The Internet increasingly connects historically isolated artists to connect and build a community around their craft: Instagram did it for amateur photographers; Etsy for small-scale arts and crafters. Now, YaBattle is building a community for a slightly more outspoken group: battle rappers.
YaBattle.com is a Massachusetts-based website that uses live streaming video technology to allow rappers of all skill levels sign up, plug in, and drop their best lines and wittiest rhymes against other artists from around the globe. The site officially launched on August 1.
According to YaBattle founder Matt Caprio, 23, of Pembroke, the idea originated in 2012 when he was looking to gain a foothold in the music industry while attending Southern New Hampshire University.
Although Caprio, who has been creating music since the age of 13, had seen some sporadic success in the industry, including being featured on a track with local rapper Sam Adams, he opted for a more traditional career path following his graduation in May 2012.
Even so, Caprio never wanted to completely give up on his musical aspirations.
“I really didn’t want to give up on it, so I was just trying to think about how I could use my music and prevent it from going to waste,’’ explained Caprio. “So, I was thinking long-term; how can I stay on top of this completely competitive industry for as long as I would need to make a solid living when people aren’t even buying the music as it is.’’
A bit of market research convinced Caprio that an online hub for rappers was something that could feed his passion for creating music while also giving the rap community something it genuinely needed.
“Pretty much everything on the Internet that wants to succeed in media or entertainment needs to have a big social aspect to it,’’ said Caprio. “So, that made me realize that I needed to get multiple people involved, whether they’re all rapping or some are rapping and some are spectating.’’
Building on that foundation, Caprio thought the most logical conclusion was to build a face-to-face online community for amateur rappers who wanted to pit their own skills against others.
That was the easy part.
After his first contract with a Web developer ended poorly, Caprio, who had graduated just a year before, was running low on resources. In order to keep his dream alive, he enlisted the help of three friends who recognized his passion for music, as well as his drive to complete the project, and agreed to invest in the website.
“I thought it was a great idea. There really is nothing out there across the web for video streaming live rap battles,’’ said Drew Liseno, 24, Caprio’s college roommate and YaBattle investor. “I usually say this partly joking, but everyone wants to be a rapper these days. It’s not the 90s anymore, where you needed to spend hours in the studio. These days, all you need is a microphone and a beat and you can be a rapper.’’
Around the same time, Caprio came across a Russian Web and video software company called Fora Soft, which has a strong background in video conferencing, augmented reality applications and e-learning solutions. Had it not been for the timely contributions by his partners, Caprio may never have been able to incorporate Fora Soft’s technology into the YaBattle website.
“Their investment was pretty much what I needed to make the last payment to the Web developer, which I really didn’t have at that time,’’ he said.
Although YaBattle’s focal point is its ability to live-stream rap battles, which are often associated with combativeness and aggression, Caprio insists that this shouldn’t discourage anyone from joining and exploring the site. Aside from the video battling feature, the site also includes forums for artist promotion, text battling, clothing, and even sports.
“I don’t want people to feel like they have to go on and diss each other as much as just try to be a better rapper,’’ said Caprio. “It’s meant to be a cultural thing more than just people who want to traditionally rap battle. I want to encompass every aspect of my target market’s lives that could be used in a social platform.’’
In addition, Caprio expects to build out a number of features that are commonly found on other mainstream social media platforms, such as individual news feeds and the ability to “friend’’ other users.
“There’s also going to be rankings and leaderboards for the best rappers, and the ranked battles are going to be recorded so people can vote and comment on them later,’’ explained Caprio.
“We really want it to become a full-on social networking site for hip hop fans,’’ added Liseno.
Although the site doesn’t currently have a revenue stream, the YaBattle team has a plan to make their company profitable while simultaneously giving back to the cause that originally drove Caprio to create the site.
“Eventually I want to incorporate producers as well. I want to sell space on the list of tracks that get used for the beats by the day to producers,’’ he said. “They’ll get their name, their track name, a link to their website right on the battle page when it plays, but they’ll have to pay to have their beat used there because there’s a limited number of beats that I’ll allow at any time.’’
Since it launched four months ago, YaBattle.com has a total of 325 registered users spanning 66 countries.