Raison D’être

Actual Fact is an exhibition of data visualization and critical writing produced with data extracted from rap lyrics.

Using the Hiphop Word Count*—and working collaboratively—creatives, technologists and cultural critics will create projects that pair data visualization with critical scholarship investigating the relationships between Hiphop data and society.

Through a critical engagement with the production and interpretation of Hiphop data Actual Fact allows users and listeners to set the aesthetic, ethical and intellectual bar for data visualization projects using content from Hiphop culture.


Data Needs Memory.

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 to be anchored with first hand experience.

The beauty of the projects produced for Actual Fact lies in their complexity and ability to produce new narratives within and about Hiphop culture. Projects will include works on paper, video, data sculpture, and creative research in the form of writing, interaction, sound art, movement and applications.


Does a culture own its own data?

Even when technological development advances its workers into exciting spaces of creative inquiry, the opportunity to challenge traditional modes of hierarchy is often missed. As a result, the same approaches are used reinforcing old modes of discrimination in new spaces.

In the age of “Big Data” normative narratives around Hiphop reproduce stereotypes.


One thing I love about Hiphop is that you have to know how to listen to it.

No research method is without flaws, yet science creates the illusion that it is fact. Actual Fact multiplies the status of fact by including multiple voices and points of view.

Both interactive and accessible, Actual Fact affords its users the experience of knowledge producer and knowledge interpreter, moving marginalized groups to the center where they can serve as a knowledge expert.


Visualizing Hiphop Lyrics As Cultural Indicator

Actual Fact responds to global changes in science, technology, society, history and culture by transforming information into end products 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.



Actual Fact is a project of The Rap Research Lab.

Founded by Creative Director Tahir Hemphill, the goal of the Rap Research Lab is to build community around Hiphop knowledge production with the aim of publishing the Rap Research Lab community’s research.

Using a project-based curriculum that visualizes hip-hop as a cultural indicator, the Rap Research Lab also teaches design, cultural analysis, media criticism, data mining, and data visualization. Students learn how to use a number of tools, including the Hiphop Word Count, a searchable database built from the lyrics of over 100,000 hip-hop songs from 1979 to present day. The database generates textual and quantified reports on searched words, phrases and ideas.

If you are interested in joining the community. Drop us a line in the form below!



If you are a creative technologists and /or write about Hiphop culture through a critical lens and would like to collaborate with us, tell us a little about yourself and provide links to your work in the form below.

Rap Research Lab Collaborators
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