Rap Genius

334px-Bilbao_BUM_Chuck_dedo_FlavorWe’ve all known songs, maybe songs we’ve known for a long time, with lyrics (words) that we thought we understood. Later we find out that what we thought were the lyrics were all wrong.

I don’t remember when I first heard the song “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers, but people used to sing it to me a lot because Lucille is a form of my name, Lucy. The chorus (part of the song that is repeated) begins like this:

“You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille
With four hungry children
And a crop (plants on a farm grown for food) in the field”

For over 15 years, I thought that the second line of that chorus was, “With four hundred children…”  There’s a small difference between four and four hundred. In my defense (my excuse is), I thought the songwriter was being poetic (imaginative and figurative (not literal, not saying the exact truth)), trying to say that the singer has a heavy burden (a lot of troubles and responsibilities).

If you listen to American rap music, this may help you. Rap music, as you probably know, is a type of music where the lines are said rather than sung, with a clear pattern, and many of the words at the end of each phrase or sentence rhyme (have the same sound), similar to a poem. Rap lyrics are notoriously (famous in a bad way) difficult to understand, partly because they are said so quickly, but also because they often refer to African American culture and to street slang (informal language used on the streets in cities) that listeners may not be familiar with.

Now there is help. There is a website called Rap Genius that uses crowd sourcing — the practice of allow anyone to comment or give information, similar to how Wikipedia works. Anyone can select and highlight words (make text look brighter or special to call attention to it) in a song and give their interpretation or opinion about what that lyric means. Like any crowd-sourced website, you have to take those comments with a grain of salt (be careful what you believe and don’t believe, what you accept and don’t accept), but it may be useful for some rap fans who want more information or some explanation of what they hear.

We often get emails from listeners with questions about song lyrics. If you have a question about a rap song, you may want to check out (look at) Rap Genius to see if it can help you unravel (solve; answer) your question. No doubt both you and I will be heading there (going there) looking for answers.

Have you experienced any interesting or funny cases of misheard lyrics (words of a song that you got wrong)?

– Lucy

Photo Credit: Bilbao BUM Chuck dedo Flavor from Wikipedia



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10 Responses to Rap Genius

  1. Alan A. Santos says:

    I never understand a word of what those rapers say, it is very difficult cause they speak very quickly, I can just get some words. 🙁
    ~From somewhere in Brazil~

  2. Wang says:

    Hi Lucy!

    As a second-language learner, My answer is supposed to be Yes. I have misheard and mispronounced plenty of words in English. Last night, I went to a bible class and we were saying a topic about

    overcoming strongholds of becoming a shopaholic. You know, buying things that it may not in your need. I brought up a funny story about my friend and in fact, I had said ” a pair of shoes”

    but “a parachute” was what my pastor heard from me :'( .Well, fortunately, I finally made it clear T.T ! And with rap? Sorry, I’m not a big fan of it.

    In general, not all but rarely I hear something nice about rap. I, for one, think because that it is made out of street slang, and street-smart so lots of time it contains sensitive or silly materials.

    I barely can hear a whole song out. Back to the aforementioned song, “Lucille”, I had listened to that song before I skimmed thru your upload and just like what you did. I heard “hundred” instead of “hungry”

    and because I heard the next lines mentioned about “crop in the field” so with my figurative thoughts, I assumed that the message the composer wanted to send out was that the female character left the male

    behind with crops and a farm, you know, there might be 400 hundred cows or goats or sheep…those the male character treasured as his own children :D. Anyway, ” four hungry children” matches the context the most

    than the other one.

    Thank Lucy for sharing such a informative topic that points out the truth is that even Americans, sometimes you could misunderstand each other, not only us, second-language learners.

    That encourages us a lot ^_^, otherwise, lots of us would wonder how humiliated we are as being in such holes by ourselves 😀

    Best regard!


  3. Lassana says:

    Hi Everybody,

    Thanks to Lucy for this topic and especially for giving us these informations about Genius

    I had never heard before of this website which is very interesting, because I like to listen RAP and Hip-Hop music. Now I could read what singers say when they sing.

    Moreover, it’s very difficult for me to figure out what they sing, because they speak very quickly, I can only understand one or two words and I think that that is very frustrating!

    See you soon


  4. Dan says:

    Hey guys, Hi Lucy how are you today?

    Sorry for writing so late.

    I have not experienced something similar to that Lucy.

    Hahah, I would like to see your face Lucy, when someone sings that song to you.
    I was thinking that you may want to punch their faces, but fake a smile instead as if that was the first time and it is so funny, right?

    Something that at times surprises me is, when I am listening to a song that, maybe I grow up with in the 80s/90s and now I am able to understand the lyrics (Thanks to the help of ESL POD.) I think ” so this is that song was about!”

    That happened with a few songs of the Queen, and others I do not remember right now.

    Thanks a lot Lucy

  5. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Good one this subject. Songs are my favorite hobby. But American songs are not my bread and butter, but I hear them very often. I like to listen to Braziliam songs like “the girl from the Ipanema” by Tom Jobim.
    I have been becoming well known here, just mentioning what Alan A. Santos said before: “From somewhere in Brazil” Yes, Alan, if you are a Brazilian you have reasons to be happy, because Brazil is the best land in the world, for sure, no doubt.
    Aecio, from the wonderland where everything is allowed.

  6. Myo ko ko says:

    Yes, Lucy
    You’ve got that right about there’s a small difference between 4 and 400! 😉
    Speaking of music, frankly, I don’t like these two genres: Rap and Hip Hop.
    They always get on my nerves.

    A couple of days ago, me and some of my friends were watching a rapper singing on TV.
    There what we could understand from what he was singing was “Jump up, Jump up.”
    Just these two words we could figure out from the whole song he sung!!
    Hey, that rapper and we are all Myanmarnese!
    You see, even in our mother tongue, we can’t just make head or tail of some rap music unless we
    look at their written lyrics.
    How funny and frustrating it is!

    So, Lucy
    You’re luckier than me in that you just got a word or two wrong.
    I got the whole piece wrong. 😉

    Many thanks Lucy for your lucid post.

    Myo ko ko

  7. Parviz says:

    Hi every body
    Thanks Lucy.
    It almost every day happen to me.
    Because, I am just getting the hang of listening to English songs. For me it is all misunderstanding, therefor, I have to read the Lyrics’ script first.
    One example of what happened to me was This song named “A Rainy Night in Paris”.
    … It’s a rainy night in Paris,
    And the harbour lights are low,
    He must leave his love in Paris,
    Before the winter snow;….
    And in the second line it says “And the harbour lights are low”, where I misheard it ‘And the horbor lights FOLLOW”.
    That was Until I looked at the transcript and it dawned on me that I had misunderstood it.

    Thank you,

    P.S. I now I am behind the crowed, But remember what they say, “Better late than never”.

  8. Myo ko ko says:

    Taking a look at the current trends here,
    Rap and Hip Hop are taking a great role in the lives of teenagers.
    Grown-ups over twenty years or so are more likely not to like Rap and Hip Hop music styles.
    So, why are these youngesters so being influenced by these types of music?
    There may be several reasons to this question.
    Of them, I see two dominent ones:

    1) Most teenagers assume that they are “behind the age” if they can’t follow the current trends.
    Let’s say, a teenager sees another teenagers listening to Rap, Hip Hop music, he or she feels
    a need to do what his/her counterparts are doing in order to set him/herself in line with them.
    There a “compelling feeling” arises in his/her own mindset, so he/she does what other mates do.
    These teenagers always feel a need to try to keep up with the current trendy things that are popular
    amongst them.

    2)Today, we’re living in a ‘fast-paced’ age, in a you-snooze-you-loose age.
    Almost everywhere acorss the globe, there are calling for ‘speed’.
    We walk our lives in hurry. Everything we do has a sense of “fast,” “speed.”
    That changes the way we feel the music styles, I think.
    We know Rap and Hip Hop are composed of rather fast ‘beats’ , with so many words crammed into
    each interval of beats. That makes a Rap-style song be played or sang with a fast tempo.
    So Rap and Hip Hop music styles seems to be good fits for fast-paced world, especially for the world of youths.

    Well, these are only my two cents.

    Myo ko ko

  9. Wang says:

    Hey Myo, you aren’t Japanese, are you?…wow, your name just sounds like Japanese one…have a good day

  10. emiliano says:

    “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers was and is one of my favorites songs Lucy, that´s very good, but some time ago
    I didn´t undesrtand anything of the lyric, only a word, a phrase but nothing more.
    In fact I didn´t care, I like the song the same as “The Gamer” another one I like very much.
    It´s really a good Singer Kenny Rogers but quite difficult of understanding, it happens the same as with
    Eric Clapton or Mark Knopher, I like them absolutely but it is really diffecult to get the lyrics, but the songs
    are so good, never tired of listening to them.

    From the old Eric Clapton I like specially Layla, the was written for the wife of George Harrison, Layla, they
    were friends but Clapton was in love with Layla, finally Layla was divorced from G.Harrison and married
    Eric Clapton, not for long, after some years they were also divorced.
    But Layla was very very beautiful, incledible eyes and so foth……I may understan why the two man were so
    crazy about the girl, and Clapton writes one of his best songs………and so forth….long of telling.

    Here it is the lyric of Layla, sorry Lucy I don´t know if it is posible to post it here…..if not sorry.

    What’ll you do when you get lonely
    And nobody’s waiting by your side?
    You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
    You know it’s just your foolish pride.

    Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
    Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
    Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

    I tried to give you consolation
    When your old man had let you down.
    Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
    Turned my whole world upside down.

    Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
    Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
    Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

    Let’s make the best of the situation
    Before I finally go insane.
    Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
    And tell me all my love’s in vain.

    Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
    Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
    Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

    Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
    Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
    Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

    Thanks a lot Lucy, I had flu, a heavy flu with fever, so now that I am better I am going to
    see the site to underestan Rap, I like rap also.

    Thanks a lot Lucy and (Lucille) take care about flu and not have so may children, four are
    a lot, I had three…..and know what I am talking about.


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