but he did not seem like a particularly bright fellow.

jody said...

he also has the highest number of arrests for driving without a license. 3 or 4 last time i checked. sometimes i wonder, after you've been arrested for driving without a license the second or third time, why don't they just put you in jail for a good long while.

but, as the man said. ya'll gonna make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here.

and we wouldn't want him to lose his mind.

Anonymous said...

I bomb atomically - Socrates philosophies and hypotheses can't define how I be droppin' these mockeries.

"Eminem is seriously not among those on the list?"

Lower middle of the pack.

Mountain Maven said...

Happy to see that I, Taxpayer didn't pay for this study.
Interesting that IMO the greatest rappers ever, RunDMC were at the lower level at about 4000 words. Quantity does not make quality.

Power Child said...

As one of the Anonymouses said, the right side of the chart is indeed dominated by rappers favored by the white hipster crowd. These happen to be the rappers who make what I call "White boy rap," a lot of which I listened to when I was younger.

However, I think they are to rap music what those mangina-wielding barista-impersonators like Arcade Fire are to rock music. So, I have eschewed them in favor of more violent, ignorant, over-the-top rap like that made by Bone Crusher or ODB.

My favorite rap song of all time is by ODB (but produced by The Neptunes) and so I'm pleased to see ODB near the bottom of the Wu Tang list.

DR said...

"Eminem is seriously not among those on the list? "

Top middle, just to the right of the 4,300 word line. Above Cypress Hill and Puff Daddy.

Anonymous said...

>>Peter Akuleyev said...
""""And the largest vocabulary, by a a significant margin, belongs to "Aesop Rock", aka Ian Bavitz. Not a huge surprise.""""


A Sherman by any other name is still the same.

Anonymous said...

Why are we even talking about DMX? lol

Anonymous said...

Speaking of rappers....

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/05/nba-hypocrisy-black-nba-owner-held.html?m=1


Apparently Obama friend and frequent texter Jay Z had an all black party and turned away whites while he was part owner of the Nets.

Anonymous said...

Dark Man X :)

Anonymous said...

"s a a former hip hop fan (adolescent phase)"

How edgy

Anonymous said...

I used to work in retail that catered to low-rent blacks back in late 90's-early 00's, so the then current top-selling black music was blasting from the P.A all day. And DMX really stood out as something unique and original compared to the rest. Sort of like how Snoop Dog and Doc Dre did in the early 90's.

Like Snoop Dog, DMX gave off the impression he wasn't really trying too hard to impress people (while engaging in an activity specifically intended to impress people). My recollection was he had a sort of laid-back quality like Snoop, but after just looking at a video just now, his persona seems to be that of an extremely stressed-out dude. But I guess the trick was he wasn't over-worried in trying to explain to others why he was so stressed and thus achieved that money-making,chart-topping 'don't care' attitude.

But regarding his lyrics: the chorus for his biggest hit "Party Up' really stood out in that they to a large extent used the vocabulary I remember using when I was an inarticulate white adolescent. For instance, in the line "y'all gonna make me go all out", the 'go all out' sounds like total white middle class vocab instead of anything sounding remotely of insular black culture. And while the tag line 'up in here' to the chorus sounds sort of like ghetto slang, it still, when matched with the more white sounding language of the chorus, sounds white enough to stand out as not so insular. And it being sung (or I guessed, actually rapped) by a high-testosterone black guy made it hard to resist to that period's adolescent white male ear.

pat said...

I am reading "12 years a Slave". I'm not reading it very diligently I'll admit because I'm reading several other books at the same time (bad habit).

But I have at least gotten through a couple chapters. I usually read several Amazon reviews when I consider ordering a book. Interestingly most of the reviews for the book are unfavorable because the author's vocabulary is too big. Makes you wonder.

DMX should see if he can get Bill Ayer's to ghost write some of his stuff. Although Ayer's would have to tone down the sea faring references. Maybe he could compromise with something like 'trim the mother f***ing halyard".


Pat Boyle

Anonymous said...

DMX is short for Dark Man X, a more "conscious" prior iteration of his rap identity. More interesting than the aggregation would be comparing vocabulary/variation changes over time. DMX and Ja Rule are both well known for doing enormous amounts of drugs, especially MDMA, Molly, etc.

The real "problem" with this data is that there's no accounting for mix tapes. Lil Wayne has produced over 50 of these and the quality varies greatly depending on what cocktail of drugs he was on at the time.

in Ohio said...

Mr. Anon said...
I wonder how Mr. DMX came by that name? "DMX" sounds like the name of a weapons system or an industrial solvent.


It stands for "Dark Man X." I suppose the x is meant in the algebraic sense, that of an unknown quantity. Malcolm X might also be a reference point.

As for Dark Man, he is both darker-skinned and more macabre than the average rapper.

He's been on the sidelines since his third album, both commercially and personally. He blames the illuminati. Who's to say he's wrong? Gay rumors fly around rap, and DMX is openly hostile (on wax and in person) to down-low brothers. Maybe they're hostile back?

Jason Young said...

You would have trouble convincing me that Drake's model of the world isn't more comprehensive, coherent, and nuanced than GZA's. Oh, and he's half-Jewish, so there.

Looking over Aesop Fable's lyrics on RapGenius, I don't get the sense that he translated his understanding of the world into words. Instead it seems like he started with a theme and a word list and combined the words on the list in a way consistent with the theme. That's fine, lots of people do the same to great effect, but it does inflate the # of unique words used without necessarily increasingly the complexity of what's being said.

Anonymous said...

Aesop Rock is popular with a certain type of white hip hop listener that is found in abundance on the likes of Reddit--namely, nerds. Think Dream Theater for a rock equivalent. Aesop Rock is all of the technical side of hip hop lyricism with none of the essential soul that makes the music appealing in the first place.

Basically he's a massive tryhard.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, Barack! The n*gga's name is Barack. Barack? N*gga named Barack Obama. What the f***, man?! Is he serious? That ain't his f****n’ name. Ima tell this n*gga when I see him, “Stop that bulls**t. Stop that bulls**t” [laughs] “That ain't your f****n' name.” Your momma ain't name you no damn Barack."

Barry must have participated in a large number of such conversations during his community organizing days.

Mr. Anon said...

@in Ohio said...

I now know more about this no-talent then I ever would have wanted to know. Rap is to music what modern art is to art - a perversion and negation of the thing.

Anonymous said...

"DMX has smallest vocabulary of any rapper"

His 'name' doesn't even have vowels.

Dave Pinsen said...

" Think Dream Theater for a rock equivalent. Aesop Rock is all of the technical side of hip hop lyricism with none of the essential soul that makes the music appealing in the first place.

Basically he's a massive tryhard."


Now that's a great analogy. Dream Theater reminds me a bit of the Japanese -- they'll take some Western invention and make it even better with their absurdly high level of craftsmanship. Or like the great ad campaign for the German chemical company BASF ("we don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better."). Led Zeppelin wrote The Rover, Dream Theater made it better.

Just Another Guy With a 1911 said...

"All Jet Li Hollywood movies were crap... His Chinese/Hong Kong work from the 80s and early 90s still is his best stuff."

I never got Jet Li when he first made his entry into Hollywood and
pretty much thought he just couldn't act; case in point: "The One" (which featured a pre "Transporter" Jason Stratham); to me, Li paled in comparison to, say, Jackie Chan, with his slapstick, emotive, and neo-Chaplin Kung-Fu that was broad enough to break the language barrier and caused me to rent every badly dubbed movie he ever was in at the Blockbuster.

As an aside, I think Sammo Hung's CBS prime-time bid for US stardom, "Marshal Law", was actually pretty good; it is remarkable how Sammo, a guy that appears so ungainly that you'd think would have trouble with Velcro sneakers, pulls of some acrobatic wire work and graceful wu-shu. Also - to his credit he never got lazy, i.e., he went all out in IP MAN II; in fact, I seriously thought he was going to kill himself.


But fast forward years later: the Blockbuster is closed, the girl at McDonald's talks to me in Spanish, and for some reason I can't log on to my local BBS with a C-64 and 1200 baud modem to download "warez"; so, at loose ends, I hit the Internets and Netflix commands me to watch: "Warlords". And, since Netflix apparently has a better grasp on what I like than, say, my wife, I watched it and was, like, "jumpin jesus on a pogo stick, what the f*uck"; then Netflix tells me to watch a Li flick where he plays the dying father of son with autism and I was like, "no, dude, really what the f*ck" and cried a bit at some pretty maudlin stuff, including a retard and his giant plastic tortoise. I, mean, really who ever though the Chinese did maudlin? I though they just sold me my Szechuan Wontons and were very polite, but, you know, secretly hated me and planned to take over my country. Still pretty sure they do.

Bottom line, Jet Li has a subtle, deep, and fairly moving acting style that cannot survive really crappy and phonetically pronounced English.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the data, how many so called words where really slang like 'shorty' or worse.

I thought DMX's "Lord Give Me A Sign" was extremely sophisticated for a popular song of any era. So maybe DMX limits himself to words one might find in a pre hip hop dictionary.

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/dmx/lordgivemeasign.html

Jefferson said...

"If whitest states--with least fear of black crime--tend to be Democratic, even fewer blacks will mean they will become more Democratic... like Maine and Vermont..

But with blacks swelling in the south, the south will become more Democratic."

How do you explain hardcore conservative red states like Utah and Idaho for example ? Do Whites in those states vote Republican because they live in close proximity to Obama's sons ?

Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta said...

If the gangsta' rappers can sometimes be phony thugs who conceal a mostly privileged and bourgeois upbringing, I'm looking forward to the gentle black genius pretending to be a dull brute. In this case I'm convinced it's merely accidental genius that DMX is creating noise exactly in the spirit of the times and at the depth and wavelength of the mass of his audience.

Indeed nobody every went broke underestimating the intelligence (or taste) of the American public.

Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta said...

BTW I love the popular misuse of the word pristine. It's incorrect usage is so common by now, perhaps we should accpt a new alternative meaning if the malapropism is more popular than the correct usage.

On another note, I'm not sold that the use of a high falutin' vocabulary is necessarily evidence of a higher intelligence. Everybody is certainly familiar of the abuse of 10 dollar words to affect a false impression of intelligence, when simpler and more direct alternatives exist. Hiding behind advanced vocabulary and opaque prose is often a symptom of pretentious wannabe middlebrow intellect. It shouldn't be necessary to cite examples of crackling simple direct phrasing that leaves quite an impact.

Anonymous said...

>>Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta said...
""""""I'm not sold that the use of a high falutin' vocabulary is necessarily evidence of a higher intelligence. Everybody is certainly familiar of the abuse of 10 dollar words to affect a false impression of intelligence, when simpler and more direct alternatives exist.""""""

I agree. School sucks. Why should we even bother? Gotcha.

Then you should feel right at home with the likes of gangsta rappers, the most dominant of all black rap and certainly the biggest selling rap within the black community. Khia, lil' Kim, and also Azaelea Banks have a fairly limited vocab and tend to rap about only a couple of things, yet the point is made when she cuts her songs. Give it a try and listen to what they have to say and see if you aren't immediately impressed. After all, who says that only men can rap effectively?



"""""Hiding behind advanced vocabulary and opaque prose is often a symptom of pretentious wannabe middlebrow intellect."""""

This was Mumia Jamal's point as well as a young budding Trayvon Martin, per his misunderstood Tweets.

After all, you don't need to use ten dollars to bring your two cents to the public forum table.




""""It shouldn't be necessary to cite examples of crackling simple direct phrasing that leaves quite an impact.""""""

Again, turn on some of black America's most successful rappers. The gangsta meme is among the most successful. Daresay that very few would have a problem not understanding either their intent or their messages contained within their....rhyming poetry(?).

Maxwell Power said...

There was a Japanese tribute/covers band called Cinnamon. Before each song they would shout out a date from an old Led Zeppelin concert, and then play the song precisely to the way it was performed on the corresponding bootleg. Weird gimmick

Modern Abraham said...

Data crunchin' in the original article done by some nerdy white boy rap fan. I honestly cannot imagine anything more abject, disgusting, or degrading than to be a white male fan of rap music. To invest your money, energy, and faculties into a musical form where you can NEVER, EVER be accepted as an equal (notice how Eminem never lets us forget it's OK 'cuz he's with Dre?), and where even as a passive consumer you are alternately beaten up for patronizing violent, nihilistic strains of the music, then beaten up again when you protest over how violent and nihilistic are other strains of that music...

So "data scientist" Matt Daniels uses his >+2SD IQ, computer science and statistics training, and immersion in the high canon of Western civ (Shakespeare, Moby Dick) to tell us that Notorious BIG is actually more eloquent than Ghost Face Killa? That to me is like being trained by the finest French chefs so that one day Ol' Dirty Bastard can bring you his used condoms, say "Do sumthin wid dat, white boy!", and coming back one hour later with one of the finest batches of creme bruleu ever made. Proudly!

Power Child said...

I'd say Blackalicious, more than Aesop Rock, is a true comparison to technically dazzling but artistically shallow prog rockers like Dream Theater.

Blackalicious has a song called "Alphabet Aerobics" and another called "Chemical Calisthenics." In one of those two (I forget which) the tempo increases audibly with each verse, so it's literally an exercise. Though surely not the first in history, Blackalicious were the first rappers I ever heard rap over other time signatures than 4/4.

Aesop Rock, by contrast, is less of a technical wizard and more of a committed surrealist with an occasionally tasteful eye. With the notable exception of one or two Blackalicious songs like "Deep in the Jungle" (another of my favorites), Aesop's songs are consistently more beautiful and dig deeper artistically. See, for example, "Daylight" or "No Regrets".

Aesop Rock, by the way, appears to be half Jewish (by ethnicity--his given name is Bavitz and he looks friggin Jewish). Big surprise there.

Power Child said...

A few comments on some of those other guys:

-Kanye West went to an arts school in the suburbs and his mom was a professor. He lived in China for a while. He was likely a bright young kid, but he's done a fantastic job impersonating a retarded person 24/7/365 since then.

-Ice Cube grew up with parents who were married and employed, which I guess says a lot these days. Anyway, he attended architectural drafting school (not sure if he graduated).

-2Chainz (who I don't think was on that list) finished near the top of his high school class and played basketball in college (though I don't think he did very well).

-Halfrican-Canadian Drake is another on the left side of the chart likely rapping well below his vocabulary potential.

-Purely because nobody seems to have mentioned it yet, here's all you need to know about Insane Clown Posse.

-The others on the list are about where I'd expect.

Tommy Hass said...

"Rap is to music what modern art is to art - a perversion and negation of the thing."

Oh shut up you pharisee. Or was it philistine?

Anonymous said...

I've only listened to one Dream Theater album, "Images and Words", their most acclaimed, and it was corny. Not genuinely bad, but definitely corny. I'm not too enthused about little listening to anything else by them, and I also get the impression many of their fans are plain nerds (but that seems typical for many metal genres.)

Anonymous said...

Vocabulary is overrated. As DMX puts it, "I live on one block but I own the whole street." A similar motif can be discovered in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings in the character of Tom Bombadil.

Anonymous said...

Good to know. Heart this grunting moron about a decade ago and wondered if rap had really sunk so low.