Speed Reads

Words rule everything around me

Proof Wu-Tang Clan is the best lyrical hip hop act

IAN GAVAN/Getty Images

Who has the biggest vocabulary in hip hop? Or, more accurately, who uses the most unique words in their rhymes?

The answer, according to data analyst and coder Matt Daniels, is Aesop Rock. But close behind him is Wu-Tang's GZA, while fellow Clan members Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Method Man all crack the top 20. And the group as a whole came in at No. 6 on the list, which is indicative of the fact that, top to bottom, they're the most lyrical hip hop act around.

To arrive at the rankings, Daniels looked at the first 35,000 lyrics — roughly three to five albums-worth — for given rappers and groups, and then identified the number of unique words used. Daniels admits it's not "perfect," noting his problems in assessing compound words and in counting various pronunciations of what are basically the same words, like "shorty" and "shawty."

Still, the whole graphic is fascinating. An interesting observation: Insane Clown Posse beat out 2Pac, Kanye West, and a bunch of other rappers you wouldn't expect. Kudos to the Dark Carnival barkers. Now if only they could figure out how magnets work.