Rap Research Lab is an educational youth program that engages teens in exploring hip-hop as cultural data through research and creative processes in order to produce visual communications and new understandings of the world around them. Rap Research Lab was founded by Eyebeam alumni, Tahir Hemphill and is based on his project Rap Almanac, a searchable database built from the lyrics of over 50,000 hip-hop songs, which generates reports on searched words, phrases and ideas.
Through Rap Research Lab, Hemphill and his teaching-artist collaborators have taught design, cultural analysis, media criticism, data mining, and data visualization to teens in order for them to conduct research and create their own final data visualization projects. The goal of Rap Research Lab’s educational programming is to increase participation of underserved NYC youth, especially youth of color, immigrant, female and transgender youth, in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) through culture, design, and digital media in a project-based learning environment. Teens thus become both content producers and knowledge interpreters.
By developing self-directed projects, students from these marginalized groups move to the center as knowledge experts. This project encourages interest in STEM by introducing technological tools, data analysis, research techniques, and media criticism using a subject—hip hop—that is central to the culture and identity of youth.