Strategy & Research
If rappers' boastful lyrics are any indication, hip-hop can take you places. A disciple himself, Tahir Hemphill—the ever-diligent artist behind the previously funded Kickstarter campaign "The Hip-Hop Word Count"—has visualized a dozen rappers' global treks via flight path-esque photographs tracking their lyrics.
Kanye West's global enlightenment (left) and one of Aaron Koblin's flight tracking designs (right)
Inspired by Pablo Picasso's light paintings, Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement. takes one data point from "Hip-Hop Word Count" (more on that below) and puts it on the map. Hemphill has pulled out geographic mentions from his vault of crazy detailed research and created long-exposure visuals to better illustrate the globetrotting itineraries of these superstars (and perhaps to see if Pitbull is worthy of his terrible self-appointed title, "Mr. Worldwide"). By scaling geographic distances between destinations on a globe and assigning them coordinates, a robotic arm plots a specific point for each song's city mention using a light pen.
Pablo Picasso and his original light paintings (left) and Hemphill's visualization of Kendrick Lamar (right)
The result is a temporary light painting tracking the hypothetical journey made throughout the rapper's music. The robotic artist responsible for the paintings fades into the background of the photos, but you can see its work-induced blur if you look closely.
To create his previous project, Hemphill gathered data from over 40,000 hip-hop songs created between 1979 and the present day. Check out the original campaign video highlighting "The Hip-Hop Word Count" to get a better idea of the concept:
So far, Hemphill has tracked the data from the complete works of 12 different rap artists including Cam'ron, Jay Z, Kanye West and 2pac. The possibilities for quirky data representations are endless—what would you create with the information?