Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam is a testament to just how far you can push a venture capitalist. The Yale graduate is one of tech's foremost delusional fools—repeatedly embarrassing himself, his company, and everyone connected with it. He eventually resigned from the startup after publicly praising parts of a serial killer's manifesto. Yet it took a post about thieving from Whole Foods for one of his investors to finally disown him.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert must have the hot hand. The Comic Sans-loving billionaire just won the dramatic toss up for LeBron James. Gilbert also boxed out other investors for a spot in a new round of funding for Rap Genius that is worth $40 million. Backing braggarts, it seems, is now an investment philosophy.
Rap Genius is a terrifically helpful website with the misfortune of being run by evasive wackball Yale dudes. Interviews with the crew rarely go beyond goofing around and bizarre outbursts—which is why this very un-TechCrunch podcast Q&A, that doesn't allow horse-shitting answers, is so nice to hear.
"We effed up," lyrics annotation supersite Rap Genius admitted this week after its SEO cheating was revealed. They sure did. And there's good reason to believe this isn't just a gaffe for the cartoonish startup posse: a Google eff up could haunt them forever—but no one search should have all that power.
Quantcast shows that the number of unique visitors to Rap Genius has dropped 60 percent since Google punished the startup for its questionable SEO scheme. Last year, unique visitors to Rap Genius only dropped about 15 percent from Christmas Eve to Christmas. Rap Genius has not responded to request for comment from Valleywag sent yesterday and today.
How has Rap Genius distinguished itself from all the other lyrics sites? With sweet, sweet old school spam techniques, or as Silicon Valley likes to call it "growth hacking." The tactic is so shady that Matt Cutts, Google's head of search spam, felt compelled to publicly state that his team is "aware and looking into it."
There are certain risks any reporter exposes herself to by agreeing to interview the cofounders of Rap Genius. Once you've crossed the wobbly line of crushed up Vyvanse into their Williamsburg offices, there's no going back. There they are on your gChat, up in your Snapchat, sending invitations to events that possibly only occur in the trippy Playa of their minds.
This week, the National Music Publishers Association sent a take-down notice to 50 sites, including Rap Genius, that "engage in blatant illegal behavior" by publishing song lyrics without a license. The NMPA is only targeting commercial sites that make money off those unlicensed lyrics and not personal blogs or fan sites.
The Yale-educated dude trio that runs Rap Genius, a website dedicated to deciphering hip-hop for white people, gets a lot of mileage out of not being taken seriously. Their group goofiness is brilliant, letting them dodge any and all criticism in a self-serious field. Until Rap Genius threatens mouth rape on Twitter.