Actual Fact: Visualizing Hiphop Lyrics As Cultural Indicator

For a few years I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with my art & technology colleagues concerning the need for an approach to teaching data visualization that also considers ethics and bias. As the rap data domain expert, I decided to create that very class and teach it at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). ITP is a two-year graduate program located in NYU Tisch School of the Arts whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies.


It was an awesome semester!


Hiphop is the framework and it always provided fresh material for us to engage with. Big Up to my students for their prolonged intellectual engagement, cultural analysis and for sharing their artistic processes & personal biases with me as we worked our way through this year’s news cycle.

It Was Lit Fam!


Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting excerpts from my syllabus at @RapResearchLab.

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While the last decade can be characterized by collecting and publishing information, this decade has been focused on engaging with, editing and understanding the current torrent of available information. But in order to tell a story, data needs memory – which allows it to then be anchored with first hand experience. Working collaboratively, students will create projects that pair data visualization with critical scholarship, investigating the relationships between Hiphop data and society.


Actual Fact responds to global changes in science, technology, society, history and culture by transforming information into final projects that viewers can relate to and interact with. As a result, Actual Fact addresses the cultural implications of society’s current focus on big data, and cautions against obscuring narratives of Hiphop through the “objective” use of data. Visualizing Hiphop’s data allows us to listen to Hiphop in a new way; this new way of listening produces new ways of understanding Hiphop culture and in turn, new ways of understanding ourselves.

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