the Musical Corpus of Flow


Our goal is to understand rap flow...but what rap flow? Millions of rap songs have been recorded, while millions more rap performances have gone unrecordednot to mention all the flow that was composed but never rapped out loud, or the flow that has yet to be rapped! Which flow should we study? It is only ever feasible to look at a tiny portion, a sample, of the flow that exists. A crucial part of good science, is how we pick this sample.

We refer to the complete body of all the stuff we're interested in understanding as the population. Our goal, is to find a sample which, though much smaller, is overall similar to the whole population. We say that this is a sample that is representative of the population. Unfortunately, finding a representative sample is very difficult; inevitably, our data is going to be biased, which can distort our perception of the whole population. The best way to get a representative sample is through simple random sampling, or if necessary cluster sampling.

the Population

One of the trickiest part of studying arts scientifically is defining our population. There is no simple right answer; our theoretical ideas and the questions we are interested in determine what the population or sub-population we are interested. In traditional, arts research it is common to sample works that we, or our peers, consider to be "great." However, this introduces significant bias into our samples; First of all, who decides what is great? Often, this is a matter of personal opinion. If one researcher thinks that the best rap flow is super rhyme heavy, their sample will be biased towards rhyme-heavy emcees. If another researcher things that good rap flow is all about speed and rhythmic complexity, their sample will be biased towards these preferences. There is also second, more fundamental problem with sampling for "greatness": by definition, we can only identify "great" flow in comparison to mediocre, or mad flow. If we don't sample, weak, mediocre, or average flow, how can we tell what makes great flow great?

Random and Cluster Sampling

The most effective way to create a representative sample is to sample data from the population randomly. Some bias will creep into the sample by chance, but if the sample is big enough, it will be close to representative.

Cluster sampling is a way of dealing with bias in our data that we already know about. We identify probable sub-populations in our population, and devise system for randomly sampling equivalent samples from each sub population. For instance, image you wanted to discover what the most popular genre of movie is. You could randomly sample 1000 people and ask each person. However, the genre preferences of men and women might differ, so it might be appropriate to treat them as distinct sub-populations, systematically sampling 500 men and 500 women instead of just sampling 1000 people.

MC Flow Sampling Plan

For the most complete discussion of the sampling philosophy, logic, and procedure, consult section 4.1 of my dissertation. To summarize, 7 songs were targeted from the Billboard Hot 100; specifically, the seven most successful songs on the chart from each year between 1980 and 2014. In addition, the 30 most successful emcees of all time were identified and five songs from each of these artists are targeted. In total, 252 songs have been targeted.

Current Sample

MCFlow is not complete. Of the complete 225 song set that has been targeted, the following 124 have been transcribed:

2Pac 2Pac, Dr. Dre California Love 1996
2Pac 2Pac How Do U Want It 1996
2Pac 2Pac, Shock G, Money B I Get Around 1993
2Pac 2Pac, Wycked Papa'z Song 1994
2Pac 2Pac So Many Tears 1995
50 Cent 50 Cent Candy Shop 2005
50 Cent 50 Cent Disco Inferno 2005
50 Cent 50 Cent In Da Club 2003
50 Cent 50 Cent Just A Lil Bit 2005
50 Cent 50 Cent P.I.M.P. 2003
the Beastie Boys Ad-Rock, MCA, Mike D Brass Monkey 1987
the Beastie Boys Ad-Rock, MCA, Mike D Ch-Check It Out 2004
the Beastie Boys Ad-Rock, MCA, Mike D(You Gotta) Fight for your Right (to Party!)1987
the Beastie Boys Ad-Rock, MCA, Mike D Hey Ladies 1989
the Beastie Boys Ad-Rock, MCA, Mike D Intergalactic 1998
the Black Eyed Peas Apl.De.Ap, Fergie, Taboo, Will.I.Am Boom Boom Pow2009
the Black Eyed Peas Apl.De.Ap, Fergie, Taboo, Will.I.AmJust Can't Get Enough2011
Coolio Coolio Gangsta's Paradise 1995
Dr. Dre Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg Nuthin' But a `G' Thang1993
Eminem Eminem Lose Yourself 2002
Eminem Eminem Love the Way You LieA2010
Eminem Eminem Not Afraid 2010
Eminem Eminem Rock Bottom 1999
Eminem Eminem The Monster 2013
Eminem Eminem The Real Slim Shady2000
Eminem Eminem The Way I Am 2000
Eve Eve Let Me Blow Ya Mind2001
Ice-T Ice-T Colors 1988
Ice-T Ice-T New Jack Hustler 1991
JaRule JaRule Livin' It Up 2001
Jay Z Jay Z Can I Get A\ldots 1999
Jay Z Jay Z Can't Knock the Hustle1996
Jay Z Jay Z Empire State of Mind2009
Jay Z Jay Z Holy Grail 2013
Jay Z Jay Z I Just Wanna Love U2000
Jay Z and Kanye WestJay Z, Kanye West, Big Sean Niggas In Paris 2012
Kanye West Kanye West Gold Digger 2005
Kanye West Kanye West Good Life 2007
Kanye West Kanye West Heartless 2009
Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz Mercy2012
Kanye West Kanye West Stronger 2007
Kool Moe Dee Kool Moe Dee Go See the Doctor 1987
Kool Moe Dee Kool Moe Dee Wild Wild West 1988
Kriss Kross Mac Daddy, Daddy Mac Jump 1992
Kurtis Blow Kurtis Blow Basketball 1985
Kurtis Blow Kurtis Blow If I Ruled the World 1985
Kurtis Blow Kurtis Blow The Breaks 1980
Lauryn Hill Lauryn Hill Doo Wop (That Thing)1998
Lil Wayne Lil Wayne A Milli 2008
Lil Wayne Lil Wayne Got Money 2008
Lil Wayne Lil Wayne Lollipop 2008
Lil Wayne Lil Wayne Love Me 2013
Lil Wayne Lil Wayne Right Above It 2010
Lil Wayne Lil Wayne She Will 2011
LL Cool J LL Cool J Control Myself 2006
LL Cool J LL Cool J Hey Lover 1995
LL Cool J LL Cool J I Need Love 1987
Ludacris Ludacris How Low 2010
Ludacris Ludacris Money Maker 2006
Ludacris Ludacris, Mystikal, I-20 Move Bitch 2002
Ludacris Ludacris Runaway Love 2007
Ludacris Ludacris Stand Up 2003
Ludacris Ludacris What's Your Fantasy?2000
Marky Mark and the Funky BunchMarky Mark Good Vibrations 1991
MC Hammer MC Hammer 2 Legit 2 Quit 1992
MC Hammer MC Hammer Pray 1990
MC Hammer MC Hammer U Can't Touch This 1990
Mims Mims This Is Why I'm Hot2007
Missy Elliott Missy Elliott Work It 2002
Nelly Nelly Dillema 2002
Nelly Nelly Grillza 2006
Neneh Cherry Neneh Cherry Buffalo Stance 1989
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls Big Poppa 1995
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls Going Back to Cali 1998
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls Hypnotize 1997
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls Juicy 1994
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls Mo Money Mo Problems1997
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls One More Chance 1995
the Notorious B.I.G.Biggie Smalls Sky's the Limit 1997
OutKast Andre 3000, Big Boi Ms. Jackson 2001
OutKast Big Boi The Way You Move 2004
Pitbull Pitbull Back In Time 2012
Pitbull Pitbull Give Me Everything2011
Pitbull Pitbull Timber 2014
Puff Daddy Puff Daddy I'll Be Missing You1997
Puff Daddy Puff Daddy Satisfy You 1999
Rob Base andDJ E-Z Rock Rob Base Don't Sleep On It 1988
Rob Base andDJ E-Z RockRob Base It Takes Two 1988
Run-D.M.C. Run, DMC Down With the King 1993
Run-D.M.C. Run, DMC It's Tricky 1987
Run-D.M.C. Run, DMC Mary, Mary 1988
Run-D.M.C. Run, DMC You Be Illin' 1986
Sir Mix-A-Lot Sir Mix-A-Lot Baby Got Back 1992
Sir Mix-A-Lot Sir Mix-A-Lot Jump On It 1996
Sir Mix-A-Lot Sir Mix-A-Lot My Posses On Broadway1989
Snoop Dogg Snoop Dogg Beautiful 2003
Snoop Dogg Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Drop It Like It's Hot 2004
Snoop Dogg Snoop Dogg Gin and Juice 1993
Snoop Dogg Snoop Dogg, Butch Cassidy, Goldie Loc, Tray Deee, Master P Lay Low 2001
Snoop Dogg Snoop Dogg, Fiend, Mystikal Woof 1999
Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa Young, Wild and Free2012
The Sugarhill Gang Big Bank Hank, Master Gee, Wonder Mike 8th Wonder1981
The Sugarhill Gang Big Bank Hank, Master Gee, Wonder Mike Apache 1982
The Sugarhill Gang Big Bank Hank, Master Gee, Wonder Mike Rapper's Delight 1980
Tag Team D.C., Steve Roll'n Whoomp! (There It Is)1993
Terror Squad Fat Joe, Remy Martin Lean Back 2004
T.I. T.I. Dead and Gone 2009
T.I. T.I. Live Your Life 2008
T.I. T.I. What You Know 2006
Tone Loc Tone Loc Wild Thing 1989
UTFO Kangol Kid, EMD, Doctor Ice Roxanne, Roxanne 1985
Vanilla Ice Vanilla Ice Play That Funky Music1991
Warren G Warren G and Nate Dogg Regulate 1994
Whodini Jalil Five Minutes of Funk 1985
Whodini Jalil Friends 1985
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh PrinceWill Smith Parents Just Don't Understand 1988
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh PrinceWill Smith Summertime 1991
Will Smith Will Smith Gettin' Jiggy Wit It 1998
Will Smith Will Smith Wild Wild West 1999
Wreckx-N-Effect A Plus, Teddy Riley,Markell Riley Rump Shaker 1992
Young M.C. Young M.C. Bust A Move 1989
Young M.C. Young M.C. I Come Off 1990
Young M.C. Young M.C. Principal's Office 1990