Bad Math: How Many Rhymes is That? Quantifying the claims of rapper’s with “more rhymes than __”
Claim: I’ve got more rhymes than the Bible has Psalms
Source: House of Pain (Everlast) “Jump Around” 1992
Quantity of Rhymes: > 150
Notes: This line is often misheard as any number of things (I personally thought it was “than a bottle’s got sauce”). The most common mishearing seems to be “I’ve got more rhymes than Nirvana’s got songs,” and the numbers aren’t too far off as Nirvana has released 102 songs total (though when “Jump Around” was released, that number would have been 24).
A typical ketchup bottle is 14 ounces.
Claim: Got more rhymes than Jamaica got mango
Source: Beastie Boys (Ad-Rock) “Shake Your Rump” 1989
Quantity of Rhymes: > 11,892,673 (approximate)
Notes: There is not an instantly updated internet tracker of Jamaican mangos grown minus those consumed or exported (yet). I got the number by finding a (not especially) trustworthy-looking site that listed the average tonnage of mangos produced by country. Then, I looked up the average weight of a mango and multiplied.
It turns out that Jamaica doesn’t have THAT many mangos. They aren’t in the top ten mango-producing countries (the top honor belongs to India who, by the same bad math has more than 125 billion mangos (though apparently India accounts for almost none of the global trade because almost every mango grown in India is consumed there)). What Jamaica lacks in overall mango production, though, it makes up for in types and names, with more than 60 different kinds (including “Sweetie Come Brush Me” and “Cowfoot” mangos).
Claim: Got more rhymes than the Winans got family
Source: A Tribe Called Quest (Phife Dawg) “Buggin’ Out” 1991
Quantity of Rhymes: > 13
Notes: Wikipedia lists 12 members of the Winans gospel singing family. So, why 13? Because in 1990 the Winans did a Christmas Eve special with Oprah, and 13 family members were there singing. The single for “Buggin’ Out” was released less than a year later.
Claim: Has More Rhymes than a train has tracks
Source: Jimmy Spicer “Adventures in Super Rhymes” 1980
Quantity of Rhymes: > 807,782
Notes: Are there a great number of train tracks, or, to the extent to which they’re all connected, just one? I took the number of kilometers of train tracks in the world (According To the First Result on Google (hereafter: ATFROG)) and converted it into miles because I’m American.
Claim: I’ve got more rhymes than I’ve got gray hairs
Source: Beastie Boys (MCA) “Sure Shot” 1994
Quantity of Rhymes: > 12,500
Notes: The Beastie Boys get two entries on the list. Between them, House of Pain, and me, white people are really over-represented here.
Anyway, in 1994, MCA had his head shaved pretty close, but an extensive(ish) survey of pictures from around that time led to an estimate that his hair was about 1/8th grey hairs (at MOST), and the number of hairs on a head (ATFROG) is 100,000. So 12,500 grey hairs on MCA’s head, give or take.
Claim: Got More Rhymes than a serious bank
Source: Sugar Hill Gang (Wonder Mike) “Rapper’s Delight” 1980
Quantity of Rhymes: > ?
Notes: I have no idea what this means.
Claim(s): I got more rhymes than water seen by a sailor.
More than husbands of Elizabeth Taylor
More than Babe Ruth has hit Home Runs
Source: Young Mc “Got More Rhymes” 1989
Quantity of Rhymes: > 139,000,000; > 8; > 714
Notes: Total square miles of ocean (ATFROG), two very easily searchable facts, one wide-ranging list.
Claim: He came with more rhymes than molecules in air
Source: Dabrye (MF DOOM) “Air” 2006
Quantity of Rhymes > 510 trillion trillion
Notes: Ok. Total molecules in a cubic meter of air (ATFROG) is 10 trillion trillion, and the total number of cubic meters of air on Earth (ATFROG) is 51 trillion trillion. I really tried to turn that into something that looked like a number but had very little luck. Lucky for me, this guy here did a 13 minute video estimating the number of air molecules in earth’s atmosphere. His final answer is one I don’t even know how to type, so I just multiplied 10 by 51 (in my head!) and called it close enough.
I don’t know how conceive of 510 trillion trillion. By comparison, the number of stars in the universe (ATFROG) is a very smol 200 billion trillion.
And those are big impressive numbers that I will never really understand, but working on the list led me to some numbers I find to be more impressive, personally.
So here’s the thing. I started writing this because I struggle with having hobbies and I thought it would be fun and funny. But, as much as I tried to have a little fun with the lyrics these guys (and no, it has not escaped my attention this this is all guys), I also spent time listening to all these songs, some for the very first time, and reading about the artists and their art. It’s a powerful thing, an important thing, an incredibly terrifying thing, to make something and put it out into the world. To make something that endures, especially today, more than a year or two years, that people are listening to and thinking about and writing silly fake thought-pieces on, is an incredible thing. To have your voice in rooms you’ve never been, your words read by people you’ll never meet, is a small miracle.
Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) died in 2016 at the age of 45. Jimmy Spicer died in 2019 at the age of 61. MCA (Adam Yauch) died in 2012 at the age of 47. MF DOOM (Daniel Dumile) died on Halloween in 2020 at 49 years old.
But I heard them all this weekend.
To be able to access someone’s art, a small, preserved piece of themselves, after they have died, is a big miracle. How do we put a number on a miracle? In other words, can we figure out how many rhymes MF DOOM has? I tried.
The method here isn’t overly complex and likely still deeply flawed:
1: Check stream numbers.
2: Multiply by minutes of the song.
3: Figure out how much combined time the song has been streamed.
4: Marvel at the impact art has on the world.
Through that method, I offer these three “facts” (the math is bad, but the idea holds up):
- MF DOOM’s most popular song on Spotify has been streamed for a combined total of 987 years.
- The same song on Youtube, posted just a few months before he died, has been watched for 125 years.
- Finally, every day, MF DOOM streams on Spotify equal about six years of play time. Every day. Still.
More rhymes than can fit in a lifetime.