Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye: Think you could name their songs in just a few seconds of audio? Twenty-one-year-old Danny Friday knows them by heart. He started coding when he was 12 and became obsessed with rap at the age of 14. He’s now dropped out of college and come to Silicon Valley to crowdsource the world’s biggest rap fans. Enter The Rap Test.
The game went live just five days ago and already has 160K+ visitors to the site, playing over 620K games. “It got a tweet from NPR, and MC Hammer now follows me on Twitter,” says Friday.
Someone from the Eminem fan group in Russia even contacted Friday to see if he could translate the site into Russian. “We knew we’d reached something critical when we had over 300 people playing in France in the middle of the night.” The “we” being fellow housemate Josh Indig and Indig’s friend in Philly, Chris Barrett.
The game works like this: You pick your artist from a list of rappers, and then the site plays 15-second snippets of audio from which you must decide which song is playing. It’s supposed to be easy for anyone with a radio and an occasional listen to hip hop. (Side note: I couldn’t even pass the first level for Kanye. Friday assured me it’s probably just a bug, but I’m pretty sure he was being nice.)
Anyone can play, but those looking to do battle can register via Twitter and then compare where they stand on the site’s leaderboard.
Friday was almost weepy when we met at the Creamery in San Francisco’s SoMa. He’d been working around the clock to include a Tupac Shakur test on what would have been the legendary rapper’s 43rd birthday on Monday.
He was also maybe a bit emotional both from lack of sleep and a recent tweet from Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam:
Friday shakes his head as he stares at his phone. “That’s validation. Sorry, I’m emotional right now,” he says. He’s wearing a homemade T-shirt with Jay-Z lyrics on the front and back from “Somewhere in America.”
The game seems simple and fun. But it’s not so simple, as Friday explains – and this isn’t his first attempt at something viral. The Rap Test is actually an iteration of The Kanye Test. But Friday means to use his newest creation to disrupt the way record labels get their data.
We’re not the stereotypical “fuckybergs,” says Friday, referring to his three-person developer posse. He explains what he means by that with a comparison to Nielsen ratings. Friday believes Nielsen has the corner on music data and that it’s too expensive and not as helpful as it could be for the record label industry (RIAA also lends the industry data, by the way).
Music-industry revenue from album sales has dropped off a cliff in recent decades with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and iTunes. “I’m not here to fix the music industry…what does that even mean? But I have something that works.”
While the game seems fun, Friday is a pretty serious human. He’s the type to make spreadsheets of costs and he keeps a list of goals. And he’s willing to do what it takes to make it; the guy literally lives in a closet in a house in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco with a bunch of Thiel Fellows as roommates. He says that keeps him hustling. He also reads a lot and says he pays attention to what goes viral. He even waited a week to release The Rap Test to make sure he had all the necessary elements in place.
The goal now is to bring on a dedicated Rap Test artist (rumor is, he’s in talks with someone big — you’d know him, but Friday can’t disclose yet) and to add more than just rap and hip hop. He’d also like to get some funding from someone who could appreciate what he’s built and the potential it has for big data.