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Hip-Hop Out-Charted Pop By 227 Weeks in 2017

It may come as no surprise, but hip-hop was the most popular genre of music in 2017, by an impressive margin. It was reported earlier in th...

By The Numbers: 50 Cent didn't kill New York Hip-Hop, but did Kanye and Ebro?




Regardless of how vehemently you defend the 5 boroughs (and Jersey), the East Coast hip-hop hub that birthed the genre hasn't been consistently relevant since the mid-2000s. Atlanta came in and dominated throughout the post-piracy and pre-streaming era of 2007-2012, and with the introduction of Spotify, Youtube and Soundcloud, location and geographical barriers to entrance into mainstream hip-hop have been entirely erased. Can you name where Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, or Lil Yachty are from? I can't. And I don't care. But if it were 2001 I'd look at you a little funny if you told me a Queens rapper was going to be working heavily with Dr. Dre.

The Peak, Death, and Tentative Renaissance of New York Hip-Hop



This graph shows the average chart position (Hip-Hop and R&B chart, not Billboard Hot 100 or Billboard 200) of every album and single in the dataset, per year, from 1991 through 2017. The orange line is Albums, the blue line is Singles. The higher the line, the worse the chart position. The "Singles" line is very indicative of the relevance and popularity of a region. Some artists are local legends, but if their song is charting highly in the entire country, they are flying the flag for their region across the entire country. We can see the average chart position of New York singles peaked in 1996 at 24, and then steadily worsened to 82 in 2016. It did remain relatively strong until 2006, whereafter it increased dramatically. Let's not forget 50 Cent had his sales battle with Kanye in 2007...

The albums line is a little more erratic. There have been some watershed years for New York albums, notably 1992 (Das EFX, Redman), 1996 (Busta, De La, Foxy, Fugees, Jay, Mobb Deep, Nas), 1997 (Jay, Nas, CNN, Diddy, Mase, LL,Big), 1999 (Jay, Ja Rule, Meth, Bleek, Mos Def, NORE, Nas), 2001 (Jay, Angie Martinez, AZ, Nas, Ja Rule, Jadakiss, Mobb Deep, Petey Pablo, Redman), and 2002 Jay, Nas, LL, Onyx, NORE, GZA, Cam, Swizz, Styles P). Again, after 2006 the line tends to trend upwards. Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z have flown the flag for the region in the album charts post-2005, with a total of eight number 1 albums between them. 2013 was a great year for New York albums, with A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Jay-Z and even veteran Joe Budden all topping the charts, but the erratic nature of the line makes it hard to argue that the region has fully recovered from the mid-2000s slump (hence the "tentative renaissance"). 

50 Cent didn't kill New York Hip-Hop

















These two graphs show the average hip-hop chart position of singles and albums per year. The blue line consists of all of 50's rivals, artists like Fat Joe, Ja Rule, Jadakiss, Onyx etc. The yellow line is non-rivals and collaborators. The orange line is the entire dataset.

If 50 Cent were the cause of the death of New York hip-hop, the graph would show a big dip in the blue line, dragging the yellow and orange along with it. On the Singles chart the blue line does perform slightly worse than the yellow, although in 2006, when Fif's beef-machine was in full form, his rivals actually performed better on the charts than his collaborators and non-rivals. A beef with 50 Cent wasn't necessarily career suicide during the mid-2000s, despite the stereotype. Unless you were Ja Rule, in which case it was.

The Albums graph proves beyond doubt that 50 Cent didn't kill New York hip-hop. The blue line, his rivals, performs significantly better than both the yellow and the orange. All three lines basically mirror one another. Even New York rappers he was cosigning and working with (G-Unit, Lloyd Banks, Styles P, DMX, Tony Yayo, M.O.P, Mobb Deep, Lil' Kim, LL Cool J etc) were losing relevance between 2004 and 2010. Ebro's claim that 50 Cent "destroyed" New York by not collaborating with locals is not based in fact, as he was collaborating closely with a lot of New York artists during this period, certainly more than Jay-Z or Nas, and oddly, they were actually performing slightly worse than his rivals.


From these charts I conclude 50 Cent did not kill New York hip-hop. 

Did Kanye kill NY hip-hop the day he beat 50 Cent in the sales battle?

Back in 2007, Kanye and 50 Cent, as two of the genre's biggest stars, went toe-to-toe in a first-week sales battle around their respective third albums Graduation and Curtis. Fif actually promised to stop releasing solo albums if he didn't win the battle, such was his confidence. He then lost dramatically. Kanye's record sold 957,000 first week, while 50's Curtis only managed 691,000. Ye's album has subsequently been spoken of as a classic, as experimental and genre-forwarding, and one of the first examples of someone taking the maximal hip-hop/pop being flirted with by other rap stars and pushing it to the absolute limit. And Curtis? It has a metacritic rating of 58, and is widely regarded as the record that signalled the end of 50's run. 



Here is the main graph that showcases the hip-hop/R&B chart position for every single and album in the dataset. The yellow line represents 50's debut record dropping, and the purple line is the sales battle that Fif lost in 2007. While the chart position of New York singles had been slowly worsening since the year 2000, it dropped off even more dramatically from 2006 to 2010. Album chart positions became significantly more erratic, and never again reached the height and consistency of 1996 through 2002. 

It's often been said Kanye killed gangster rap and signalled the rise of the backpack rapper, with Lupe Fiasco and Kid Cudi rising quickly to prominence in the mid to late 2000s. New York has traditionally relied on a street-hardened aesthetic, so it's possible that in "killing" gangster rap, Kanye inadvertently dealt a hammer blow to the East Coast. 

I will conclude that Kanye West had an obvious impact on New York hip-hop

His sales battle and genre-defining work drew rap away from sample-based (which he helped prolong), hard-edged music and set it on the path to EDM collabs and trap beats. Ever since that fateful day in 2007 when 50 Cent lost his sales battle with Graduation, New York hip-hop has struggled to regain a consistent sound or movement. Jay-Z moved well away from gangster rap with 2009's The Blueprint 3 and beyond, Nicki Minaj brought pop-rap back to the fold, French Montana added a melodic element that was more prevalent in the West Coast during the 90s, and artists like Desiigner sounded like they came straight out of Atlanta or the South. Even in 2017, with Cardi B and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie bringing mainstream focus back to New York, there still isn't a definable "East Coast" sound as there was between 1990 and 2006, something the BasedGod himself Lil B is alleged to have alluded to in October 2017. 

What if artists were just getting older and losing relevance due to their age?

This article, entitled "By The Numbers: Ageism In Hip-Hop Doesn't Exist", allows us to dismiss this possibility immediately. 

What if there were simply less popular artists releasing music during this period? 

During this period we received albums from Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, G-Unit, 50 Cent, N.O.R.E, Fabolous, Cam'Ron, C-N-N, Jadakiss, Diddy, Fat Joe, Raekwon, Joe Budden, Nicki Minaj, Busta Rhymes, DMX, Ja Rule, Prodigy, Ghosftace, and numerous other top-tier artists. Below is a list of albums released per-year. NY hip-hop died around 2007, and 2009 was the most prolific year. It actually began to recover around 2011, despite there being less releases. This is not a measurable reason for the loss of relevance and cohesive sound New York experienced during 2007-2017.




What if it were just a drop-off in quality? 







Here is the average critical review score per year for every single album in the dataset. From a peak in 1992 and another in 1996, the score gradually declined, but not to the degree that would indicate there was a definitive answer. I ran a t-test on the data, and there was no statistically significant difference between average critical score of 1996-2004 and 2005-2017, and no strong linear relationship between year and critical score, hence a drop in quality can't be blamed for the death of New York hip-hop. 



Did Ebro and other DJs play a hand?


In 2017, Fif and Ebro are still at each other's necks over who killed NY hip-hop. 50 Cent claims that Ebro wasn't playing local artists enough on his radio show, and Ebro counters "actually, there were a lot of people who had hits during that time". 






This chart shows the amount of top 10 hip-hop/R&B charting singles per year for New York artists since 1990. There is a clear and blatant drop-off after 2004. Songs relied even more heavily on radio airplay during the 2000s to chart, so one reason for this drop could be a lack of DJ support. There are two things that may also contribute: a drop in quality, or a drop in the number of singles released. From the previous heading and chart, it's clear there was no major drop in quality in the music being released by New York artists during this period. The drop in critical review score occurred mainly between 1996 and 2002, which is the most fruitful period for singles and chart positions according to the above graph.



This chart shows no major drop off in the number of singles released. The difference between 2004 and 2005 doesn't fully explain the lack of top 10 singles, and running a correlation analysis between number of singles released and number of top 10 entries yields a correlation coefficient of 0.15, indicating no major linear relationship. 

Therefore, I conclude that Ebro and other New York DJs did contribute to the "death" of New York rap during the mid-2000s, certainly more than 50 Cent, by not playing or promoting singles enough on their radio shows.

Conclusion

These are the hard stats. There is no hiding behind numbers, and numbers don't lie. However, interpretations of charts and figures vary, and the reasons behind certain numbers or figures aren't always clear. My conclusion is that it was Kanye West's defeat of 50 Cent and the direction he took on his third and fourth (808's) albums, alongside local DJs not prioritizing New York music, which  contributed heavily to the loss of relevance that the region experienced during the mid-2000s, a loss of relevance that remains to this day. It wasn't 50 Cent's fault.

For a full breakdown of the method I used, the limitations, and an explanation of who and what is in the dataset, read this article.



The Method: The Peak and Death of Hip-Hop in New York

Method

I gathered the following information about 78 major New York artists and groups from 1990 through 2017:

Albums

  • Album number
  • Average critical review score
  • Sales
  • Billboard 200 chart position
  • Hip-Hop/R&B chart position
  • Release date
  • Age at release date
Singles
  • Name of song
  • Billboard Hot 100 position
  • Billboard hip-hop/R&B chart position
  • Sales (if available)
Down the bottom of this page I've listed every single artist in the dataset. 

Considerations

In order to get a true snapshot of the health of New York hip-hop, I only analysed the hip-hop/R&B chart positions, not the Billboard 200 for albums or the Billboard Hot 100 for singles. Those chart positions are subject to the fortunes of hip-hop as a whole, or impacted by other major releases from all other genres. This article is comparing New York rap to the genre in the rest of the country (or countries when we consider artists like Drake). 

I haven't included any analysis relating to either album or single sales. Album sales are impacted by too many other factors, notably the impact of piracy and the switch to streaming, as explored in this article. The singles sales figures available are incomplete and at times unreliable. They are already tied heavily to chart position, so using chart position alone is enough to gauge relevance and popularity. 

I chose artists based entirely on their popularity and relevance. All New York artists or groups that were relevant and charted well from the period 1990 through 2017 were included.

I decided to begin the analysis at 1990 (although some of the graphs start from 1991, because data for 1990 was scarce). The 90s really saw an explosion in the quantity of popular New York artists, and including data from before then, when less artists were available for analysis, began to skew the data and my correlation coefficients. I think this is a fair representation of New York rap, which hit stratospheric heights in the mid-to-late 90s and bottomed out in the mid-to-late 2000s.

I included New Jersey in the analysis because NJ is as East Coast as anything out of Brooklyn or The Bronx, and Jersey artists are often spoken of in the same breath as those from the 5 boroughs. 

Limitations

I do not have access to radio placements or spin counts. The analysis is ultimately subjective, despite being based on concrete, objective facts and numbers. 

Every artist in the dataset

50 Cent A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie Action Bronson Amil Angie Martinez ASAP Ferg ASAP Mob ASAP Rocky ATCQ AZ Azealia Banks Beastie Boys Big L Big Pun Black Star Busta Rhymes Cam'Ron Cardi B C-N-N Das EFX Dave East De La Soul Desiigner Diddy DMX The Diplomats Fabolous Fat Joe Foxy Brown French Montana Fugees Ghostface Killah G-Unit GZA Ja Rule Jadakiss Jay-Z Jim Jones Joe Budden Joey Badass Juelz Santana Lady Luck Lauryn Hill Lil' Kim Lil Mama LL Cool J Lloyd Banks Mase Method Man Method Man & Red Man Memphis Bleek Mims Mos Def Nas Nicki Minaj NORE Notorious BIG Onyx P.M. Dawn Petey Pablo Public Enemy  Q-Tip Raekwon Redman Remy Ma Run-DMC RZA Salt-n-Pepa Sheek Louch Shyne Slick Rick Styles P Swizz Beatz Terror Squad The LOX Tony Yayo Wu-Tang Clan Wyclef Jean 

If you are interested in this dataset, or any from my previous albums, drop me a DM on my socials and we can work out a fair exchange (money is less important than shares). 


By The Numbers: Tidal does more for music culture than Apple Music and Spotify combined

Tidal



Tidal Launch in USA: 30/03/2015
Culturally Advantageous Actions: 25
Actions per month: 0.81

2015 

  • In August, Tidal live-streamed Lil Wayne's "Lil WeezyAnaFest", a concert commemorating Hurricane Katrina on the 10th anniversary of the tragic event. It turned into a benefit concert. Apple Music allegedly threatened Tidal with a lawsuit if any of Drake's music was featured on the stream. 
  • In October, Tidal hosted its first ever "Tidal X" charity event. The event was designed to celebrate the milestone of 1 million subscribers (in just 4 months), as well as raise money for nonprofit organisations, which turned out to be the New World Foundation, and Sankofa.orgboth of which deal with civil rights and social justice. The concert raised a staggering $1.5 million, mostly coming from ticket sales. The New York Times reported that Tidal also matched "the face value of tickets sold through an official pre-sale, where prices ranged from $74 to $244. That resulted in another $230,000". As AintNoJigga reported, performances from Jay, French Montana, Beyonce, T.I., Damian Marley, Meek Mill, Pusha T, Vic Mensa, Rick Ross, Nick Jonas, Nicki Minaj, Lil' Wayne, Fabolous and a host of others added serious cachet to the event. News outlets still tried to put a negative spin on it. GQ managed to forget entirely to mention it was a charity event. The Verge mentioned it once, in a direct quote lifted from the Tidal press release. Amazingly, it was Complex who delivered the most objective and unbiased review.
  • Tidal Rising launches, in association with Tidal Discovery. From the Rolling Stone article: "Through a partnership with digital distributors Phonofile and Record Union, Discovery will also allow musicians to release their music directly through Tidal à la Bandcamp or Soundcloud. Musicians will be able to select their preferred royalty structure". Tidal Rising helps promote artists who have already established a solid following, but don't have the finances or ability to bankroll further promotion. ChicagoMag contacted an indie artist to discover whether this system worked, and Lili K said it was more helpful to her career than Spotify or Itunes. 
  • Tidal and Jay-Z partnered with Lil Wayne to release the Free Weezy Album, to circumnavigate Wayne's label troubles with Cash Money boss Birdman. It was reported that Birdman then tried to sue Tidal for $50 million, although Tidal denied this. Tidal hosted the album despite the threat of legal action from Cash Money Records.
  • Amidst a maelstrom of bad press, Jack White and Jay-Z personally call Tidal subscribers to thank them for their support
  • In May of 2015, Tidal linked up with Prince to stream (for free, for everyone, not just Tidal subscribers) his "Rally 4 Peace" concert, a benefit concert in Baltimore to raise money for the Baltimore Justice Fund. Tidal also hosted a donation service during the live stream, so that any viewer could quickly and easily contribute. Tidal matched every dollar donated, and also publicly supported the Baltimore Justice Fund.
  • Tidal B-Sides Concert: Jay performed two exclusive shows in May 2015 which was free to Tidal subscribers who were selected via a playlist competition. Jay performed numerous tracks he rarely ever plays live, and even coaxed Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Freeway to all perform together on stage for the first time in nearly a decade. 
  • Tidal partners with Ticketmaster to provide exclusive pre-sale events and experiences for subscribers. 
  • Summer Jam 2015 is live-streamed via Tidal
  • Tidal partners with major independent artist distribution organisations TuneCore, Distrokid, Phonofile and Record Union to make it even easier for independent artists to upload their music to the platform. 
  • Usher's "Break The Chains" initiative. 
  • Live stream of Jay's Made in America festival, available to everyone, not just subscribers. Tidal Rising artists performed on the "Tidal" stage. 
2016

2017
  • Tidal X: Brooklyn. A benefit concert to deliver funds to the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Artists: Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Daddy Yankee, Yo Gotti, A$AP Ferg, Vic Mensa, Fifth Harmony, Joey Bada$$, Willow Smith, Belly, Iggy Azalea.
  • Tidal donates 200,000 pounds of relief supplies to Peurto Rico.
  • Tidal X: Vic Mensa Hurricane Relief Benefit, Los Angeles and New York. Tidal facilitated donations via the live-stream.
  • 1Million Project, collaboration with Sprint "that will connect 1 million low-income US high school students who don't have internet access at home to help level the playing field and eliminate the 'homework gap'". 
  • Made In America festival, free live stream (not just for Tidal subscribers)
This list isn't exhaustive, but it's close. Compare that to the major rivals.

Spotify

Established (USA): 1st July, 2011
Culturally Advantageous Actions: 19
Actions per month: 0.25

2011

None.

2012
2013
2014
  • Guilty-Pledgers app. "...requires party hosts to sign in using Facebook, then open up a party playlist. Friends can then pledge a minimum of £2 to any of a range of charities – more than 13,000 available on the Just Giving website – in return for adding tracks of their choice to the playlist. It’s the first fundraising app to be launched on Spotify." I didn't find any information about how much money was raised or what happened to the initiative. 
  • Merchandise section allows artists to sell their merch directly to the consumer via their profile page. 
2015
  • Spotify travels to Philippines to distribute hearing aids "and free music" to communities who are unable to afford them. 
  • Spotify produces a number of hearing loss public service announcements to bring awareness to the damage that loud music can do to a persons ability to hear in the future. 
  • Spotify partners with StubHub to better inform listeners about events and concerts in their area. This promotes bands by delivering information directly to consumers based on location
2016
2017
Apple Music

Established in the USA in June 2015
Culturally Advantageous Actions: 6
Actions per month: 0.21


2015
2016
  • Apple Music removes white supremacist and neo-Nazi music from the service, and "bans white power tracks". "We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality"
  • Partnership with Verizon to offer discounts on Apple Music if users are willing to divulge more personal tracking data

Tidal wins by an almost unbelievable margin

Spotify and Apple Music combined match up to Tidal's contribution to the culture, but if you look at these contributions, I've been very generous to both Spotify and Apple Music. I've included things like Apple Music giving their employees a 9 month free subscription, or Spotify donating $50,000 worth of old sound equipment to a school. When you compare that with the millions of dollars Tidal has raised for multiple different groups in society, it's even less of a contest.

Now, you may make the argument that Apple Music is part of Apple, and they do a mind-boggling amount of charitable things. Very true! But I haven't included Jay-Z's charitable endeavours either, and as AintNoJigga reported recently, that list is vast. When you also consider Tidal is part-owned by Beyonce, Kanye, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Coldplay, Jack White, Rihanna, and a number of others, all of whom have their own philanthropic footprint, the difference between Apple and Tidal in terms of overall contribution is incredibly difficult to calculate. It's much more appropriate to focus on the services themselves.

Spotify aren't even close.


And yet Tidal has endured a fearsome and perplexing smear campaign, propagated either by mainstream media or, as Jay-Z himself alluded to, a "big company" "spending millions" to drag the service at every turn. The evidence is pretty damning. Billboard published this headline in 2015:
'Tidal Blew It': All the Artists That Have Hammered Tidal
 The article then lists Mumford & Sons, Lily Allen, Ben Gibbard, and a slightly unrelated quote from Haxan Cloak. The implication in the headline is that a slew of artists have criticised the company, when in actual fact it was just 4, a tiny number compared to all the artists that endorsed it at launch, and one of them, Marcus Mumford, retracted his criticism mere weeks later, although you won't find his words on any of the major music sites. Not sure why, maybe they just didn't feel the need to print this:
I ended up having a conversation with Jay Z about it. He was gracious enough to give me a ring. And I get it much better now. He’s trying to create a sort of farmers’ market for music. It’s sort of an old-school record store. Which I like, now that I understand the vision.
We could list critical headlines for days, it seems as though every time Tidal does something, anything, there has to be a negative spin on it. This article by Brian Bush even managed a negative angle to Jay and Beyonce's philanthropic endeavours regarding the bail money they provided protesters during the Baltimore protests, the money they donated to the Black Lives Matter movement, and Beyonce's trip to Haiti to meet with earthquake victims.
...the cynic within me wonders about the timing: Is the recent string of social activism genuine? Or is it merely an attempt to buoy Jay-Z's struggling music streaming service
There are even more blatant contradictions. When Taylor Swift pulled her music off Spotify in 2014 in protest of the "free-tier", healines like "Taylor Swift vs. Spotify: Why Music Should Not Be Free" popped up everywhere. Her subsequent "war on streaming platforms" had her hailed as a "saviour" for streaming services, with Time even publishing this headline:

How Taylor Swift Saved Apple Music

 That headline was published June 30, 2015, and was in response to Taylor demanding Apple pay artists during the 3 month free-trial period, something that Apple Music should have been doing in the first place.

Here's a line from an article on the same website (Time.com), just over a month prior to that headline, with regards to Tidal:
The spate of bad press Tidal has received since it launched is mostly its own doing. The optics of the launch event, with music's biggest wealthiest stars on stage begging fans to spend more on music, couldn't have been worse.
And while Spotify was, and still is, criticised for offering a free tier, Tidal is criticised for being too expensive, despite being exactly the same price as both Apple Music and Spotify. Lossless audio is more expensive, but no-one is forcing you to buy a lossless subscription...

And don't forget, Tidal pays artists significantly more than the competition. According to Forbes, Tidal is the second highest payer per stream (behind Napster), at $0.0110, with Apple Music paying just $0.0064 and Spotify a woeful $0.0038.

Guess what? There is now no excuse not to have a Tidal subscription. They have all the same basic features of Spotify and Apple Music, they have more exclusive content, they have more music videos, more podcasts, more live streaming events, and they do more for the culture than the other two put together.

If you care about music culture, if you care about artists, if you care about the causes that Tidal supports (ending police brutality, achieving racial and gender equality, providing relief for victims of natural disasters etc etc), there is genuinely no argument you can make that Spotify, Apple Music, or any of the other streaming services for that matter, are better than Tidal. 





By The Numbers: Which Rapper Mentions Themselves The Most?



Which rapper do you think explicitly references themselves the most?  I decided to analyse the discographies of the top-tier artists from Kendrick's generation to see just who is the most prolific self-promoter. And the result?

Nicki Minaj

Here is a graph that displays just how far ahead Nicki is from the rest of her competition. These are total mentions as a percentage of total words in a rapper's discography:




1. Nicki Minaj (11.5%)
2. Kid Cudi (10.1%)
3. Big Sean (9.9%)
4. Future (9.9%)
5. Drake (9.7%)
6. J. Cole (9.0%)
7. Kanye West (8.5%)
8. A$AP Rocky (8.4%)
9. Jay-Z (8.0%)
10. Kendrick Lamar (8.0%)
11. Chance The Rapper (6.5%)

11.5% of Nicki's album raps are explicit references to herself.

Here is a link to the sister article, the hard stats of each artist in the data-set. 

Nicki's stats:
  • Three albums. 17,665 words. 2026 explicit references to herself
  • A self-reference every 8.78 words
  • 42.87 self-references per song
  • An average of 371.55 words per song
  • On "Right By My Side" she referenced herself every 3.5 words, or 28% of the song
  • Her most word-laden song is "All Things Go", at 718 words, with 67 self-references
Here is a pie chart that shows the breakdown of how Nicki references herself:


"I": 1262
"Me": 299
Third Person: 63
"My": 255
"You": 138
"Mine": 0

The Criteria:
  • Analyse every track on an album's standard version. No deluxe editions (gets too messy and confusing with remixes and what not) and no mixtapes or guest spots (I'd be analysing the rest of my life). No collaborative albums either, because they skew the figures.
  • I counted the following categories: "me", "I", "you" (examples: "Kill Jay-Z", "u"), "mine", "my", third person
  • Only explicit references, not descriptions ("The man", "The boss"), not allusions, and anything ambiguous I didn't include. When a rapper tells a story from another persons perspective ("Meet The Parents" by Jay-Z, "Immortal by J. Cole), the references aren't included. I also distinguished between ownership and description with regards to my. "My city", "my mom", "my crew" are not included, but "my bars", "my flow", "my career" are. 
  • I did a word count of every song, but only the words that primary artist sings or raps
  • I chose artists that were in the same era or "school"
  • Jay-Z and Kanye were chosen simply because they are well known for referencing themselves prolifically, and are good benchmarks to compare to
  • I couldn't analyse every single artist. Mac Miller and Meek Mill are two I left off that could have been included, but I had a cursory glance at their best tracks and they weren't prolific enough to beat Nicki

But What About Kanye? Or Jay-Z?

The Throne is notorious for self-references. Yet Kanye ranked 7th on this list, and Jay-Z 9th. Ahead of them were Nicki, Cudi, Big Sean, Future, Drake, and J. Cole. 
  • Kanye references himself in 8.5% of his rhymes. Jay-Z 8%
  • Kanye self-references every 11.92 words, Jay-Z every 12.62
  • Kanye references himself on average 449 times per album, and 28 times per song. Jay-Z is 575 per album, and 38 per song
  • I haven't included Watch The Throne in the analysis because collab albums skew the data (word counts and mentions per-song). I did analyse it separately. Kanye: self-reference every 12.4 words. Jay-Z self reference every 11.6 words.  
In terms of  who performed more on Watch The Throne:



Jay-Z is still the master of the third person reference (but only just)

Jay likely has the most nicknames and monikers in hip-hop history. As a result, and not unexpectedly, he is the most prolific third person self-referencer (10.49% of all his self-references are third person), but A$AP Rocky is a close second (9.96%).






Kendrick refers to himself in the third person the least, with a mere 0.09% of his lyrics, or a third person reference every 1117 words, compared with Jay-Z's 119 words and Rocky's 120 words. Kanye, despite tracks like "I Love Kanye" (which featured a third person reference every 5.4 words, or 18.4% of the song), places third, but quite a long way behind Rocky and Jay.

Which Rapper References Themselves The Least? 

Chance The Rapper is the least prolific self-promoter in this data set. He mentions himself every 15.3 words, or 6.5% of his rhymes. Kendrick is next, at every 12.88 words or 8.05%, and Jay-Z is third least, amazingly, with just 8% of his lyrics self-references.

What about individual albums? 

Top 15:




Bottom 15:


  • Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday has the highest proportion of self-references. Nicki references herself explicitly on 12.7% of the record, or once every 7.9 words. 
  • Kendrick's Section.80 has the lowest proportion of self-references at just 6.3%, or once every 16 words.
  • The Life of Pablo was Kanye's highest placing album at 12th (10.1%). Yeezus came 31st, with 8.73%. Late Registration was 47th, at 7.50%. There were only 8 albums below it. 
  • American Gangster was Jay-Z's highest placing album, way down at 19th place. And The Blueprint ran third last! Just 6.7% of Jay's only double album was devoted to self-referencing. Amazingly, 4:44, largely heralded as his most personal record, came 49th, with 7.4%. 

And individual songs?

Top 15 tracks (percentage of words as self-reference):



Bottom 15 tracks (percentage of words as self-reference):


  • Nicki Minaj's "Right By My Side" takes the top spot. She raps 437 words on that track for 126 self-references, a staggering 28.8%, or every 3.4 words. "I" accounts for 107 mentions alone.
  • Kanye's "I Love Kanye" is mighty close, but it's a skit. He mentions himself 39 times in 136 words, 25 of those in the third person.
  • There are only two tracks in the entire data set that have no self-references from the primary artist. "We Aite (Wake Your Mind Up)" by Kid Cudi, and "The R.O.C." by Jay-Z, although the latter track Jay only performs the hook. 
  • There are 31 tracks in which the primary artist has no lines. These are mostly skits and guest performances (think "4422" on More Life or "Holla" on The Dynasty).
  • "Last Call" has the most words by the primary artist of the entire data set, thanks to Kanye's huge spoken word outro. It's 2562. There are 4 others over 1000 words: "Note To Self" (Cole), "Sing About Me" (Kendrick), "Mortal Man" (Kendrick), "4 Your Eyez Only" (Cole). 


By The Numbers: How Often Do Rappers Mention Themselves? (Hard Stats)

1st: Nicki Minaj (11.5% of all words)
  • Three albums. 17,665 words. 2026 explicit references to herself
  • A self-reference every 8.78 words
  • 42.87 self-references per song
  • An average of 371.55 words per song
  • On "Right By My Side" she referenced herself every 3.5 words, or 28% of the song
  • Her most word-laden song is "All Things Go", at 718 words, with 67 self-references
Here is a pie chart that shows the breakdown of how Nicki references herself:


"I": 1262
"Me": 299
Third Person: 63
"My": 255
"You": 138
"Mine": 0

2nd: Kid Cudi (10.1% of all words)

  • 5 albums. 27,779 words. 2805 self-references
  • A self-reference every 9.89 words
  • 30.81 self-references per song
  • An average of 305 words per song
  • An average of 5555 words per album
  • An average of 561 mentions per album
  • "Insides Out" the most prolific song, at 20.9%, or a mention every 4.79 words
  • "We Aite" is his least prolific, with zero mentions
  • "Cudi Zone" has his highest word count at 578

"I": 1752
"Me": 393
Third Person: 115
"My": 476
"Mine": 7
"You": 62

3rd: Big Sean (9.9% of all words)
  • 4 albums. 25,201 words. 2502 mentions
  • A self-reference every 10.07 words
  • 47.37 references per song
  • An average of 477 words per song
  • An average of 6300 words per album
  • An average of 625.5 mentions per album
  • Most prolific: "First Chain", 14.6% or a mention every 6.8 words
  • "I Know" least prolific, with 0.4%, or every 22.3 words
  • Most words in a song: "Win Some, Lose Some": 802

"I": 1621
"Me": 365
Third Person: 44
"My": 281
"Mine": 28
"You": 163


4th: Future (9.9% of all words)

  • 6 albums. 45423 words. 4504 mentions
  • A self-reference every 10.1 words
  • 52.46 references per song
  • An average of 528 words per song
  • An average of 7571 words per album
  • An average of 751 mentions per album
  • Most prolific: "Groupies" with 20% or a mention every 5 words
  • Least prolific: "Selfish" with 0.2% or a mention every 60 words
  • Most words in a song: "Sorry" with 980



"I": 3013
"Me": 678
Third Person: 163
"My": 509
"Mine": 6
"You": 135

5th: Drake (9.7% of all words)


  • 6 albums. 45013 words. 4347 mentions.
  • A self-reference every 10.3 words
  • 42 references per song
  • An average of 420 words per song
  • An average of 7502 words per album
  • An average of 725 mentions per album
  • Most prolific: "Glow" with 18.1% or a mention every 5.5 words
  • Least prolific: "The Real Her" at 0.4% or a mention every 27 words
  • Most words in a song: "6PM In New York" with 912


"I": 2824
"Me": 819
Third Person: 73
"My": 411
"Mine": 14
"You": 206


6th: J. Cole (9.0% of all words)

  • 4 albums. 32260 words. 2900 mentions
  • A self-reference every 11.12 words
  • 54 references per song
  • An average of 604 words per song
  • An average of 8065 words per album
  • An average of 725 mentions per album
  • Most prolific: "St. Tropez" at 25.3% or a mention every 3.9 words
  • Least prolific: "Never Told" at 0.3% or a mention every 35 words
  • Most words in a song: "Note To Self" with 2332



"I": 1664
"Me": 451
Third Person: 183
"My": 384
"Mine": 12
"You": 206


7th. Kanye West (8.5% of all words)

  • 7 albums. 37064 words. 3143 mentions
  • A self-reference every 11.9 words
  • 28.35 references per song
  • An average of 336 words per song
  • An average of 5295 words per album
  • An average of 449 mentions per album
  • Most prolific: "I Love Kanye" at 28.7% or a mention every 3.5 words
  • Least prolific: "Crack Music" at 0.02% or a mention every 415 words
  • Most words in a song: "Last Call" with 2562



"I": 2002
"Me": 452
Third Person: 241
"My": 359
"Mine": 14
"You": 75


8th: A$AP Rocky (8.3% of all words)

  • 2 albums. 11,514 words. 964 mentions
  • A self-reference every 12.2 words
  • 28.9 references per song
  • An average of 348 words per song
  • An average of 5757 words per album
  • An average of 482 self-references per album
  • Most prolific: "Excuse Me" at 14.3% or a mention every 7 words
  • Least prolific: "West Side" at 0.3% or a reference every 36.9 words
  • Most words in a song: "Jukebox Joints" with 652


"I": 482
"Me": 147
Third Person: 96
"My": 213
"Mine": 1
"You": 25

9th: Jay-Z (8% of total words)

  • 13 albums. 93,342 words. 7473 self-references
  • A self-reference every 12.62 words
  • 38.7 references per song
  • An average of 481 words per song
  • An average of 7180 words per album
  •  575 self references per album
  • Most prolific: "A Dream" with  17.3% or a mention every 5.8 words
  • Least prolific: "The R.O.C." with zero mentions
  • Most words in a song: "Come and Get Me" with 989 words


"I": 3985
"Me": 1294
Third Person: 784
"My": 1021
"Mine": 53
"You": 336

10th. Kendrick Lamar (8% of all words)

  • 4 albums. 33517 words. 2682 mentions
  • A self-reference every 12.88 words
  • 47 mentions per song
  • An average of 585 words per song
  • And average of 8379 words per album
  • And average of 671 mentions per album
  • Most prolific: "u" at 19.9% or a self-reference every 5 words
  • Most words in a track: "Sing About Me" with 1668 words


"I": 1474
"Me" 455
Third Person: 30
"My": 500
"Mine": 5
"You": 218

11. Chance The Rapper (6.5% of all words)

  • 1 album. 4472 words. 292 mentions
  • A self-reference every 15.3 words
  • 298 words per song
  • 292 mentions per album
  • An average of 585 words 
  • Most prolific: "No Problem" (307th) with 0.8% or a mention every 12.6 words
  • Least prolific: "Same Drugs" with 0.2% or a self-referenceevery 41 words
  • Most words in a song: No Problem at 503 words
"I": 178
"Me": 57
Third Person: 12
"My": 39
"Mine": 0
"You": 6


Statistics related to "I", "Me", "You", "Mine", "My" and Third Person




Albums:

1. Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday (12.72%, a mention every 7.86 words, 51 mentions per song)
2. Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (11.71%, a mention every 8.54 words, 40.7 mentions per song)
3. Future - Honest (11.39%, a mention every 8.78 words, 52.6 mentions per song)
4. Kid Cudi - Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven (10.83%, a mention every 9.23 words, 20 mentions per song)
5. Kid Cudi - MOM: The End of Day (10.81%, a mention every 9.25 words, 43.46 mentions per song)
6. Big Sean - I Decided (10.61%, a mention every 9.42 words, 54 mentions per song)
7. Drake - Thank Me Later (10.61%, a mention every 9.42 words, 50 mentions per song)
8. Future - DS2 (10.43%, a mention every 9.58 words, 61 mentions per song)
9. Kid Cudi - MOM II (10.38%, a mention every 9.63 words, 32 mentions per song)
10. Drake - More Life (10.27%, a mention every 9.74 words, 27 mentions per song)
11. Future - Future (10.16%, a mention every 9.84 words, 59 mentions per song)
12. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (10.11%, a mention every 9.89 words, 27 mentions per song)
13. Big Sean - Finally Famous (10.10%, a mention every 9.9 words, 40.5 mentions per song)
14. Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint (10.06%, a mention every 9.94 words, 36 mentions per song)
15. Future - Pluto (9.97%, a mention every 10.03 words, 46 mentions per song)
16. Kid Cudi - Indicud (9.95%, a mention every 10.05 words, 26 mentions per song)
17. Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late (9.77%, a mention every 10.23 words, 49 mentions per song)
18. Big Sean - Dark Sky Paradise (9.72%, a mention every 10.29 words, 55 mentions per song)
19. Jay-Z - American Gangster (9.64%, a mention every 10.37 words, 42 mentions per song)
20. Drake - VIEWS (9.60%, a mention every 10.42 words, 39 mentions per song)
21. Jay-Z - The Black Album (9.42%, a mention every 10.61 words, 55 mentions per song)
22. J. Cole - Born Sinner (9.33%, a mention every 10.72 words, 52 mentions per song)
23. Drake - Take Care (9.33%, a mention every 10.72 words, 43 mentions per song)
24. Big Sean - Hall of Fame (9.29%, a mention every 10.77 words, 41 mentions per song)
25. Future - HNDRXX (9.15%, a mention every 10.92 words, 47 mentions per song)
26. J. Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only (9.11%, a mention every 10.97 words, 56 mentions per song)
27. A$AP Rocky - At.Long.Last.A$AP (9.08%, a mention every 11.01 words, 32 mentions per song)
28. Kid Cudi - Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' (8.83%, a mention every 11.33 words, 31 mentions per song)
29. J. Cole - Cole World: Sideline Story (8.83%, a mention every 11.33 words, 45 mentions per song)
30. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (8.75%, a mention every 11.43 words, 56 mentions per song)
31. Kanye West - Yeezus (8.73%, a mention every 11.45 words, 28 mentions per song)
32. J. Cole - Forest Hills Drive 2014 (8.72%, a mention every 11.47 words, 64 mentions per song)
33. Jay-Z - Vol. 3 (8.70%, a mention every 11.49 words, 53 mentions per song)
34. Future - EVOL (8.69%, a mention every 11.5 words, 49.41 mentions per song)
35. Drake - Nothing Was The Same (8.69%,  a mention every 11.5 words, 42 mentions per song)
36. Kanye West - College Dropout (8.67%,  a mention every 11.5 words, 35 mentions per song)
37. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city (8.66%,  a mention every 11.54 words, 62 mentions per song)
38. Jay-Z - The Blueprint (8.60%, a mention every 11.63 words, 49 mentions per song)
39. Jay-Z - Magna Carta, Holy Grail (8.59%, a mention every 11.64 words, 24 mentions per song)
40. Kanye West - Graduation (8.58%, a mention every 11.65 words, 34 mentions per song)
41. Jay-Z - Kingdom Come (8.56%, a mention every 11.7 words, 45 mentions per song)
42. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (8.06%, a mention every 12.4 words, 26 mentions per song)
43. Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (7.97%, a mention every 12.54 words, 34 mentions per song)
44. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN. (7.95%, a mention every 12.57 words, 42 mentions per song)
45. Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreaks (7.58%, a mention every 13.2 words, 25 mentions per song)
46. Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt (7.54%, a mention every 13.26 words, 32.5 mentions per song)
47. Kanye West - Late Registration (7.50%, a mention every 13.34 words, 24 mentions per song)
48. A$AP Rocky - LONG.LIVE.A$AP (7.50%, a mention every 13.34 words, 25 mentions per song)
49. Jay-Z - 444 (7.40%, a mention every 13.5 words, 31 mentions per song)
50. Jay-Z - Dynasty: Roc La Familia (7.24%, a mention every 13.81 words, 27 mentions per song)
51. Jay-Z - In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (7.04%, a mention every 14.2 words, 40 mentions per song)
52. Jay-Z - Vol 2... Hard Knock Life (6.90%, a mention every 14.5 words, 39 mentions per song)
53. Jay-Z - The Blueprint 2 (6.74%, a mention every 14.84 words, 32 mentions per song)
54. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book (6.53%, a mention every 15.31 words, 19 mentions per song)
55. Kendrick Lamar - Section.80 (6.26%, a mention every 15.98 words, 29 mentions per song)



Limitations:

  • You can think of the data-set as a sample. I haven't analysed mixtapes, loosies, deluxe edition songs, or guest spots. To do that would take a long time. 
  • I have included hooks and spoken word outros. They are part of an artists discography, so I believe they should be included.
  • I haven't got the time to analyse every single rapper in this class. Meek Mill and Mac Miller are two rappers I'd have included if I had more time, but I did a cursory analysis of their popular songs and they would have fallen back in the middle of the pack, so I didn't see much point.
  • I did this all by hand. No algorithms or programs or anything. I cut and pasted every word the main artist raps into a word-count website, and counted each individual reference myself. Some mentions are ambiguous, and generally I do not include phrases or words I am on the fence about. It has to be an explicit reference. 



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