Rap music isn’t all just what you hear on the radio or thumping from the teenager’s car beside you at your nearest intersection. It’s a pretty popular opinion that the radio rap genre is very dumbed down and easy to understand. I’d agree with that. Rap is sort of where pop music was in the late ’90s. Understanding that much, you’re cutting yourself short if you shrug hip-hop music aside as immature and boring.
Rap Genius is a database of hip-hop lyrics that sits somewhere between Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary. Rap tunes, from the most complex to the everyday radio hits, are indexed on this website and explained by contributors. Tracks are broken down line by line, and if you think some of these rap songs are a mouthful then you should really look at how analytical and precise some of these explanations are.
Rap Genius takes this all pretty seriously. This isn’t an amateur site and it’s recently gone through some major design changes that really has me impressed. You can create an account on Rap Genius to earn “RapIQ”, which is basically a reputation system amongst the community that gauges how well you’re able to understand and explain rap music. It’s a nice incentive that encourages more user interaction and contribution.
On the main page, you’re able to see the newest additions to the website. This is a good place to start if you’re looking to pick up some of that RapIQ. Songs are even tagged with what percentage of explanation (by line) has already been contributed.
Searching for or clicking on a song will immediately bring up the lyrics and a YouTube or Spotify embed of the song, if you’re interested in listening along. In the lyrics, you’ll see golden text and white text. The golden text is a hyperlink. Click on it and it’ll show the user-contributed meaning of the line or bar that you’ve selected.
If you’d like to contribute to an unexplained line, simply highlight that line. Rap Genius does a great job of keeping explanations clean and precise. That’s a credit to their community too, as users are able to suggest improvements to explanations or corrections to lyrics.
The community seems to be what Rap Genius is all about and I think that’s what has the site as popular as it is today, sitting at an Alexa traffic rank of under 10,000. You can thumbs up or down individual explanations, Like or +1 explanations and bars (so that your friends can see the lyricism you appreciate on social networks), and Rap Genius seems to thank its contributors at every opportunity (as they should)!
Aside from the core “dictionary” function, Rap Genius has interviews, a blog, and a forum. It’s a very unique and individual site that stands far apart from what seems like its single competitor.
Here are a couple songs with quality explanations if you’re looking for great examples:
Have you learned anything new from Rap Genius? If so, I’d like to hear about it. Let me know what you think of the site and its community in the comments. Maybe even share some of your favorite songs and explanations!