By Nate Ashcroft of Evolver.fm.
Rap’s wordplay can be confusing, with oblique references, inside jokes, and regional slang. Since 2009, fans of the genre have been hashing out song meanings on RapGenius.com, which set out to demystify rap lyrics through the power of crowdsourcing. And now, all of the lyrics, annotations, and opinions about what each line means, which are vetted by the site’s moderators, are available in a mobile app, for free.
The Genius app for iOS (don’t be fooled by this Android version from another developer) does more than the web version. It can identify songs acoustically, a la Shazam, bringing up the lyrics page immediately, so you can follow along and read what people have thought about the lyrics. It plays some songs from SoundCloud, so you can listen to the song while you read the lyrics. If you grant the app access to the music on your own phone it can also identify the currently playing song , once again displaying the associated lyrics page. You can even use the app as your music player, searching your library for what to hear next from right within the app.
Lyrics are always among the most popular searches on Google, but RapGenius goes a bit further, because it’s designed for lyrics only, and includes ancillary information such as the name of the producer, other fans’ comments, and more. We especially appreciated the app’s ability to search for individual lyrics, in addition to song and artist titles, which helps when you can’t get one line out of your head, and don’t even know what song it belongs to.
RapGenius has recently extended to cover rock music, poetry, and music/technology news, all of which are available in the Genius app; you can quickly scroll through the top 15 songs, poems, and news stories on the network.
Although RapGenius saw a traffic boost after launching the rock, poetry, and news features, the company made the big mistake of upsetting search giant Google with a phony blog promotion strategy meant to boost its search results rankings. As a result, its unique monthly users plummeted from about 800,000 views per day to just over 100,000 – something that affects the service’s core functionality, because without the crowd, there is no “crowdsourcing.”
Luckily for rap fans, RapGenius.com is back on Google, so the valuable lyrical context provided by the website — and now the app too — should continue to improve.
If you’re a hip hop fan, or even just someone who likes delving into the lyrics of whatever they’re listening to (although rap is the strongest genre in the app), this is a must-have app, as many hip-hop fans already know – and if you didn’t, well, now you do.