Page contents
Tahir Hemphill
A mid-toned Black man with a mid-length afro, stands in front of a light blue door labeled "rap research lab".
Date and place of birth
b. 1972, NYC
Current location
Bronx, NY
Year(s) of residency and/or fellowship
201516, Impact Resident; 20101112, Resident

Tahir Hemphill is a creative technologist, educator, radical archivist, and Rap enthusiast from Queens, New York.

As a native New Yorker, Hemphill came of age in the 1980s where he divided his time between practicing various elements of Hip-hop culture and exploring cyberspace from his basement in Queens, with a dial-up modem connected to a Commodore 128 computer. The fundamental affinity between Hip-hop culture and hacking defines the trajectory of his professional and creative life.

Hemphill’s practice investigates the role that systems play in generating form and the role that collaborative knowledge production plays in strengthening the resilience of communities.

Rap Research Lab

Rap Research Lab is an educational youth program that engages teens in exploring hip-hop as cultural data through research and creative processes in order to produce visual communications and new understandings of the world around them. Rap Research Lab was founded by Eyebeam alumni, Tahir Hemphill and is based on his project Rap Almanac, a searchable database built from the lyrics of over 50,000 hip-hop songs, which generates reports on searched words, phrases and ideas.

Through Rap Research Lab, Hemphill and his teaching-artist collaborators have taught design, cultural analysis, media criticism, data mining, and data visualization to teens in order for them to conduct research and create their own final data visualization projects. The goal of Rap Research Lab’s educational programming is to increase participation of underserved NYC youth, especially youth of color, immigrant, female and transgender youth, in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) through culture, design, and digital media in a project-based learning environment. Teens thus become both content producers and knowledge interpreters.

By developing self-directed projects, students from these marginalized groups move to the center as knowledge experts. This project encourages interest in STEM by introducing technological tools, data analysis, research techniques, and media criticism using a subject—hip hop—that is central to the culture and identity of youth.

Eyebeam models a new approach to artist-led creation for the public good; we are a non-profit that provides significant professional support and money to exceptional artists for the realization of important ideas that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Nobody else is doing this.

Support Our Work