Yale Graduates Seek a Hip-Hop Degree

The creators of Rap Genius, a hip-hop lyrics site, from left, Ilan Zechory, Tom Lehman and Mahbod Moghadam.

From The New York Times:

It started with confusion over a Cam’ron lyric.

In 2009, Tom Lehman, a computer programmer, was puzzled by the line, “80 holes in your shirt: there, your own Jamaican clothes” in the rap song “Family Ties.” What were “Jamaican clothes,” he wondered?

A friend from Yale, Mahbod Moghadam, guessed that the lyric referred to the tattered clothing worn by impoverished Jamaicans. That turned out not to be true, but it was enough to inspire Mr. Lehman to build Rap Genius, a Web site that seeks to decipher every lyric in hip-hop.

While rap lyric sites are not new, Rap Genius distinguished itself by adding a Wikipedia-esque twist, allowing anyone to annotate lyrics with words, photos and videos. More than 250,000 people have submitted explanations to date, with contributions vetted by 500 editors, many of them high school or college students.

The result is a mélange of decoded slang, interpretations of varying plausibility and dorky jokes that has struck a chord. The site draws two million unique visitors a month, according to comScore, an independent analytics firm, and last month Ben Horowitz, a well-known venture capitalist in Silicon Valley with a soft spot for hip-hop, announced he was investing $15 million in the site.

Continue reading the rest of the story on The New York Times