White Guys Rap Like This. Black Guys Rap Like This.

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You guys ever notice how white guys rap like this.  But black guys rap like this?  I’ve noticed this.  But am I noticing sonic aspects of the raps or qualities based on the actual lexical content?  Well, I’m not sure.  There have to be certain trends in word usage that can be measured, right?  For example, I’m sure the word {‘nigger‘} is almost exclusively limited to songs by black guys.  Not sure if there are any exclusive ‘white’ words, since white artists probably don’t own any kind of similar exclusivity to lexical items.  (They just own the labels making the records amiright?)

Anyways, no reason we can’t look at this scientifically.  All you really have to do is get good enough datasets for ‘white’ raps and ‘black’ raps.  Mathematically, of course, {Black} ∩  {White} = ∅ ⇔ One-drop Rule.  So, once we have these two datasets we can run some cool machine learning algorithms to train a computer to identify specific ‘white’ and ‘black’ characteristics.

So, what are some words that display dominant ‘black’ characteristics?  Here are 20 random distinctly ‘black’ words:

mane
beginnin
mink
houston
flav
plaques
hustlers
shorty
witchu
impala
youse
doh
cooler
tee
coupe
nigger
hatas
olde
reppin
moet

Awesome, and slightly offensive, I think.  What about 20 random distinctly ‘white’ words:

ninja
blang
rotting
planting
goals
serpents
nuggets
magnet
reckon
eyeball
fixture
puppet
obnoxious
derelict
barge
evident
doubled
closing
decapitated
intestines

One obvious observation is that these ‘white’ words don’t seem to have the same common spelling mistakes (I pulled this data straight off lyrics websites) that the ‘black’ list has.  Also, the ‘white’ words are about 30% longer on a syllable basis, on average.  But those observations are pretty inert.  Make whatever inferences you will from these stats but there’s no denying that there is a noticeable difference between the two lists.

Certain common words like {‘the‘,’i‘,’and‘} are just as likely to appear in either texts and the farther the deviation from 50% we get, the more ‘likely’ a word is to be ‘black’ or ‘white’.  For example, the most ‘black’ word is, obviously, {‘nigger‘} and the most ‘white’ word is {‘morbid‘} (not including words that are counted as artist names).

So, once we train the dataset, we can start inputting new lyrics and finding the overall score of some new songs.  Using Kanye’s rapping verses from Gold Digger we find that it is undoubtedly classified as ‘black’.  Kanye’s the poster-boy for lots of post-black sensibilities; the fetish for high fashion comes at the expense of perceived aggression, in my opinion.  So, what are some words from Kanye’s first verse that classifies his style as distinctly ‘black’?

baby
louis
vuitton
roc
lopez
busta
none
yo
crib
money
18th
shorty
holla
benz

Outside of the word {‘none‘}, this list seems to flow logically.  Gold Digger is a cool case study because Kanye is making observations of the community in a detached manner (4th wall?) but manages to keep his word usage precise and reflective of a history before him.

 So far, I’ve attacked this problem from a purely statistical point of view.  Using a corpus of ‘white’ lyrics and a corpus of ‘black’ lyrics, we can do a pretty good job of ‘race’ classification without much work.

The good thing about a ‘black’/’white’ approach is that it’s a binary observation; we don’t have to decide what category to put a song in.  Whereas to go a few steps down the line in this same mode of thinking, we could start to classify along multiple, intersecting dimensions like ‘Gangster’ or ‘Love’ songs.  The problem is, obviously, that we can’t definitively say that these are binary distinctions since it’s really not difficult to find examples of songs that cross these ‘lines’ all the time.

I put a user-friendly version online here if anyone wants to input verses and make little inferences*.  Please feel free to use the comments section to talk about any verses or to email me at liban.aliyusuf@gmail.com to talk about any of these.

Twitter.com/LibanAli

* For instances where both the ‘Black’ and ‘White’ scores are below a certain threshold (~5.0), there might be mistakes.

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4 thoughts on “White Guys Rap Like This. Black Guys Rap Like This.

  1. […] it occurred to me looking at some of the numbers that are the basis for my new ‘race’ classification tool that most of the high-probability ‘black’ words seem to have g-dropping.  I gathered […]

  2. […] ran both their passages through my race classification tool and Chas scored way higher on the ‘white’ side than […]

  3. […] will shit-talk the fact that your ‘white’ score is so high or that you G-Drop so often.  This will prove that rap isn’t a thing you […]

  4. […] guy raps HELLA WHITE.  Using the race classification tool, he scored about as high as possible on the ‘white’ side as possible (14.49 White to […]

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