Rappers are famous for mentioning their flashy new cars in lyrics, which in my experience makes them exactly like every coworker or neighbor on the planet, except their cars are slightly more interesting. With an attention to detail that makes me wonder if I need better ADHD medication, MC Big Data at Medium's Cuepoint blog has created an exhaustive database of references to cars in rap songs. The investigation does not cover old-school rap, but includes thousands and thousands of songs released from 1995 to the present.
While I recommend diving into MC Big Data's detailed analysis, here are some highlights (and some of my own observations) to fuel your watercooler chatter:
1. They don't say this in the article, but this graph indicates the 2007 financial crash and resulting recession directly affected rap lyrics.
This graph describes the number of songs mentioning specific makes and models by year, and it contains an interesting Easter Egg that MC Big Data seems to have missed. All car makes (except for Lamborghini*) reached lyrical peaks in 2006 that would not be matched for most brands until 2010. The stock market peaked in October 2007, but high volatility and the warning signs of impending doom entered the market earlier that year. More importantly, the credit glut that allowed easy purchases of homes, the refinance of homes, and the purchase of cars with no money down came to a screeching halt.
*Why did Lamborghini buck the trend? Because in 2003, Lambo unveiled the Gallardo, which at $200,000 was half the price of the flagship Murciélago and Aventador models, and led to a quintupling of annual sales from several hundred to over two thousand cars a year. It had nowhere to go but up.
2. The surprise winner of the rap car popularity contest is, hands-down, the Chevy Impala, specifically the '64.
The gigantic coupe is mentioned specifically in an astounding 971 songs. Big Data doesn't go into why, but in my opinion, this is the ultimate "before" car. The one rappers rode in with friends before fame and fortune, harkening back to nights on the town hollering respectfully at women. A favorite of customizers and low-riders, the '64 was endemic to the milieus that gave birth to West Coast and Dirty South rap. Somehow, I have to think these aircraft-carrier-like pre-Oil Crisis monsters were less common in crowded New York, but on the other hand, I am talking out of my ass right now. The passage of time, however, is sure to mean the Impala's time at the top is limited (there are, I assume, zero songs singing the praises of '90s or '00s-era Impalas).
3. When it comes to brands, however, nothing even comes close to Mercedes Benz.
The Mercedes Benz brand can finally relax about its association with the Nazis, because Googling Mercedes Benz will probably get you one of the more than 4500 songs in which it has been name-dropped. Not only is it one of the world's most famous luxury car brands, from a lyrical perspective, you can call it a "Mercedes," a "Benz," a "Mercedes Benz," or refer to your "Benzes." From a rhyming perspective, that gives you a lot of options (especially since "enz" is a soft sound that can close-rhyme with a lot of different sounds). Also, its entry-level models aren't nearly as expensive as, say, a Bugatti (which, with only one model, ends up being the 4th-most-referenced specific car in 323 songs). So, you can say "I have a Mercedes" fairly early on in a rap career without having to save up for a harder-to-rhyme car.
4. The second-place specific model is the Cadillac Escalade, which is maybe the most disappointing fact about this whole thing.
Yes, that's Turtle and Johnny Drama. Yes, that's the best picture I could get right now.
(via Internet Movie Car Database)
Mentioned in 327 songs, The Cadillac Escalade has a lot going for it, I guess, if you value luxury, customization, and having room for your crew of anonymous bros wearing jewelry you bought them. Which is exactly why it's such a popular rap vehicle. Never have I heard about the Escalade's rims spinning in the carpool parking lot. In short, the Escalade is the vehicular equivalent to Entourage: The Movie. In which they drive Escalades. Fortunately, I also see a declining future for the Escalade as we leave the SUV-hungry 90s and 00s behind. I acknowledge this may be a pipe dream.
5. Lexus blew it, the Hummer is finally dying, and Jeep...has never really been very popular.
Although Jeep consistently outperforms Hummer in song mentions (and is doing better lately), it does terribly considering it sells many, many times the number of vehicles Hummer did, even at its peak. Toyota's luxury brand Lexus, on the other hand, was poised to break into the top echelon of rapper vehicles before falling out of the sky around 1999. Is it because Lexus SUVs became the ultimate Soccer Mom status symbol? Did someone at Lexus say something offensive about rappers, like the makers of Cristal Champagne did? Do rappers have an unexpected Buy American bias (except for Mercedes)?
6. The Game is basically a local car-dealership ad set to music.
More like "The Car," am I right? (via Cuepoint)
I mainly know The Game from his 50 Cent collaboration (before they were enemies) "Hate It or Love It." That song, if I recall, was heavily focused on private planes. This was a creative departure for The Game, who normally only raps about land-based transportation. He mentions cars in about 65% of his songs, including 82 Chevy Impala references, 75 Benzes, 53 Lamborghinis, 34 Porsches, 24 Aston Martins, 18 Maseratis and 13 Bugattis. All this makes me think about is the declining resale value on those cars once his career ends. Only Gucci Mane has more songs with cars in them, but Mr. Mane has much more boring references, like 24 songs featuring a Hummer. He also has a boring face. Screw that guy.
Head over to Cuepoint to see the rest of MC Big Data's charts and analysis. I've only scratched the surface.