On October 4, RapGenius, a website famous for annotating rap lyrics, introduced a new feature on their website called RapStats. RapStats takes keywords the user enters and finds their prevalence in rap lyrics and displays it on a chart. For example, if you enter “Mercedes” and “Smart Car” you would find a chart than more than likely shows a higher usage of the word Mercedes than the infamous Smart Car. Imagine Jay-Z’s next music video showed him pulling up in a Smart Car to pick Beyonce up? I can’t be the only one who chuckled at the thought.
Noting the enormous effect rap music has on pop culture today, RapStats can be a very fun way of looking at trends in music and the outside world that hears the music. Rappers constantly name drop brands and cities, and now listeners have a way of knowing just how popular these references are. Adding to the fun is the fact that the results are sorted by year, so you can also see when these phrases became popular on top of how big they were at the time.
Just playing around with this new feature, I found a couple of interesting links between the rap lyrics we hear and the fashion we wear. Many of the links could be expected, but they show greater detail about knowledge we already have. The following article has a few examples.
1. Shoe Brands
Rap music and sneaker culture have gone hand in hand as long as the two have existed. From Run-DMC to Wale, rappers love their sneakers, and the chart above shows that, with some other notable points.
It’s widely known that the sneakerhead culture is going through a boom period, or perhaps nearing the end of one. Only history can dictate that fact. While the boom doesn’t have an exact start date the years 2005-2007 are a good estimate and base for studying the graph. The thing that strikes me most is the sudden upturn in mentions of Jordan in lyrics. The real GOAT himself had been long retired by then and hadn’t done anything particularly newsworthy besides become owner of the Bobcats, so the spike is more than likely not due to Jordan himself (unless you’re a certain two guys in Paris).
To quote the legendary Mars Blackmon, “it’s gotta be the shoes.” It would make total sense to say that as the sneaker culture boomed, so did its mention in rap lyrics, or vice versa. This is a perfect example of rap lyrics decoding fashion trends.
Other interesting notes from this chart: Nike’s climb and now steady descent, with Adidas and Reebok doing the exact opposite.