These 3D-Printed “Grillz” Are Algorithmic Data Visualizations Of Hip-Hop Lyrics

October 13, 2014 | Marina Galperina

A new project by Roopa Vasudevan sources hip-hop lyrics by Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G., Fat Joe and Rick Ross and the frequency of their particular word patterns.


Grillz are lyrics processed by PyGenius, modeled into physical form with the help the geomerative and modelbuilder libraries and 3D-printed in polished gold steel. The technique is clever, but the concept seems like a pretty superficial approach at analyzing or commenting on hip hop.

“grillz” is an exploration and analysis of the usage of language in mainstream hip-hop lyricism, with particular attention paid to mentions of money and income. individual songs are algorithmically analyzed for references to extreme poverty—the projects, drug dealing, prostitution—as well as extreme wealth—cars, cash, jewelry and the like. mentions in each category are scored according to relative distance from words of the opposite polarity, and the resulting landscape formed is extruded into a 3D shape and printed as wearable grills: jewelry designed to fit over one’s teeth, and which have become inextricably linked to hip-hop culture over the years as a symbol of over-the-top, ostentatious wealth.

(Images: Roopa Vasudevan)