Rap Genius is a community for user-contributed annotations of everything. Song lyrics and creative writing are the site’s primary use: rap/r&b/soul, rock/pop/indie, and poetry/literature. There’s also annotations for news content, fashion, and recipes. Rap Genius could be a lot of fun.
My original idea for this post about Rap Genius was simple: find a good song on Rap Genius, copy-paste the lyrics and annotations, and let that speak for itself. That would’ve been the entire blog post.
However, the song selection isn’t very comprehensive. Lyrics for many songs don’t have any annotations. I could’ve found song lyrics on another website, copied them to Rap Genius, and annotated them all by myself but that kinda defeats the purpose.
Annotations need some usability work. The total number of annotations is underneath each song title. Yet it’s not clear where one annotation ends and another begins. Delineating each annotation requires hovering over every line of the song.
An option for inline annotations would also be useful. I tried my original blog post plan mentioned above. I copied the song lyrics from Rap Genius onto a new document, added an extra blank line underneath each lyric, and individually pasted each annotation under the lyric. Half-way through, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. A link to view lyrics and annotations on the same page would’ve accomplished in one step what I was trying to do.
Many verified artists are already on Rap Genius. Musicians like Snoop Lion and George Clinton have contributed their own annotations, which are interesting to read. Education Genius works closely with teachers at all levels and across disciplines to design and implement classroom projects using the “Genius” collaborative annotation platform.
I enjoy reading about the meaning of creative works and stories of their creation. Annotations are the ancestor of hyperlinks, providing context and additional details. With more songs and better annotations, I’d probably use Rap Genius quite frequently.