The Hip Hop Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A new project translates rap lyrics into a curated tour of the Met.
Image: The Hip Hop Project
If you have ever wanted Jay Z to lead you through the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 18th century French porcelain collection, now is your chance.
A new project from Regina Flores Mir, an MFA candidate in the Parsons design and technology program, couples hip hop lyrics with the Met's collection for a curated art tour. She came up with the idea while interning at the museum, inspired by a group of students she knew at a housing project in Jamaica, Queens who had never been, despite living just a few miles away.
"I really like hip hop, and I was working in the Met media lab last semester and they were alway talking about appealing to younger audiences, and I thought, "Where's Kanye?" she said. "You pay all kinds of people to do audio tours at the Met, and if you want to change your audience you have to change your brand. So this was my answer."
The Hip Hop Project works by combining rap lyrics from the Genius database with the metadata from the Met, using the words to walk through the art. Flores Mir removed "stop words" from the lyrics, words like "a," "the," "and," leaving the core lyrics.
"I am basically mashing up the APIs and doing a cross search," Flores Mir said.
For example, in "Juicy" when the Notorious B.I.G. says "fuck all y'all hoes," the Hip Hop Project pulls up an ancient hoe artifact. Users can click on it and explore this work and others.
Flores Mir said a major portion of the project was conducting an ethnographic research study to determine which rappers and songs to include. She asked participants, who included a Grammy award winning R&B singer, a writer who works on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and HBO, and group of community leaders and activists from The Baisley Housing Project, who their favorite rappers are and who the most influential rappers of all time have been. The final lineup is 13 artists, including Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, and Public Enemy.
"Right now it's just one song per rapper, but I can see an iteration where I partner with Genius for example, or the Met, and expand to have more search capabilities and more artists," Flores Mir said.
Now live at www.rappersdelight.nyc, the URL an homage to the Sugarhill Gang song widely considered to be the first commercial rap, you can now go through The Hip Hop Experience yourself.