Making an objective argument for the “best rapper alive” is a difficult task. How do you quantify intangibles like delivery, energy, etc.? Product and experience designer Svilen Kostadinov may have the answer with “RapGenius 2.0.” The proposed project seeks to quantify an emcee’s skills by exploring their use of literary devices over the course of their discography, thereby demonstrating how they’ve evolved over time. It’s almost like a sports league that keep statistics for its players.
RapGenius 2.0 would use four badges to determine the impact of each artist’s album: rating, lyricism, cultural impact, and sales. The project could also potentially apply the same method to individual tracks, allowing users to see trends across albums and discographies. Users would also be able to explore an album’s literary DNA and isolate statistics like lyrical complexity, unique rhymes, syllables per bar, and literary distribution. These quantifiable stats could demonstrate how our favorite artists compare, or what makes them unique.
Mass Appeal got in touch with Svilen via email to get his insight on “RapGenius 2.0” and find out what he hopes to achieve with the mockup.
Mass Appeal: Can you share a little about your personal and professional background?
Svilen Kostadinov: I was born and raised in Bulgaria, and moved to the States in the year 2000. I’m currently based out of Fairfax, VA, right outside of D.C. My day job is a User Experience designer. I’ve worked for a couple of interesting startups recently, and I love creating and designing everything from buildings and shoes to virtual realities and apps.
What piqued your interest in design?
Growing up in post-communist Bulgaria, I watched a lot of cartoons like Ducktales and Batman. They really sparked and fueled my imagination. When I was eight or nine, we got a PC that had Photoshop installed. Although I didn’t speak English at the time, I kept playing with it and found out how to create clouds using one of the filters. When I moved to the States, I got into graffiti and drawing—I was the kid sketching all class and not paying attention. I got into Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, but soon realized my mind was more analytical and my passion was solving problems creatively. After I graduated, I took a Stanford online class, discovered the field of UX Design, and here I am today.
Where are you working right now?
Actually, I’m unemployed at the moment. One of the risks of working at early stage startups is the lack of stability. I’m using this opportunity to travel and work on some passion projects—this being one of them. I’m currently designing some exciting concepts for Kanye West, virtual/augmented reality projects for the Oculus Rift, Vive, and Magic Leap.
What are some notable projects you’ve worked on in the past?
In 2012, I had a startup idea that exploited international tax laws to transport goods, such as iPhones, to countries where they would sell for the highest profit margin. The project fell through since I couldn’t find serious developers to execute the idea. Last year, I designed a social app that’s a mix between Snapchat and Foursquare, but my developer flaked on me. I have bad luck finding serious developers.
What are some of your favorite hip hop albums of the moment?
I don’t know about favorites, but lately I’ve been bumping the new Drake joint and Wayne’s Sorry For The Wait 2 while I’m working. I’m really curious to hear Yung Thug’s Carter 6 though, he’s been putting out heat lately.
While your vision of RapGenius 2.0 looks amazing, do you know if it’s technologically possible to implement?
Absolutely. I’ve talked to developers and it’s actually relatively easy in terms of complexity. RapGenius already has the functionality in place—the users annotate lyrics then curate via voting. All that’s needed is to add more layers for the different literary devices.
While lyricism is one component of hip hop, how do you plan to quantify the intangible qualities some rappers bring to the table, e.g. delivery, energy, etc.
Nothing is really intangible, it’s just a matter of having advanced enough technology to capture it in terms that we can understand. Even abstract concepts like love are starting to get quantified in the form of brain waves, hormones, and physiological changes. Things like delivery, energy, and flow will be very hard to objectively measure using human-assisted annotation; they’ll require more technologically advanced methods involving quantum and molecular computing, along with A.I. algorithms such as neural networks and deep learning. These advancements will open possibilities to quantify music in ways that were previously unimaginable. Question is, will we decide music is something important to quantify to that extent in the first place.
What are you hoping to achieve with this mock up?
My ultimate goal is to get the attention of someone like Kanye West, who has the resources and vision to create awesome experiences. I would love to be involved with Kanye’s creative agency DONDA or a startup like Magic Leap, working on interesting challenges. At the end of the day, I’m intrinsically driven by my passion for creating. I just want to find a mutually beneficial fit with a company whose vision I share.
Watch a video breaking down RapGenius 2.0 in the player above, and find out more about the project here.