Thursday, May 9, 2013
From OHHLA to RapGenius
Back in the day, I checked, like a whole lot of folks, for rap lyrics on the Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive
(OHHLA). Founded in 1992, OHHLA includes hundreds and hundreds of rap lyrics, and in its day, the site was a really ground-breaking resource for rap enthusiasts. If you want to get a sense of what folks were saying, you went to OHHLA.
Sure, at times, some of the lyrics presented on the site were incorrect. But generally speaking, there was no denying the value of the site as a major resource for documenting the art form in writing. I was on the site regularly in the mid to late 1990s and even in the early years of the 21st century. Looking back, OHHLA was an important precursor to what we now have with RapGenius.
Like many iterations of web2.0 and beyond technologies, RapGenius makes it possible for would-be web readers to quickly transform themselves into reader-participants. And what's not to love about the idea of going from rap fan to rap genius through the art and skill of online annotation?
These days, many of my current students were born in the early 1990s. They'd view something like OHHLA as only a little less old-looking than lyrics printed in the liner notes of a CD. They've only known interactive sites, and thus they find venues that did not allow user-generated content and commentary as somewhat dated and sometimes unappealing.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the ways an OHHLA prepared me and others for something like a RapGenius, and how analog liner notes prepared us for OHHLA. It's interesting to consider the ways folks became highly hip hop literate or kinds of rap geniuses before the days of RapGenius.
• A Notebook on RapGenius