Detecting Mumble Rap Using Data Science. I built a simple model using voice-to-text to differentiate between normal rap and mumble rap.
Warning: this article quotes rap lyrics that may contain explicit language.
Those who know me, know that I spend a lot of time working with data and listening to rap music. Since receiving my first cd “Big Willie Style” by Will Smith in primary school, I have been listening to rap practically every day for multiple hours. From primary school till now, I acquired knowledge and experience in many fields including data and statistics, but of course the world of rap kept evolving too. In the recent history of hip hop a new subgenre known as “mumble rap” has emerged.
Urban dictionary defines mumble rap as “A form of music that sounds like a stroke victim trying to deliver a speech; it is often incomprehensible and illogical.”. In my opinion, a good example of mumble rap would be Playboi Carti’s @ MEH, of which the top YouTube comment reads “Sounds good, can’t wait for the English version.”. However, not every example is as clear, and some rappers do not want to be associated with the term “mumble” at all. So who gets to decide which rappers meet the criteria for being a mumble rapper? Since even the Wikipedia entry describes it as “loosely defined”, I decided to open my data toolbox to get a more objective indication on how much your favorite rapper is mumbling.
My idea to test for mumble was pretty simple:
Now of course, as with any software project, things didn’t go as smooth as planned. I started working on this project about a year ago, but after running some initial tests it seemed the voice-to-text converter (Google API) really struggled with beats, instruments and other sounds in the background. The combination of extremely poor results and a ton of other project ideas, made me decide to give up on this one.
Fast forward to early 2020, I saw a post on Reddit where someone created an online tool to extract vocals from songs. As this was the missing key, I got my hopes up again for completing this project. The basic concept to determine the amount of mumble remained the same:
Except this time I would use the tool to extract the vocals first.
Now let’s get into a bit more detail on how I got the data and did the analysis.
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