Tahir Hemphill

Tahir Hemphill

Independent Scholar


Tahir Hemphill is an award-winning creative director, multimedia artist and creative researcher. Hemphill’s process explores the vicinity between the profound and the profane, between art and science.

His artwork was featured in the 2011 Talk to Me exhibit at MoMA which explores design and the communication between people and objects. Hemphill's work has been exhibited at Siggraph (Siggraph 2002); Queens Museum of Art (Queens International Biennial, 2002) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Black New York Photographers of the Twentieth Century 1999). Hemphill holds a B.A. in Spanish Language from Morehouse College and a M.S. in Communications Design from Pratt Institute.

Currently Hemphill enjoys his role as cultural entrepreneur, operating the creative enterprise Staple Crops. His current project, The Hip Hop Word Count is a searchable rap almanac. Hemphill also manages the media arts education program for Red Clay Arts, a nonprofit incubator for contemporary artists that he co-founded in 2000. Tahir is an Eyebeam Atelier alumnus and a 2012 Creative Capital grantee.

Project Description

The Hip-Hop Word Count: Rap Research Groups

The Hip Hop Word Count is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 50,000 Hip Hop songs from 1979 to present day. The database is the heart of an online analysis tool that generates textual and quantified reports on searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.

The last decade was about collecting and publishing information. The next is about editing and understanding that information.

The Hip Hop Word Count locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, meme and socio-political idea contained in the corpus of Hip Hop.

The Hip Hop Word Count then converts the data into visualizations that help us comprehend this vast set of cultural information. Beautiful in their complexity, the analysis of these visualizations is used to chart the migration of themes in Hip Hop, builds a geography of language and deepens our understanding of Hip Hop's influence.

Being a media artist and an independent scholar allows me to employ an irreverent tinkering towards my reverence for science and culture. My creative research practice is interdisciplinary, covering digital humanities, art, communications design, data visualization and computational linguistics.

2012-2013: Hiphop Archive Fellow

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