(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.
App for That
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.
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.
Love in the Time of Algorithms
The bros from Rap Genius opened up the final day of TechCrunch Disrupt NY with a very special announcement. They’re launching soon a new vertical called News Genius, which follows the paradigm of Rap Genius. However, instead of analyzing 2 Chainz lyrics, the site will explain news-related clippings and documents. That sort of sounds like journalism!
“I want Barack Obama to explain the news, the constitution and Jay-Z’s ‘99 Problems,’” semi-joked cofounder Mahbog Moghadam, adding that “there has to be a legal explanation behind that.” The site, which was the idea of investor/”godfather” Ben Horowitz, has already softly launched judging by its Twitter account.
Teach Me How to Startup
The cofounders behind the lyric annotation database RapGenius are kind of like a trio of Tom Haverfords, albeit with a $15 million series A instead of a couple hundos from a certain mustachioed grump. In an attempt to further solidify their reputations as a cartoonish reimagining of the college ex-boyfriend who thought 808s and Heartbreak was “revolutionary,” RapGenius’s cofounders Ilan Zachory, Mahbod Moghadam and Tom Lehman submitted to an interview with Cosmo about sex and dating.
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’ breakout hit, “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowd-sources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening / And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.
Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent V.C. firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech start-ups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A.