Yellow living room set. This line, off the intro to Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade,” is the rabbit hole to perhaps the greatest chat forum burn in the history of the Internet. And the door to that rabbit hole is RapGenius.com.Andreessen Horowitz has an investment portfolio that reads like Tim Berners-Lee’s dream Rolodex. Facebook, Skype, Pinterest, Twitter — these are just a few of the companies that the venture capitalist group has backed, so when they go out and drop $15 million on a startup named Rap Genius, the Internet takes notice.
With over $2.73 billion in capital, Andreessen Horowitz can certainly afford to splash a few bank notes towards a “splurge project.” Ben Horowitz, one of A.H.’s founders, is a documented nut for the dark arts of hip hop, so why not spread some love to a website whose prime focus is creating annotations for rap songs? Even if Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of the site (which, apparently, he is), so what? How will anyone knowing the true meaning behind Chamillionaire’s “Rock Star” make a good ROI for a venture capitalist firm? Turns out, there’s a bigger motive at play here.
As Marc Andreessen (yes, the Andreessen in Andreessen Horowitz) notes on his blog, “It turns out that Rap Genius has a much bigger idea and a much broader vision… (w)hich is: generate out to many other categories of text… annotate the world… be the knowledge about the knowledge… create the Internet Talmud.”
If you had a Rap Genius-style annotation option available to you right now, you’d just click on the word “Talmud” to find out it is basically the intricate Hebrew tome that interprets the Torah — the Jewish faith’s version of the Bible. Rap Genius eventually intends to provide instant, readable explanations for everything on the world wide web. It’s a cool idea from a company that views itself as “the center triangle” in a three circle Venn Diagram comprised of Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary and rap lyrics. And yet, there’s more.
Marc Andreessen further explains that when he was a web programming student at the University of Illinois, he and another student, Eric Bina, built Mosaic (if you had the annotation capability, right now you’d know that Mosaic was an early web browser that later became Netscape…another early web browser). In Mosaic, Andreessen always wanted a total web annotation capability, but ran out of time to program it. So now fast forward 19 years, and Andreessen is backing a company with a similar vision. Long story short, Andreessen just bought his Rosebud! This annotation would explain that Rosebud was the (spoiler alert!) name on the sled in the movie Citizen Kane. “Rosebud,” the dying word of the film’s protagonist, symbolized Charles Kane’s lost childhood. Andreessen perhaps recognizes something of his younger self in the image of Mahbod Moghadam, Rap Genius’ founder.
Damn. Even rabbit holes have rabbit holes, I guess.