A few years back, my younger brother Kenton, a literature professor who collaborates with me on digital humanities and other projects, contacted me and insisted that I stop whatever I was doing at the moment and check out some work by Matt Daniels. At the time, Kenton was noting Daniel's "The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop" or perhaps it was "Outkast, in Charts." Either way, by now, it's become habit at this point for us to check out the work that Daniels is doing or the work being done at The Pudding, a company that "explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays." There's also a sister site, Polygraph.
This fall, I'll cover a few projects by Daniels and The Pudding in my African American literature courses. Below is the checklist I'll pull from to examine with students in my classes.
• OutKast in Charts - Daniels provides visual displays and other information about the rap group over the years.
• The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop - perhaps the first breakout hit by Daniels, this project presents an exploration and ranking of rappers based on their use of unique words. The project generated extensive coverage in 2014 when it was released.
• The 2,452 Wikipedia Pages on which Miles Davis is Mentioned - Daniels considers the jazz musicians' legacy by tracking every Wikipedia page that mentions him.
• The Largest Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender, Ever - In this project, Daniels and Hanah Anderson took a look at 2,000 screenplays by Gender and Age. The project received widespread coverage when it was released in 2016.
• The Shape of Slavery - Daniels and Bill Rankin examine the historic incarceration rates in relation to slave states and non-slave states.
• Where Slang Comes From - Daniels takes a look at the emergence of popular slang searched for on Google in 2016.
• Newspapers: A Black & White Issue - Daniels and Amber Thomas offer a measure of racial diversity in journalism. For Polygraph, there's "How Diverse Are US Newsrooms?," which "measures the percentage of women and minorities working in US newsrooms."
• The Structure of Stand-Up Comedy - provides an interactive analysis of a successful joke by comedian Ali Wong’s performance for Netflix.
• The Musical Diversity of Pop Songs - offers analysis of the declining originality of popular music
• How Music Taste Evolved - provides a listening history of every top 5 song from 1958 - 2016.
• The Language of Hip Hop - determines what words are "most hip hop" based on a comparison of word usage across multiple genres.