Q: What’s your hip-hop background?
A Ilan: I bought Ice Cube’s “Predator” which had a parental advisory sticker when I was 13, which coincided with a family vacation to Israel … pretty good associations.
A Tom: In seventh grade I saw “Mo Money Mo Problems” on “Pop-up Video”…
Q: What’s your real job?
A Ilan: I work for Google.
A Tom: I work for a hedge fund. We’re roommates.
Q: Does life suck compared to college?
A: The reason we got into this [rapexegesis.com] was to get invited to a rapper’s naked hot tub party; we miss college but this is a good substitute. We’ve been to a couple underwear only parties, but the Yale naked parties are the best we’ve been involved with so far. In real life, you have to wake up earlier.
Q: What is your ringback?
A: From Cam’ron, the fakest rapper ever. (me: Fakest?) No, the sickest, bad speakerphone.
Q: How’d you get the idea?
A: [Co-founder] Mahbod Moghadam ’04 was staying on our couch this summer, and it was late one night and we were listening to one Cam’ron song, called “Family Ties”. I paused the song and asked him what one specific line meant, that line was “From whippin’ the bacon rolls to outside whippin’ the bacon Rolls.” Whenever I asked him for some rap knowledge, he made me sit down behind him and massage his head. The line means that he went from rocking cheap food to rolling in a bacon-colored Rolls-Royce. As he explained this to me while I’m rubbing his head, I decided to solve things once and for all and get it all out at once.
Q: Is this Web site more the 21st-century Thomas Aquinas or Babylonian Talmud? With which biblical or classical commentator do you have the most in common?
Q: Are any of you black?
A: We’re not answering that.
Q: Is the target audience 45-year-old parents who want to know what’s playing in their spin class, or snarky white kids?
A: That was the original plan, but my mom sent back a super nice e-mail saying that the cultural divide was too great. Now we’re gearing it to a more 65-year-old Hispanic demographic. We’re still working through those issues.
Q: Should this be read in the hood?
A: It should be read there more than anywhere else. No snarky white 20-somethings.
Q: Most of the finished songs are Cam’Ron, Jay Z, or Lil Wayne, but what about straight “lyricists” à la Talib Kweli and Common?
A: We want the whole corpus of rap to be on the site. The goal is to get every good rap song exegesized. That said, we hate Common.
Q: Is hip hop dead? Is Rap Exegesis a sign of its apocalypse? Does rap lose its power when you need someone to explain it to you? Isn’t the joke that needs to be explained no longer funny?
A: Did science and historical criticism destroy widespread literal belief in the bible? No!
Q: What do you think about the Neu Wave of rappers who are more comfortable with referencing “white” culture (Wale-Seinfeld, Chiddy Bang-Mary Poppins)? If rappers stop using street language and talking about guns and crack, will Rap Exegesis lose its purpose?
A: We like rap and listen to it more working on the Web site. We see rap really about crack and money, with the exception of cooking crack and spending money.
Q: How will this change the world?
A: It will get us money. We have an Urban Outfitters right down the street that’s about to blow up. We probably shouldn’t tell you that. People are finally going to eat sushi after this. People will probably stop reading books. People across the world learn a new word (exegesis).
Q: Why the Tupac disrespect? No finished songs and only one in progress? Gotten any threats from Shug Nite recently?
A: We published one today! We love it, we know people love it, it’s not that complicated, though, lyrically.
Q: Thoughts on [Lil Wayne’s new mixtape] “No Ceilings”?
A: I like that it’s now more socially acceptable to think better about the Black Eyed Peas’ song [“I Gotta Feeling”] because I had that area in my heart where I kind of liked it, and now it’s more OK to like it. “I’m all over this ice cream beat like sprinkles” — that’s pretty good. What’s your name? We have to send you some stuff. [Zechory and Lehman disagreed on this point.]
Q: Jordan Schneider.
A: B as in boy or d as in dog?
Q: D as in dastardly.
A: D as in dastardly or B as in bastard named Lee?
Correction: November 16, 2009
An earlier version of this article contained several inaccurate quotations. The subjects referred to Cam’ron as the “sickest,” not the “thickest,” rapper ever. They target their Web site at Hispanics over the age of 65, not 55. They said that science and historical criticism did not destroy “widespread literal” belief in the bible, and that rap was about “cooking,” not making, crack. They did not say the phrase “West Coast reppin’.” The article also should have noted that the two subjects disagreed as to whether it was acceptable to like the Black Eyed Peas’ song “I Gotta Feeling” after Lil Wayne rapped over the beat. Mahbod Moghadam ’04 should have been noted as a co-founder of rapexegesis.com.