(adapted from Chapter 5 of entitled Rap Jesus)
When Rap Genius started in 2009, the name was Rap Exegesis — the words “Rap Exegesis” were literally the first words that came out of my mouth when Tom (Lehman — my co-founder/BFF) presented me with the concept. We worked on the site for six months with this name, and even though we loved it, we knew it would someday have to change because:
Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam might not be working at the startup he helped create (which was recently rechristened Genius) anymore. But he’s not going quietly — he recently revealed he’s working on a book about his time with the startup formerly known as Rap Genius.
We had to get some more details, so we emailed Mr. Moghadam some questions about his new project and his past experiences. Also check out this book teaser Mr. Moghadam shared with us from his upcoming tome, Genius Inc.
When it comes to covering the tech industry, Rap Genius is the startup that keeps on giving. The average human can only take so many boring press releases about how a knockoff of Snapchat is going to change the world, you know?
But whenever the Rap Genius guys appear in public or sit for an interview, something bizarre happens. Today, for example, Business Insider broke the news that the annotation site has nabbed $40 million in funding from Ben Gilbert (as well as Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, who is also an investor in BI) and that they’re changing their name to the catch-all Genius.
Earlier this year, I took a leave of absence from college to go work for the cofounder of Rap Genius, Mahbod Moghadam. I lived with him in his house — the “Rap Genius Mansion,” I started calling it — in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, for a month.
There are a lot of negative misconceptions about Rap Genius, but there’s a reason why they have a $15 million Series A investment and the backing of some of the biggest names in the game. They’ve done an incredible job of putting together a collection of the most passionate, talented startup people that I’ve ever been around. Seeing the way that its three cofounders — Tom Lehman, Ilan Zechory, and Mahbod — moved helped me learn in a way that college never could. This is a very serious company with a very bright future ahead of them, and I was incredibly fortunate to be a small part of it.
App for That
It seems everyone has an opinion on Newsweek‘s über-controversial story about reported Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto.
And now, all of those dissenting opinions can accumulate in one place (we mean besides Twitter). Popular lyrical annotation site Rap Genius has posted the story, and users — including the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen — have been adding info for the last few days.
Fresh off the Christmas Day SEO snafu that had Google leaving their site for dead (to Google’s own detriment), the guys of Rap Genius have launched an app.
The app, called Genius, connects to users’ iPhone music players, allowing them to read and annotate lyrics while listening to songs. A button allows users to get the lyrics for what they’re listening to, or the songs in their iTunes Library.
David vs. Googliath
It might not happen immediately, but it’s all but certain Netflix is going to jack up its prices. “It’s not clear that one price fits all,” said CEO Reed Hastings. [Bloomberg]
Nerd fight! Facebook is debunking that Princeton University study that it’s going to lose 80 percent of its users in the next few years. A researcher wrote it’s “utter nonsense.” [TechCrunch]
Rap Genius has come to a licensing agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group to keep annotating their songs. [The 405]
Twitter has expanded analytics to its “Cards” feature. [Recode]
Here’s how Imgur became Reddit’s go-to image sharing service for pictures of dogs in fedoras. [Businessweek]
The Year Observed
By now, you’ve heard about Google penalizing Rap Genius. The lyrical annotation site — whose bread-and-butter is its simple, reliable lyrics pages — is under fire for trying to juice their Google page rank with Justin Bieber links right before Christmas.
Google banned Rap Genius for the infraction — but a simple lyrics search proves this punishment is affecting Google’s product just as much as it’s hurting Rap Genius.
RG’s attempts at growth hacking came to light when a blogger leaked an email from Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam wherein he asked the writer to append a series of links to Justin Bieber lyrics on rock.rapgenius.com, even though the post in question would likely have had nothing to do with the Bieb.
Love in the Time of Algorithms
Funding rounds and IPOs come and go, but one thing we can always count on is the quirkiness of the tech sector’s execs. Herewith, a smattering of the weirdest things our favorite CEOs did (at least publicly) this year.
What the New York Times’ wedding announcements sometimes lack in joy and passion, they make up for in good breeding. And judging by a collection of wordclouds culled from the Vows sections over the past few decades, it seems the basic ingredients of an upper-crust wedding don’t change all that much year to year.