For example, you’ve heard famous tidbits and quotes of John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you" speech, but maybe the speech was before your time and you want a contextual breakdown of what it means.
Or maybe you love an opera song you’ve recently heard, and although you really appreciate the music and vocals, you have no idea what the words mean. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could click on the unknown information, so you could get a clear and concise dissection of it?
If the answer is yes, you may want to check out the website rapgenius.com, created by three Yale students back in 2009. Many people have already discovered the site, as Rap Genius gets about 500,000 hits each day, according to reports.
But for those who haven’t used the site, it was created so users can find out the true meanings of today’s popular Rap songs and lyrics, and recently the three Ivy League friends received a $15 million investment from the firm Andreesen Horowitz, which have already invested in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare.
The meaning of it all
For the past three years Rap Genius has broken down popular and obscure Rap lyrics that are usually encased in daily shifting slang, pop culture references, and regional speak. Users can go to the site, choose a song and click on the lyrics for the background meaning.
And the analysis isn’t done mockingly either; many users contribute to the site and explain the meanings of Rap lyrics in a very thoughtful and articulate way, so if you have a serious interest about understanding the gist of today’s most popular songs, Rap Genius is the place to go. It also breaks down songs from other genres of music too.
With the new $15 million investment, founders Tom Lehman, llan Zechory, and Mahbod Moghadam have plans to grow the website so it can simplify other things besides music too.
Just a few weeks ago, during the Democratic National Convention, Rap Genius added Barack Obama’s convention speech to the site, so users could click on the words and get facts and contextual meaning. The company plans to add other things that also may be hard to understand like a new law put in place or a political debate, so people can understand everything that was argued.
"Knowledge about knowledge"
Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreesen Horowitz believes that getting people to clearly understand everything they are hearing and seeing is of countless value, which is why he says Rap Genius has become so successful since its inception.
“Knowledge about knowledge over time becomes as important as the knowledge itself,” he said in an interview.
His partner Marc Andreesen agrees, and says if more information online had the ability to be analyzed and simplified by users, consumers would benefit a great deal from it.
“I often wonder how the Internet would have turned out differently if users had been able to annotate everything, to add new layers of knowledge to all knowledge, on and on, ad infinitum” he wrote. “And so 20 years later Rap Genius finally gives us the opportunity to find out. It’s an ambitious mission and one we are proud to get behind.”
And the company won’t be alone, as even more people are bound to get behind the site too. If Rap Genius can successfully pull in the user who isn’t a Rap fan, and interest the person who couldn’t care less about the meaning of Rap lyrics, it can grow to enormous heights.
See, many people who are turned off by Hip-Hop are pushed away by some of its harsh content, and its in-your-face-manner, but one has to remember that Rap music is a part of youth culture -- and historically, it’s always been a part of youth culture’s plan to make the generation before it just a little uncomfortable, and even offended at times and that type of contrived rebellion has been consistent throughout time, but for some reason when it comes to Rap music, all of that is forgotten a lot of the time.
Also, only a small portion of Rap music is the curse-riddled hardcore street version that’s popular on radio and TV. Hip Hop music with more thoughtful and gentler themes have always been extremely underexposed.
If the founders of Rap Genius can somehow lure non-rap consumers to its site, while still keeping its unmistakable Hip Hop name, the possibilities are endless for the company. Horowitz says getting his firm to work with a Hip Hop company was his biggest challenge in securing the investment dollars for Rap Genius.
“That was the thing that got the most resistance at the firm in making the investment,” he said. “That I was interested in rap and it was Rap Genius. It was like, ‘Ben what are you doing?’ ”
“The rappers and hip-hop community are the main investors of the modern culture, not in the U.S. but worldwide. They drive so many things from a culture creation standpoint. If you are a community-based site, starting with the culture creators is genius, to use the term,” Horowitz said.