During the course of this last semester, I spent considerable time on RapGenius and the Poetry Foundation. I've visited both of these online resources over the years, but since I was teaching courses that featured poetry and rap, I was especially inclined to check out materials on the two sites over the last few months. Taken together, the sites provided me with extensive information to complement my discussions of materials and artists that I covered in my classes, and more importantly, my uses of the two sites for common scholarly purposes enhanced my sense of a type of double consciousness with that duality in this case consisting of poetry and rap.
The Poetry Foundation provides a large number of poems and biographical information on poets. I have access to much of what they present on their site in various books that I own. However, the user-friendly navigation and many materials on a single site make the Poetry Foundation one of my favored online destinations when it comes to poetry.
RapGenius, like the Poetry Foundation, provides an extensive body of content in the form of rap lyrics. The site goes further, though, by providing line-by-line explanations of the music and in some instances, the site even offers commentary from verified artists about the meanings of their lyrics. RapGenius relies largely on user-generated content and so has a social, wikipedia-like feel to it.
I've enjoyed the experience of moving back and forth over the two sites during the semester, and I suspect my students and I have benefited from the information about poets and rappers that I was able to pick up from the two resources. The Poetry Foundation site assisted me with clarifications about dates of publication, poems classified under distinct topics, and background information on writers, while RapGenius provided me with explanations and clarifications of rap lyrics by Jay-Z, Jay Electronica, and Rakim, to name a few.
The extensive amount of time that I spent on the Poetry Foundation and RapGenius made me even more aware of my dual interests in poetry and hip hop, two interrelated fields that overlap and also diverge in many notable, fascinating ways. To take one example, by and large, the people (usually scholars and poets) I converse with about poetry tend to be older in comparison to the folks I talk with about rap. As a result, the conversations about interpretation and literary history concerning poetry usually reference scholarly essays and books, whereas similar discussions with rap concentrate on engagements with popular culture. Identifying and thinking through the differences and similarities among the fields has been a rewarding experience.
• A Notebook on RapGenius