Rap Genius is a website dedicated to the explanation and interpretation of Hip-Hop music. The site's aim is "not to translate rap into 'nerdspeak', but rather to critique rap as poetry." The site relies on user-generated content through a Wikipedia-like format of contribution where contributors earn Rap IQ for interesting explanations. The site also includes a blog and a feature called the Rap Map. The site is updated regularly, with new songs added daily. Rap Genius uses Twitter and Facebook accounts to communicate with its users and fans.
As of June 2012, Rap Genius receives approximately 10 million unique visitors per month.
Founding and CreationEdit
Rap Genius was created in October 2009 by founders Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory, who met years ago during their undergraduate years at Yale University. Lehman and Moghadam came up with the idea for the site in the summer of 2009 when Lehman asked Moghadam about the meaning of a Cam'ron lyric. After Lehman built the earliest version of the site, Moghadam, a 2008 graduate of Stanford Law School and a first year employee at Dewey and LeBoeuf who was on a paid sabattical leave, decided to pursue the idea full-time. Lehman, the programmer of the site, and Zechory soon joined him and brought the idea to fruition.
Originally named Rap Exegesis, the site changed its name in December 2009 to Rap Genius because "exegesis" was difficult for users to spell. In a March 2010 interview with John Wray, Vampire Weekend lyricist Ezra Koenig said he preferred the website's original name.
Introduction of Audio, the Rap Map, and Music Video ExplanationsEdit
The ability to listen to the songs while viewing their lyrics, the Rap Map, and Music Video explanations were eventually added to the site as well.
On Rap Genius users can "listen to songs, read their lyrics, and click the lines that interest [them] for pop-up explanations." The site's content is user-generated. Contribution is easy because "anyone can create an account and start explaining rap" simply by highlighting lyrics and filling in the pop-up explanations. Registered members with an account can upload, correct, and explain lyrics. They can also offer suggestions to improve already published lyrics and explanations. Explanations and comments are moderated by editors and other members. Users earn "Rap IQ" with every published explanation. Points are rewarded on the basis of not only the quantity of lyrics explained, but also the quality of the explanations. Users are rewarded with greater editorial and moderating privileges as more Rap IQ points are awarded.
The Rap Genius Blog covers features on specific artists and/or albums as well as the analysis of popular hip-hop memes, phenomenons and trends. Examples of artists that have been covered in the blog are Tyler the Creator, Lil B the Basedgod, Eminem, Jay-Z, Wiz Khalifa, XV, and |Fabolous (rapper)Fabolous. The posts vary in style and length and are authored by various contributors, including the founders themselves. Several of the blog posts have been featured on other online blogs, including mostlyjunkfood.com.
The Rap Map, the brainchild of early Rap Genius partner Dan Berger, utilizes Google Earth to show places that are mentioned in famous (and some not so famous) rap lyrics in their exact geographical locations. It utilizes the same pop-up explanation format as lyrics on the site do. Users can add places to the Rap Map as well. Some places that are shown on the Rap Map are 2Pac's elementary school, T.I.'s mansion, and Notorious B.I.G's boyhood home.
Music Video ExplanationsEdit
Rap Genius has also explained various music videos. The video is played on the left side of the screen, while the explanations flash on the right side of the screen.
Press Coverage and ReceptionEdit
The site has been featured on numerous blogs and websites, including the Huffington Post, AOL News, and Above the Law. Initial reception to the site has been mixed. Nick Antosca of the Huffington Post described the site as "ingenious.", while website Daily Swarm describes the explanations as "bland" and uninformative. Victor Vazquez of Das Racist said "RapGenius.com is white-devil sophistry/Urban Dictionary is for demons with college degrees" on the group's 2011 album RELAX.
Reported "Beef" With Understand RapEdit
In an AOL News article from January 18, 2011 in which Rap Genius and another rap lyric explanation site - Understand Rap - are featured, the author of the article claimed that the creators of Rap Genius have a "beef" with the creator of Understand Rap, William Buckholz. Tom Lehman contends that "[his] entire project is dedicated to a single joke: rap lyrics sound funny when translated into intentionally white-sounding language. But translating rap into white-speak is only peripherally related to analyzing its meaning. Rap Genius, on the other hand, engages rap as poetry, rather than as the butt of a joke." This beef has since been resolved.
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