The Project

To explore what could happen if Alex could train a machine learning model on hip hop and allow it to generate stories, poems or advice to an audience.


Google Arts & Culture

The work

The Hip Hop Poetry Bot creation was initially supported by a grant from Google Artists & Machine Intelligence, a program at Google that brings artists and engineers together to realize projects using Machine Intelligence.

The inspiration behind the Hip Hop Poetry Bot was the Please Feed The Lions interactive installation at London’s Trafalgar Square and the work of Nam June Paik using television as an experimental and playful medium that has an influence on modern art and culture.

Creative technologists Cyril Diagne and Holly Grimm worked with Alex to train a machine learning model on rap lyrics consisting of hip hop artists who have showcased technical virtuosity, moral complexity, political acuity, wit, empathy and musical depth and breadth in their works.

The vision was simply to create an algorithm trained on a personal dataset of lyrics, and experimented with using this to generate poetic responses to everyday questions based on a number of categories such as Love, Sadness, Reflection, Happiness and Food.

Trying to create an algorithm that can generate rhyme was difficult, highlighting the challenge of AI achieving creativity which could be considered ‘equal’ to humans.

Proof of concept

For the moment it exists as a proof of concept, as building the experiment in full requires a large, public dataset of rap and hip hop lyrics on which an algorithm can be trained, and such a public archive doesn’t currently exist.

The project launched as an interactive website with an invitation from Alex to rap and hip hop artists to become creative collaborators and contribute their lyrics to create a new, public dataset of lyrics by Black artists.