Kenton Rambsy
University of Texas at Arlington


music, literature, Black studies


Honourable Mention, Open Scholarship Award (2020)

"Rarely have I seen such a thoroughly researched project on its own terms. The massive amount of information/data that is collected, examined and discoverable alone makes this project a must share/must replicate. This project is extremely innovative in its blending of ideas about knowledge production, data about a particular producer, Jay Z, and introduces us to a method or 'blueprint' for scholarly engagement that foregrounds contemporary digital practices. The premise is very clear, the conceptual framework smart."
Maryemma Graham, University of Kansas


"This Scalar book contributes to the study of rap and hip hop as a significant sphere of cultural and literary production. In particular, it depicts the artist Jay Z as … a vernacular public intellectual. Prof. Rambsy's digital humanities project is organized around an impressive compilation of evidence from a variety of sources--YouTube and Vimeo interviews, music videos, and visualizations of interactive tables and graphs. The dataset compiled can be unpacked in so many ways, even beyond the ways the author himself suggests."
Faye V. Harrison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Jay-Z is one of the most popular and prolific rap artists of all time. The Brooklyn-born rapper, known for his introspective lyrics and frequent collaborations with other rappers and producers, currently holds the record for most No. 1 albums of any solo artist. In #TheJayZMixtape, Kenton Rambsy takes us on a journey through Jay-Z’s career and sheds light on his storytelling style, extensive musical collaborations, and connection to black music history. Drawing on a rich dataset, including the lyrics from 189 songs comprising 12 solo albums, Rambsy uses computational approaches to explore Jay-Z’s musical influences and allusions to other black artists and historical figures. Rambsy’s investigation unites innovative digital humanities techniques with the tradition of African American literary analysis of major black authors, revealing new and different dimensions of Jay-Z’s body of work. Visually engaging, and full of interactive ways to explore Jay-Z’s work, #TheJayZMixtape not only delivers an analysis of Jay-Z’s music, but also makes a compelling case for Jay-Z’s place in the greater African American literary tradition.

This title was peer reviewed with a single-blind process by the AFRO-PWW editorial board.

Please cite this book using the identifer doi:10.21900/pww.2


  • About the Mixtape: Table of Contents
  • #TheIntroduction: Why Jay-Z?
  • #TheLanguage: Visualizing Jay-Z’s word usage
  • #TheCollaborations: Visualizing Jay-Z’s collaborations
  • #TheSamples: Visualizing Jay-Z’s samples
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements
  • About this Book

Author Biography

Kenton Rambsy, University of Texas at Arlington
Dr. Kenton Rambsy has developed unique expertise in a rapidly expanding social and academic landscape which is characterized by heavy reliance on a digital interaction.   Kenton is currently a professor of African American literature and digital humanities at the University of Texas at Arlington where his cutting-edges teaching includes a course titled  “#theJayZclass”.  This digital humanities course positions the prolific rapper in a broader literary continuum of autobiographical and semi-autobiographical works.   Kenton attended Morehouse College for his undergraduate studies and received his Bachelor’s degree in 2010, graduating Magna Cum-Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Five years after his college graduation, Kenton received a PhD in English from the University of Kansas.   As an undergraduate and graduate student, Kenton organized digital archives while serving as a research assistant at both Vanderbilt University's Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center in Nashville, Tennessee and Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2009, Kenton, as the received a Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Fellowship and spent the summer living and working in Harlem.  While studying at the University of Kansas, Kenton served as the digital initiative coordinator for the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW).  In this position, Kenton founded the African American literary blog and oversaw digital projects which explored the HBW’s robust collection of over 1,000 Black novels.   Kenton’s track record shows his commitment to pioneering digital-based research. Therefore, his ongoing work ensures that data analytics, text-mining, and mapping software are not just short-term trends, but instead, long-term components in the literary and Black Studies courses.



January 4, 2018


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