Rap Lyrics Have Got 99 Problems, But A $15 Million Investment Ain’t One
The influential power of hip hop is getting its dues lately, with Public Enemy and NWA being inducted into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, and a range of successes for local Australian artists, most recently 360′s domination of the ARIA nominations.
Apparently the expansion of the genre knows no bounds, with Silicon Valley being the latest to take an interest.
As The Age reports venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz has announced they are investing a massive $US 15 million (approx $AU 14.7m) into Rap Genius, a website whose primary function is deciphering hip hop lyrics for the uninitiated and hardcore alike, through the use of crowdsourcing.
For example, head to the entry fort the classic 2Pac song ‘California Love,’ click on the words “in the city of good ol’ Watts”and a box will pop up explaining that Watts is a district of LA, or how about a line-by-line breakdown of Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’ that reads like the kind of informed narrative analysis you’d see in university.
Ben Horowitz, one of the founders of the firm who’ve made the investment is a noted hip hop fan, who has drawn attention to his ventures by posting on his own blog, which covers such gangsta topics as effective managerial skills, lyrics by artists such as Dr. Dre.
But it was the other half of the successful partnership, Mark Andreessen, who explained the multi-million dollar investment on a blog on Rap Genius itself.
In it, he explains that the technique of breaking down rap into terminology understandable to your average Joe who has never been to Brooklyn, is just as applicable to other, equally indecipherable topics such as law, literature, and scientific papers.
“We think the community will continue to expand beyond rap into all culture,” writes Horowitz.
In fact, they have even got a Stanford law professor on board to help expand the site’s content. The end game, according to Andreessen, is to “annotate the world.”
In an explanation that could do with some annotating itself, he described Andreessen Horowitz’ intention with Rap Genius as to “be the knowledge about the knowledge… create the Internet Talmud.” A reference to a tome which explains the first five books of the Jewish bible.
“It’s an ambitious mission, and one we are proud to get behind,” added Horowitz.
However, it is as yet unclear how the “wikipedia of rap” will make money, with Horowitz telling The Age its business model was “to be determined,” which is a businessman’s way of saying they’re not quite sure how it will make money yet. If they succeed in their ambitious project however, “and they end up annotating the internet, there’s a huge audience for that,” Horowitz said, at which point, a path to revenue would emerge.
If anyone can make a crowd-sourced website based around hip hop lyrics a successful money-making venture, it’s these guys. You may have heard of some of their previous investments – Skype, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, to name a few.
They were named the number one venture capitalist firm in the world last year by many names that specialise in the field, such as CNET‘s influential tech investor list, Vanity Fair’s New Establishment rankings and Forbes’ eminent ‘Midas List’.
So has their power gone to their heads, or is this the dark horse genius idea of the year?
It also may or may not also be relevant one of the three start-ups of Rap Genius, Ilan Zechory, is a clinical hypnotist – conspiracy theorists, go to town with that.
Rappers may have hardcore images to uphold, but they weren't always as tough as they make themselves out to be. Once upon a time they were tiny little babies, the apple of their mothers eye. And their mothers named them so. Check out some of the more unusual and unexpected real names of some of the biggest rappers in the world. Watch this slideshow »