For his Creative Capital project, Hip Hop Word Count, Tahir Hemphill created a searchable database of lyrics from over 50,000 hip hop songs spanning 1979 to the present day. Drawing on a dataset that locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile and cultural reference used in the corpus of hip hop, the Hip Hop Word Count data visualization series produces and charts textual views of searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.
Tahir used information gleaned from his hip hop database to create a series of work on view in the exhibition at California College of the Art, entitled “Mapper’s Delight.” Through 3D printed sculptures, screenprints, drawings, book projects, and an interactive Virtual Reality experience, the exhibition investigates the role systems play in the generation of form and how the data drawn from a linguistic analysis of hip hop reveal a layer of aesthetics that are music related yet non-musical. In conjunction with the exhibition, Hemphill will lead his Rap Research Lab in collaboration with local youth, and he will give an artist talk on September 28 at CCA.
“People should care about data,” Tahir told us in our Artist Profile video. “People should care about the ethics of data. Especially data that’s extracted from the community. Questioning what the relationship or ownership of that data is helps create a sensitivity for the culture.”