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These rappers have a bigger vocabulary than Shakespeare


William Shakespeare has long been held up as the bard to beat when it comes to vocabulary, using a staggering 28,829 words across his entire body of work. It is believed that he knew over 100,000 words in total, but that number pales in significance next to today’s rappers, according to a study by Matt Daniels.

Daniels analysed the number of unique words used in each artists’ first 35,000 lyrics, evening the playing field between those rappers with enormous and tiny discographies. The results may just surprise you.

So, which rapper has the largest vocabulary?

By a massive margin of nearly 1,000 words, Aesop Rock is officially the world’s wordiest rapper. He used staggering 7,392 words in his first 35,000, which dwarves the number used by Shakespeare (5,710) and in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (6,022). Daniels nearly excluded Aesop from the study after considering him too obscure, but changed his mind after an uproar from the Reddit community.


Aesop Rock knows lots of words, yo.

Apart from Aesop, the study highlights the incredible vocabulary of the Wu-Tang Clan, with six entries in the top 25 most verbose rappers. Most notable is GZA (nicknamed The Genius, for good reason) who appears at #2 using 6,426 unique words.

Who had the worst vocabulary?

DMX might have the worst vocabulary with just 3,214 words, but Daniels stresses that it doesn’t mean he’s any worse a rapper than Aesop. After all, if there was a graphic depicting the ferocity of each rapper’s dog bark then DMX would probably come out on top.

This logic also applies to the rest of the data, with many of the world’s most popular rappers finishing well below the average. The likes of Drake, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg, for instance, are all well behind the wordsmiths of the Wu-Tang, but have all made vital contributions.

Daniels’ graphic can be seen up close over on his website, alongside more of his own insights and analysis.

Photo: Steve Callaghan/REX
Photo: Tom Watkins/REX

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Shakespeare is overrated. Wu-Tang Clan should be on school curriculums.
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