For those living under rocks, Genius is an online knowledge base that allows users to annotate text with their own explanations/interpretations. It started life as Rap Genius in October 2009, but has since broadened its horizons towards other genres, the news, and pretty much everything. Our favourite thing about the site [apart from its comprehensive catalogue of music and possibly the most active/fanatic communities on the internet] has to be its Verified Artists – rappers and producers who annotate their own tracks in order to give us a greater insight into what went on behind the scenes. We thought it was high time we paid tribute to these artists – hell, Jay Z did this in Decoded and charged £20 a pop for his troubles – these guys do it for the love!
Legendary Def Jam producer Rick Rubin is the latest high profile artist to get verified on Genius, and has worked with everyone from Beastie Boys to Slayer. Its unsurprising then, that he’s got some of the best inside stories in the business. He uses his verified account to drop the kind of knowledge that gets fans erect: that Jay Z wrote verse two of ’99 Problems’ on the spot, that there exists an alternative version of ‘Yeezus’ and how he and Johnny Cash wrote ‘Hurt’. Whether he’s talking about working with a legendary group back in the day [like Metallica] or the modern day influence of James Blake, his passion and expertise is always self-evident.
A lot of Kendrick’s work [particularly ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City’] is so layered with meaning that it sometimes requires a little explanation – enter Genius. K-Dot’s verified annotations come in the form of SoundCloud clips of an interview he did with the site, breaking down individual lines from tracks such as ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe‘, ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst‘ and ‘Poetic Justice‘. This kind of insight into the mindset that went into the greatest Hip Hop albums of our time is an absolute privilege, check out King Kendrick’s Verified Artist page here.
Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ is a Hip Hop institution. A Verified Artist on Genius from the get-go, Nas drops video annotations on ‘Illmatic’ classics such as ‘Halftime‘, ‘The World Is Yours‘ and ‘Life’s A Bitch‘. One of the things that makes ‘Illmatic’ great is that Nas lived it. The stories are based on true ones, and characters like Jerome’s niece and Shorty Doo-Wop are real people who did things in places in Queensbridge that you can actually look at on Genius’ Rap Map.
The beauty of Mac’s verified account is that he uses it so naturally. His lyrics are a mixture of dismissive, off-the-cuff brags, and deep introspection, and his annotations reflect this perfectly. Tates range from the ridiculous “I left my mom’s vagina in an unidentifyed flying object. That is a fact” to the existential “We exist through the ideas that we give to the world”. Then again, of course, sometimes he just doesn’t have a clue: “I have no idea what I was talking about”.
Logic’s verified account is a god-send, as his quickness with the tongue often belies the messages and techniques that underpin his rhymes. His debut LP ‘Under Pressure is one of those that benefits from a little context, so it also comes with a commentary version. It makes perfect sense then for the Maryland MC to give fans another way to interact with the album.
The RZA is often cited as the central pin that holds Wu-Tang together. As their go-to beatmaker, it could be argued that he’s largely responsible for that legendary Wu-Tang soud. Anyway, his verified account is worth a peep as he explains everything from the origin of his name to his rhymes on tracks like ‘Tragedy’ [ft. Truth.
On his verified account, KRIT annotates everything from his more recent cuts on latest album ‘Cadillactica’ to lines from his studio debut ‘Live From The Underground‘. Also a producer, KRIT’s annotations are particularly enjoyable as he cites references such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Scarface [on ‘Lac Lac’] and tells tales of recording on tour.
After its self-confessed attempt to game Google’s system, the contraversial annotation of Elliott Rodger’s manifesto and the subsequent resignation of co-founder Mahbod Moghadan, Genius has certainly had its ups and downs. Personally, we’re incredibly glad they’ve lived to tell the tale, gifting us this kind of insight along the way. Let us know if we missed out your favourite verified account in the comments section.