Monday, December 17, 2012

Reading RapGenius: An Introduction

Earlier this past semester, there was this moment when several of my students began to form false impressions about me. We were going over some rap lyrics in our poetry course, and whenever a group of presenters in the class had trouble decoding particular lyrics, I would chime in to explain seemingly hard to decipher lines. Rakim, Nas, Jay-Z, or Jay Electronica--didn't matter; I was quick to translate.

As we progressed in the coverage and my explanations of obscure references in lyrics kept pouring in, I recognized that the looks on my students' faces were of admiration and high respect. Finally, someone spoke up and complimented me on my knowledge of the music. "It's like," another student contributed with praise, "you know everything." Apparently, these folks thought I was some kind of fountain of rap wisdom, a hip hop oracle or sorts. 

"Thanks," I said, but then that's when it hit me. "Ohhh no, y'all think I'm just kicking all of this off the dome? Nah, I read RapGenius. Y'all ain't up on that? You need to be."

I started explaining to my group how RapGenius is this cool site that provides explanations of hundreds of rap lyrics. Like the user-generated content for wikipedia, RapGenius consists of an extensive world-wide community of contributors dedicated to deciphering rap lyrics.

I've spent considerable time utilizing the site to assist me in understanding lyrics that have long perplexed me. Moving forward, I'll write some entries about how RapGenius might serve the interests of student learning and how the site might enhance the work of those of us who write about African American literature and technology. I'll invite a few others to produce writings on the topic as well.

A Notebook on RapGenius


Jeremy Dean said...

can't wait to hear more of your thoughts on RG in the classroom, Howard!

Kristine Hildebrandt said...

One nice thing about the lyrics is that the grammar and spelling are largely unadulterated (non-normalized). I can appreciate the grammar-stylistic overlays as they are intended to be, for the most part. It makes the written lyrics look less like writing, and more like transcription.