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Dr. Dre is the most profane rapper ever

Dr. Dre performs onstage during The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. He may be the most profane rapper of all time.
Dr. Dre performs onstage during The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. He may be the most profane rapper of all time.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Who curses the most in rap? It's the D-R-E.

The musically-minded data analysts at the blog Rapalytics analyzed more than 1,000 albums and 150 rappers for their lyrics, and they were able to create a profanity index. Though it's missing some rappers and lyrics, it serves as a good broad look at the state of cursing in rap.

And the state of rap is Dr. Dre, cursing a lot. Even when you break down the profanity by particular curse word, Apple employee Dr. Dre leads for a wide variety of individual swears, including "f*ck" (though for overall sexual terms, he loses out to the always-romantic L'il Wayne).

On the other end of the profanity spectrum is the family-friendly Will Smith, with only 14 profane words uttered in his career of more than 20,000 words. MC Hammer and Wyclef Jean, unsurprisingly, are the next cleanest.

But the most interesting change might be generational.

Overall, the young generation of rappers curses less — and uses fewer racial, misogynistic, and homophobic slurs

Profanity, charted

Profanity, charted (Rapalytics)

According to Rapalytics, 1995 and 1998 were the peak for profane rap, roughly coinciding with the "Gangsta rap" era. Rapalytics charted that as well. Since then, rap has become significantly more mainstream, and mores around certain types of profanity, especially terms that are misogynistic or homophobic, have changed. All these trends have become more pronounced as younger rappers entered the industry.

The most notable changes include:

  • In 1998, the "N word" was 1.33 percent of all words — by 2014, it had shrunk to 0.84 percent.
  • A homophobic peak in 2000, in which 0.025 percent of words featured some homophobic lyrics, fell by more than half to 0.012 percent in 2013. Though there are many exceptions, you're less likely to find homophobia in the work of newer rappers like Kendrick Lamar (his curse rate is around 2 percent, but the ranker doesn't list him as using any typically homophobic words).
  • Some trends may be indicative of new rappers entering into the scene. The most misogynistic rapper, as ranked by her use of the word "bit*h": Nicki Minaj, who uses the word both as an insult and as a boast.

The Rapalytics ranker is far from perfect — to take just one example, it omits Odd Future and its many controversial, frequently profane members. It's also searching for particular words, so it might miss some of the more poetic profanity. But the data still reflects rap becoming more mainstream and negotiating which taboos it will — or won't — continue to violate.