Rap Genius is a deceptively simple idea started by three friends from Yale: a website where users could make their own pop-up annotations to the lyrics of their favorite rap songs, with the most popular crowd-sourced explanations rising to the top. For example, when
It's a goofy concept that was legitimized in October of last year, when it was reported that venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz invested $15 million in Rap Genius -- the idea is to make it into Everything Genius, eventually. This idea of annotation has spread to sister sites News Genius, Rock Genius, and Poetry Genius.
For the the musicians and writers whose work gets annotated on the site, the Genius team offers the chance to create verified annotations. It works for rappers like
Diaz has used his Poetry Genius account to annotate a section of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." It's a dizzying experience: this author's singular voice, strung together with references and jokes, explains what he meant when he writes about "the Outlands, ("referring to the blasted landscape of the movie 'Zardoz,' played gamely by Ireland, if I remember correctly"), the Badlands ("from Roger Zelazny's post-apocalyptic novel 'Damnation Alley'"), the Cursed Earth ("I couldn't resist mike-checking it, considering that I was obsessed with Judge Dredd when I was a kid and also the 'curse' theme of the novel"), and so on and so on. Perhaps the best annotation refers to footnote No. 32, "one of my Melville footnotes, where I simply go buckwild."
With the Internet serving as a friend and a foe to authors, a total mess with the threat of e-books and the double-edged sword of Twitter and lucky willing