Three musicians as disparate as RZA, Peter Gabriel and MC Hammer have become Web entrepreneurs – with fascinating results.
In the song “Protect Ya Neck,” Wu-Tang Clan's RZA raps, “Y'all might just catch me in the park playin' chess, studyin' math.” Now you're more likely to catch him on the laptop playin' chess.
RZA, a founding member of Wu-Tang, recently partnered with Chesspark.com to launch www.WuChess.com, where the worlds of hip-hop and chess converge. On the site, you can play “hardcore chess” in tournaments to win money or “just for the joy of flexin' ya mentals.”
It isn't cheap – membership costs $48 a year – but the site also promises to donate a “large part” of revenue to the Hip Hop Chess Federation's scholarship fund.
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The standard medieval pieces of the board have been updated to Wu-Tang symbols and martial-arts figures. (Method Man would make a good rook, don't you think?) If you join, you can play other people, learn from chess masters and watch exhibition matches.
Peter Gabriel, the former lead singer of Genesis whose long solo career included “Shock the Monkey,” has also debuted a Web site in a field outside of his own.
Gabriel is a partner in www.TheFilter.com, a site in the popular realm of “recommendation engines.” It learns your tastes and then offers recommendations for you based on your input and consuming patterns.
About $8.5 million of venture capital has been invested in the site by Eden Ventures and Gabriel's Real World Group.
The Filter includes music and movies. If you want it to, it will pull data from sites like Netflix. And if you have a friend on the site, you can mash your profiles to mix tastes.
MC Hammer's jam
MC Hammer (real name: Stanley Burrell) is co-founder and chief strategy officer of www.DanceJam.com, a user-generated bastion for dance videos. Calling itself “the largest dance floor on the planet,” DanceJam is a YouTube-like place to watch and upload videos of you and others dancing.
Memorable dance steps were a big part of Hammer's rise to fame with the songs “U Can't Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” But after the popularity died down, he went bankrupt in 1996, nearly $14 million in debt.
DanceJam may prove to be lucrative for Hammer, who for years has been interested in technology and the Internet. But the site has a lot of steppin' to do to make a dent in the video-sharing market. YouTube remains the Goliath of online video, and dancing videos often top its rankings.
The most-viewed video ever on YouTube is, after all, “Evolution of Dance” – the 6-minute clip by Judson Laipply that more than 89 million have watched. The most views any video on DanceJam has accrued: fewer than 8,000.
DanceJam's advantage is specialization. By seeing dance steps in action, you can learn just about any move from krumping to the robot. You can also challenge others to a battle.