Instead of a droning docent guiding you through the treasures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City’s world-famous art museum, why not ask a few of the greatest rappers of our time instead?
The Hip Hop Project, a web app that mashes up the lyrics to your favorite rap songs with the Met’s online collection, now allows exactly that.
To use the app, pick your favorite artist from among Kanye, Notorious BIG, Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah, and others. Their song will blast on your speakers while the lyrics, mined from Genius’s API, scroll past. The lyrics are then used as keywords to search the Met’s digital collection, and you’re shown paintings, sculptures, and objects that are a match. So, as Missy Elliott explains that she’s “super fly” you can see which museum objects are also “super” and “fly” and learn more about them.
The project is a creation of Regina Flores Mir, a graduate student at the Parsons New School for Design, who gave a demo of her work at the New York City Media Lab’s summit in September. Her aim is to help the museum reach audiences in a new way, especially communities that are more likely to listen to Lil Wayne than NPR. The app also surfaces objects from the Met’s collection of 200,000 works that aren’t usually on display at the museum, so it’s a good way for even art lovers more familiar with the museum to get a little serendipity when they visit.
“Although the rap lyric may not be directly correlated to the art work in meaning,” Flores says, “it allows visitors to see work that they may not have otherwise known existed.”
For now, says Flores, the Hip Hop Project is a prototype with a limited number of songs. (To select the artists, she did a survey that included R&B artists and a crew from a housing project in Queens.) She is looking for funding to expand the work.