Every year, Google releases a “Year in Search” list and video, detailing the online search trends that defined the year. From the COVID-19 pandemic to racial justice protests to prominent celebrity passings, 2020’s most popular Google searches stuck out from any other year.
This year’s three-minute video was written and narrated by 22-year-old Boston-based poet and rapper Kofi Lost.
On Christmas Day, Lost was watching the Boston Celtics game when he first saw the 2020 Year In Search Video on TV, which he called “a surreal feeling.”
“I’ve watched Christmas basketball for my whole life, and now my voice is on it,” Lost said. “That’s a very weird feeling, but weird in a good way.”
On average, Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year. In 2020, gender-neutral pronouns, “what day is it?” and “how to be a teacher” were searched at an all-time high. “Black Lives Matter” was searched worldwide — for the first time ever — and saw a 500% increase in searches since 2019.
In the video, Lost revealed that the most popular search item this year was, simply, “why.”
“The most human trait is to want to know why,” Lost narrates, “and in a year that tested everyone around the world, ‘why’ was searched more than ever.”
Lost said Google’s Creative Production team reached out to him about the idea casually. Rather than a formal audition or interview, Lost said they asked for his ideas and were immediately captivated.
“I literally was just chilling one day, and I got an email that they were fans of my work,” Lost said. “They fell in love with what I had to say.”
Lost wrote the first draft in September, communicated with Google to develop the final project and recorded the voice-over at Soundtrack Boston.
After a several-month hiatus from writing and performing due to the pandemic, Lost was excited and honored to work on such a big project.
“I’m glad that I could lend my voice to something as important as this,” he said, “because I do believe that the message was very impactful and was necessary in the year like the year we had.”
Though he may be most recognized for his music, Lost said he has been writing “since [he] could pick up a pen.” In high school, his mode of choice was slam poetry — he was a finalist at the National Poetry Slam and the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2017 and was awarded “Best Poet” at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational in 2018.
Though the script went through a couple drafts, Google’s Creative Production team and music producer Peter CottonTale loved the first idea he had.
“We just settled on the concept of ‘why,’” he said. “It seemed to be a question that everybody wanted to know this year.”
Lost said he wanted to choose words that are powerful and “simply put,” seeking to convey people’s persistence through their online searches.
“As tough as things have been, I do think that this year showed us how tenacious people are,” he said. “How, even in spite of everything, [people] can still move forward.”
After the video premiere, Lost’s phone was overwhelmed with texts from friends and family who recognized his voice on TV. Throughout the development process, Lost kept his involvement to himself.
“We were very Fort Knox with the secret,” he said. “We had to put it together and get it all done before it was time to say anything, and I’m very glad that it came together the way it did.”
Similar to the “Year in Search” video, Lost said he strives to make his own music meaningful.
Before starting this project, he released his second musical project “Afro Moses” in February under the name Kofi. The album features eight rap songs Lost describes as “cinematic” and “brash.”
“I effectively was trying to make Black superhero music,” he said. “I wanted the music to feel larger than life, while also being true to an origin story.”
It was written in honor of his grandfather, he said, who gave Lost his name and first passion for music.
While he’s unsure what he will pursue next, Lost said he hopes to continue making voice-overs, music and content that has an impact.
“In the next couple years, I see myself still making music, really just still creating,” he said, “still finding new ways to say things that I think are important.”