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Some ground rules:

  • if the same simile repeats in a track (like in a chorus) I’ll only count it once
  • negative similes are similes too
  • so are ‘comparatives’ (see below)
  • similes from samples don’t count. Sorry, M.O.P.
  • I’ll only count similes from the proper part of a track (not any spoken introductions or skits)
  • everyone be nice
  • never try and stand up in a canoe

That’s pretty much it.

I reserve the right to bend and change these rules as I see fit (and in some cases insist they never existed in the first place).

Like a fool who stole pity: where I’m getting the lyrics from

Lyrics will come from the excellent genius.com. It’s a great site with helpful discussions around (often obscure) references. I’d be lost without it. I’ll present the lyrics as they appear on Genius unless I spot a spelling mistake. And I’ll be changing US spellings to UK ones because I’m pathetic like that.

I doubt that every single hip-hop track ever produced (I’m not messing about here) is on Genius. If I can’t find the lyrics for a tune there, or anywhere else, I’ll have a stab at transcribing them myself. Should be interesting.

Swinging my grammar like the hammer of the Mighty Thor: a word on ‘comparatives’

When I started to draft the first few posts, I realised that sticking to a rigid definition of similes would be a bit limiting. If I did, I’d have to omit some beautiful turns of phrase because they’re not directly comparing one thing to something else.

Consider this lovely couplet:

You’re a fake wearin’ sucker whose gold got rusted
Cheaper than a hot dog with no mustard

Beastie Boys – Posse in effect

Pow, take that! I wouldn’t like to be that fake wearing sucker. At first, I couldn’t get my head around if this counted as simile or not.

If the lyrics were ‘[You’re as] cheap as a hot dog with no mustard’ it’d definitely be a simile. I could file it under ‘hot dog’ and pat myself on the back for a job well done.

But because Mike D (I think) wants this sucker to know that they are specifically cheaper than (rather than as cheap as) a mustardless hot dog, it’s not a simile?

I ran this past a few pedants. I seem to know a lot of them. Among these were an English teacher (‘this is hyperbole’), my learned parents and my mate Pete, who’s the most pedantic person I’ve ever met.

All four pedantry consultants said that this wasn’t simile. But let’s look at that dictionary definition again:

a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/simile

Whether or not the target of Mike D’s ire is as cheap as, or cheaper, than a hot dog without mustard is irrelevant. He’s comparing one thing (a fake sucker) with another (an ungarnished meat snack).

So I’m going to keep these ‘comparatives’ in. They’re similes by all but name. It’s my website, I’ll do what I want. Pete insisted the name of this project should be Internet Hip-hop Simile (and Comparative) Database. He’s welcome to call it that.

With more rhymes than is lines in ya database: the, ahem, database

Speaking of pedantry, this is probably a good time to point out that I’m aware that this isn’t actually a database. Yet.

I last built a database in about 2006 and it didn’t work properly. Cut me some slack. Until I can do it more rigorously, my data is in glorious spreadsheet format. You can find it on Google docs if you really want to.

Metrics

Simply counting the number of similes in a track wouldn’t cut it for a nerd like me. So I’ll be assessing how simily a tune is by two metrics:

  • words per simile (the lower the better)
  • similes per minute (the higher the better)

Don’t you understand? I’m like Superman: who’s the similiest of them all?

My ultimate goal is to find the similiest rapper out there. Tracking groups is relatively simple, but individual artists might prove a bit more tricky.

Hip-hop is dynamic. Individual artists float from group to group, guest on each other’s tracks and often rap under several different pseudonyms.

Take a look at prolific rapper DOOM’s entry on Discogs. He’s listed under 11 aliases and has recorded or produced under nearly 20 variations of DOOM. Over his 30-year career, he’s appeared on nearly 60 albums.

So I’ll do my best, ok?

If you want to take me up on any of this, or point out a grammatical error, feel free to chip in below or email me (hello@ihhsdb.com). I’d be delighted to hear from you. Even you, Pete.

2 Comments

  1. Pete

    Like an episode of 15-1, I have so many questions.

    I’ll start with the obvious one…

    Was ihhs(&c)db.com taken? erm..like Liam Neeson

    (or his wife or daughter or something – like Stevie Wonder, I’ve never seen Taken).

    • Rayner

      I was wondering when you’d show up 🙂

      That’s an easy one. Ampersands and parentheses are, like Little Miss Shy, reserved characters. You can’t use them in URLs.

      I watched Taken on a long flight. Better than I thought it was going to be.

Leave a comment. Bonus points for similes.