No, that’s not a joke.
Rap Genius, the self-described “hip-hop Wikipedia,” announced a spin-off service at TechCrunch Disrupt on Wednesday called News Genius that intends to explain breaking news stories through user-generated annotations in the same way that it does with rap lyrics.
While this marks the first time that Rap Genius has talked about a news-focused section, the startup told Mashable that there has been news content on the site for years. Mahbod Moghadam, one of the the three co-founders, says that the first news story posted to the service was President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2010, less than six months after Rap Genius launched. Since then, the service has featured many major speeches and pieces of legislation, as well as stories like Andrew Mason’s farewell letter to Groupon employees.
At some point, Moghadam says that noted investor Ben Horowitz noticed all the news content on the site and recommended that Rap Genius create a separate hub for it. “He put his finger on the pulse of what was going on,” Moghadam says. Horowitz’s VC firm Andreessen Horowitz invested $15 million in Rap Genius in 2012.
What Rap Genius launched on Wednesday wasn’t a separate webpage or section for News Genius, but rather a Twitter and Facebook page to promote news content that appears in Rap Genius. If you visit the Facebook page for News Genius right now, you’ll see everything from Sports Illustrated‘s cover story about Jason Collins coming out to an article about rhinoceroses being killed off in Mozambique, each of which link back to Rap Genius’s website.
Some of the annotations on these news stories can be a bit irreverent, but the annotations included on the Jason Collins story, for example, are pretty informative: There are links to videos, photos and text snippets that offer more context for his career, family and background about why his decision to come out is considered so momentous.
Moghadam says the startup is still working on the technology-side to launch dedicated sites for different genres of content and for different languages. The plan is to complete this process in about a year. Until then, the Rap Genius team hopes to use the social media accounts to build a community around certain genres of content.
News Genius is just one of several spin-offs that Rap Genius currently has in the works. The startup also runs Poetry Genius and Law Genius, and has plans for more religious-themed genres like Qur’an Genius.
“When we tell people that [Rap Genius] will be the biggest website in the world, they think the rap part,” Moghadam says, emphasizing that there are many more components than just rap lyrics. “That’s like thinking of Facebook as a college meetup site.”
Image via Getty, Brian Ach