If you have ever wondered what some vague rap lyric
means, there there could be a site coming your way soon.
Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz. Photo by Reuters.
My memory of a Christmas in Auckland was driving my son's
vehicle down Queen St to pick him up from work with some
rapper MP3 playing very loudly. The day was hot, the windows
were open and I could not find the volume control. At a very
busy intersection, I was greeted with quite strange looks as
I rapped away waiting for the lights to change.
Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz is famous for starting his
blog posts with rap lyrics. Now, he will be putting his money
into the mix.
His firm, Andreessen Horowitz, announced last week a $US15
million ($NZ18.3 million) investment in Rap Genius, a website
using crowdsourcing to dig into and explain arcane details of
Think of Rap Genius as the Talmud, Horowitz said in a phone
interview, referring to the Jewish text that interprets the
As an example, Horowitz cited a Lil Wayne lyric, "real G's
move in silence like lasagna". Click on it, and Rap Genius
explains the singer is referring to gangsters and the silent
g in lasagne.
"If you don't get it, don't be ashamed," reads the Rap Genius
note accompanying the line.
"Questlove from The Roots didn't either."
Embedded in the note is a Tweet from the musician known as
Questlove citing the lyric with the question #AmIGettinold?
The company is slowly spreading to other categories, such as
literature, political speeches, and science papers.
"We think the community will continue to expand beyond rap
into all culture," wrote Horowitz's colleague, Marc
Andreessen, in a blog post announcing the investment.
It would be interesting to see some analysis of political
speeches both in New Zealand and elsewhere to find out
exactly what politicians actually meant when they delivered a
speech - or a denial. Given the furore around whether Act New
Zealand leader John Banks did or did not remember receiving
donations for his mayoral campaign from Kim Dotcom, and
whether Prime Minister John Key did or did not get briefed
about a spying campaign on Dotcom, it would be handy to have
Rap Genius providing an interpretation.
Horowitz first met Rap Genius' co-founders Mahbod Moghadam,
Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman last year when he visited
business mentoring programme Y Combinator which they were
attending. The three had met as undergraduates at Yale
It is not immediately clear how Rap Genius will make money;
Horowitz called the company's business model "TBD" (or To Be
"If they succeed in the mission, and they end up annotating
the internet, there's a huge audience for that," Horowitz
At that point, a path to revenue would emerge, he added.
Andreessen Horowitz, founded three years ago, announced in
January it had raised a $US1.5 billion fund, its third. It
has invested in some of the country's hottest start-ups,
including online bulletin board Pinterest and
social-networking site Facebook.