Since the dawn of hip-hop, fans and listeners have toiled a labor of love to decode the cryptic (s)language emcees are literally in the business of writing. Other times, they scat along happily with no concept of what the lyrics mean. But these days, thanks to sites like RapMap, knowing the ins and outs of rap philosophy –actually understanding what artists are saying — is getting easier. Or at least more fun.
The rapid re-invention of the English language and the obvious kicks we get out of describing weird new human behaviors and cultural phenomena in a few cliquey words or less is so plainly apparent in the apps and sites we frequent the most. The Urban Dictionary, for instance, has jetted into the web records as one of today’s more frequented (and cited) dictionaries on the net. They even have their own mugs.
So when RapGenius–an interactive site that allows you to cruise through hilarious song interpretations aimed to help you “discover the meaning of rap lyrics”– came on the scene, hop-heads old and new laughed along to not only single word elucidations (i.e. Breaka Breaka 1-9, or Breitling) but digestions of entire phrases, verses, and larger schools of thought (West Saiiiide!). It’s an Urban Lyrics Dictionary, only so much more.
On site there are track explanations from all stripes of rap and hip-hop, from Nas to Mos Def to Jeezy (there is even a Vampire Weekend tune in there). And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can request an analysis (where’s T.O. and London at?-submissions people). Here’s just one exegesis for a taste: “It’s a shame/Niggas in the rap game/Only for the money and the fame,” from Xzibit’s “Paparazzi” elicits the following analysis from the Rap Geniuses, “Xzibit is upset that rappers just rap for the money… but the real question is: why else would anyone rap? (CAPITALISM!)”
They’ve got a point.
Adding a layer of endless wingsuit fun is my personal favorite: the new RAP MAP (brought to you by RapGenius). The Rap Map lets you fly through and over infamous hoods and major rap-history landmarks (say, Gordie’s stompin’ grounds in the Motor City over to the “Madison across from the Radisson” that AZ raps about in “Never Change”), albeit without the risk of getting shot up. (I’ve noticed they’ve recently changed their landmark icons from black gats to orange headphones).
Their Mission? “Mapping the Gangsta Terrain of the Planet.”
Check it out, but be warned: you’ll want to stay a while.