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The Rap Research Lab Is Open For Business

Rap Research Lab

The Rap Research Lab is a creative studio for ongoing projects and a lab to impart the knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math to students via the Hip Hop Word Count. We are located on the Grand Concourse, in the Andrew Freedman Complex, in the South Bronx.

We are currently taking applications for both studio assistants and Bronx based H.S. students to fill our first cohort.

#WuTangIsForTheChildren

Cam’ron: Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement.


Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s light pen drawings Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement. uses abstracted semantic rap data to create sculptural forms with light. The forms represent the distance travelled by the lyrics in each song.

(Brief) Methodology: I used the Hip Hop Word Count’s new semantic analysis results to extract all geographic mentions from the complete bodies of work of 12 rappers. These locations were translated into geo coordinates which were then made into points that plotted the robot arm’s movements. The robot arm drew each path while holding a light pen.

Biggie: Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement.

Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s light pen drawings Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement. uses abstracted semantic rap data to create sculptural forms with light. The forms represent the distance travelled by the lyrics in each song.

(Brief) Methodology: I used the Hip Hop Word Count’s new semantic analysis results to extract all geographic mentions from the complete bodies of work of 12 rappers. These locations were translated into geo coordinates which were then made into points that plotted the robot arm’s movements. The robot arm drew each path while holding a light pen.

Jay-Z: Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement.


Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s light pen drawings Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement. uses abstracted semantic rap data to create sculptural forms with light. The forms represent the distance travelled by the lyrics in each song.

(Brief) Methodology: I used the Hip Hop Word Count’s new semantic analysis results to extract all geographic mentions from the complete bodies of work of 12 rappers. These locations were translated into geo coordinates which were then made into points that plotted the robot arm’s movements. The robot arm drew each path while holding a light pen.

Kanye West: Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement.


Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s light pen drawings Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement. uses abstracted semantic rap data to create sculptural forms with light. The forms represent the distance travelled by the lyrics in each song.

(Brief) Methodology: I used the Hip Hop Word Count’s new semantic analysis results to extract all geographic mentions from the complete bodies of work of 12 rappers. These locations were translated into geo coordinates which were then made into points that plotted the robot arm’s movements. The robot arm drew each path while holding a light pen.

20 Questions

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Last July the good folks at Miami Ad School asked me a great question:

If you had to explain to someone what an increasing divorce rate, cable television, the space shuttle challenger disaster in the 1980′s, the popularity of South Park and the rise of instant messaging (social media) all have in common, what would you say?

My answer: No hope for the future has shaped our impatience for the present. We need everything now. Who knows, who cares what happens later?

Divorce: the paradox of choice – too many options have us in a permanent upgrade mode. The novelty of something new activates our brain’s reward center. Perfection is the expectation. Why repair something when we can get the new model?

Space Shuttle Disaster: apathy – My parents’ generation got ‘one giant step for mankind…’ my generation watched our futures explode with the Challenger on television.

Cable: sedentary life – Cable programming is comprised of reality shows and news programs sandwiched between pharmaceutical ads and retail therapy. We watch modern archetypes live out their scripted lives on TV. We live vicariously through our favorite characters and mimic their lives (i.e. the Sex And The City / NYC Prep / Real Housewives Of New Jersey phenomena). The result makes our authentic thoughts and movements secondary.

South Park: super cynicism – A little cynicism is healthy. Overly cynical people become too paralyzed to act, we can only watch from the sidelines and comment while we wait for a hero to save us.

Text Messaging: Devolution – digital communication is making us into humanoids who can’t talk face to face, can’t employ proper writing syntax and have no compassion to wait for a slower non-digital exchange of information to unfold.

Sounds dark, but also enforces the need for a cadre of optimistic contrarians to instigate positive social change.

New Museums. New Curators.

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Last week’s visit to the New Museum’s Be(com)ing Dutch closing party made me contemplate of the value of the exhibit curator.

While looking at some of the installations on lower floors it was difficult not to feel the weight of the obsolescence of it all. My tolerance for sitting through a media exhibition that wasn’t tailored explicitly for me has been greatly lowered because of the availability of more compelling & timely work out in the streets & tweets. Having become accustomed to using cable TV’s, PC’s and portable media to curate my own entertainment media ‘exhibitions’ at home as well as on the go, I fear that curation may go the way of desktop publishing and disc jockeying. Meaning:

The tools used to curate media exhibitions are widely available and a person’s formal training in this skill is no longer the barrier to entry.

A high point of the talk was hearing about the resistance that the curators of Be(com)ing Dutch received from artists and citizens concerning how museums were no longer qualified to create compelling exhibitions for their community, about their community with art that was housed inside of buildings which created a barrier between the community that co-created the art and the art itself.

Today’s Walk: Favorite Spots Brooklyn

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There are a few spots in NYC that feel like portals to me, crossroads that make me stop and take notice.

Today’s Walk: SF – Sutro Bath House

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Sutro Bath House was an indoor swimming pool complex built ocean side. Opened in 1896, this modern engineering marvel used Pacific Ocean water for its several salt and fresh water pools and hot baths. It was the destination for a while, got played out, got too expensive to operate, had a fire and lastly the glass, iron, wood, and reinforced concrete structure was reclaimed by the Pacific. The remnants I found on my walk along the coast reminded me of another gigantic public pool ruin I ran around in as a youth in Flushing Meadow Park.

Being Broke Can Kill You

Social Darwinism
I found this handwriting on a construction wall in SoHo today: “Thinning The Herd.” Is there a connection between unemployment and mortality? Bill Moyers mentioned Peter Dreier‘s research estimating that for every percent the rate of unemployment climbs, an additional 47,000 people die – half from heart attacks, more than 800 are murdered and nearly twelve hundred commit suicide.

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