Some of you may know that I have an unabashed love for RapGenius, the website that lets you annotate rap lyrics. One day I’ll write a whole post explaining why you should like them too. For now, you just need to know that they’ve launched something called RapStats.
“We introduce Rap Stats, a tool to plot the frequency of words appearing in rap songs from 1988 through the present day. … Rap Stats lets you explore, in surprising detail, the histories of regional genres, slang, trends, and more. For example, the entire history of Southern rap’s rise to commercial dominance can be told in one word — and that word is crunk.”
So, obviously, I tried science.
First, the bad news: Rap songs about “science” are on the decline.
I searched for a few different fields of science. “Chemistry” is the one referenced most often. This is probably thanks to both drugs and sexual chemistry, two popular musical topics. However, I was a little surprised to find that “physics” is beating “biology.”
I tried tossing in some other popular science terms. This is where it gets interesting to look at changes over time. For example, “DNA” has been on a fairly steady climb ever since the mid-90s. I’m guessing that has to do with the acceleration of technology that can study and learn from DNA. (Fun fact: The first genome was sequenced in 1996.)
Near the bottom, you can see the “god particle” creeping into public consciousness.
But guess what? All of these words were totally crushed by “species,” which suddenly spikes in 2010. If anyone has any guesses as to why that happens, I’d be interested to hear them.
Astronomy terms like “aliens,” “outer space,” and “universe” all seem to ebb and flow in unison. Maybe the timing is tied to certain NASA missions?
Finally, I popped in a couple of famous scientists. Einstein reigns supreme, although it looks like all of the scientists have fallen in and out of fashion.