Tahir Hemphill: Rap Research Lab

Tahir Hemphill on stage at Creative Time Summit The Curriculum NYC 2015 Brooklyn, NYC. Behind the artist is a slide with the words “Rap Research Lab: Student Research” and the subtitle “The 8 Different Types of N-Word by Gabriel Willoughby."
Tahir Hemphill at “Creative Time Summit: The Curriculum,” Boys and Girls High School, Brooklyn, 2015. Image by Ray Llanos/Cristos Katsiaouni, courtesy of Creative Time, 2015.

“Tahir Hemphill: Rap Research Lab” showcases an artist who proudly occupies a space that he describes as the “hybrid area between art, technology, social engagement, and interdisciplinary research.” A technologist, researcher, facilitator, designer, and artist, Hemphill’s 2021-2023 UMBC faculty fellowship in Visual Arts fosters experimentation and learning through visual and material explorations of geographies of Hiphop.

Between January 30 and March 18, 2023, the Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture (CADVC) at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) will be occupied by
Hemphill’s active research laboratory and studio focused on data visualizations of rap culture and history. CADVC will also operate as a forum for learning through “Mapper’s Delight,” a middle-school curriculum designed by Hemphill in collaboration with Verizon Innovative Learning. All of these activities will happen in the context of an exhibition of Hemphill’s evolving body of multimedia artwork, including a presentation of his growing series titled “Maximum Distance, Minimum Displacement,” and new interactive works
and works-in-progress on view for the first time. Among the new works is “Visualisation
of Authority,” a kinetic sculpture illustrating the evolving data of library holdings that
were the subject of Hemphill’s 2018 research as the 2018 Harissios Papamarkou Chair
in Education at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

“Rap Research Lab” at CADVC will also operate as the classroom for Hemphill’s
teaching. His Spring 2023 course, “IRC Fellows Topics in Art and Technology,” invites
an interdisciplinary group of students to work on translating ideas into new visual and
material form through creative technologies. The course is offered in collaboration with
the UMBC Image Research Center. Hemphill and his collaborators will mine the Rap
Almanac, a vast dataset of rap lyrics that Hemphill has assembled from various archives
over the course of many years, to produce new artworks, experiments, and
visualizations. The presentation at CADVC will grow and change as new work is
produced.

The first meeting of Hemphill’s class will occur on January 30, followed by a “soft”
opening on January 31, when the CADVC Rap Research Lab space will open to the
public. Through the course of the presentation, the Rap Research will invite audiences
into the design and research process in a number of ways. In addition to sharing
interactive works and data processing activities within the CADVC gallery space,
Hemphill will offer public viewings of a series of public choreographed activations of a
programmable robot arm, produced as a prototype for a partnership project with Dr.
Foad Hamidi (Department of Information Systems, UMBC). Details on how to sign up
and attend these performance-lecture events will be announced at cadvc.umbc.edu.

Tahir Hemphill is organizing a series of “pop up” events connected to the exhibition. All events will occur during normal gallery hours and be open to the public. See the artist’s website for the most updated information; this page will also be updated with details.

Rap Research Lab runs from January 30-March 18, 2023. A closing event will occur on March 16 at 6pm, with details to be announced.

We thank PNC Bank, the Maryland State Arts Council, Baltimore County Commission
on the Arts and Sciences, and the CAHSS Dean’s Office for their support of Tahir
Hemphill: Rap Research Lab.


February 23, 2pm

Reservations required — spaces are limited. Sign up here.

Dr. Foad Hamidi, UMBC Human-Centered Computing, and Tahir Hemphill, UMBC Visual Arts, will discuss their shared interests in participatory digital research of media and cultural systems. The session will include a demo of choreography for a mechanized robotic arm based on Hiphop data analysis by Hemphill as part of his series “Maximum Distance, Minimum Displacement.”

The session will last one hour and will take place at the UMBC ITE Building. Information will be provided to registered participants upon sign up.


UMBC is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all students, staff, and visitors. If you have difficulties accessing any of the materials on our sites or wish to request accommodations for events at CADVC, please email Mariia Usova at mariiau1@umbc.edu.

COVID-19 Guidelines
UMBC is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and is dedicated to ensuring the
health and safety of the university community. For complete information, please visit
our COVID-19 website. Please note:
Beginning October 3, visitors are recommended to wear a KN-95 mask or equivalent.
Visitors may pick up free KN-95 masks at the CADVC desk when entering the gallery.