Hip-hop fans probably hit Rap Genius at least once a week. It’s actually one of the most intelligent sites for music discussion on the Internet. And if the National Music Publishers Association has their way, it’s going down.
Rap Genius has been lumped in with a bunch of other lyrics sites the NMPA is suing over publishing rights. Essentially, the NMPA argues that all these sites do is reprint lyrics from their members and reap the advertising dollars that come when you inevitably Google the lyrics to figure out what the hell the rest of the song is about.
Most of these sites are disposable, but Rap Genius decidedly isn’t. If you’re not familiar, it does reprint the lyrics, but the goal of the site is to annotate those lyrics, to explain obscure references and slang terms listeners may not be familiar with, offer historical context, and to generally make hip-hop more engaging and accessible.
More to the point, it’s artist-approved; it’s not uncommon to bring up a song and find annotations and comments directly from the musicians involved. Especially if, say, you’re one of the whitest human beings on the planet, like yours truly, it’s a pretty useful site that helps you develop a fuller appreciation of hip-hop as an art form.
It seems a bit contrary to the needs of the music industry to spike a site that helps you learn more about music. The good news is that if Rap Genius is ever taken to court, it’s got a real argument for fair use, and most of the artists the NMPA claims to represent will come to the site’s defense. But still, it’s ridiculous it’s even a question.
(Image courtesy of SalFalko on Flickr)