Rap Genius’ Co-Founder Apologizes To Zuck (Then Says They’ll Be Bigger Than Facebook)


If you aren’t at Disrupt NY or watchin’ the livestream back at home, you just missed something … pretty special.

Our own Josh Constine took the stage with the co-founders of Rap Genius, the text annotation service that recently raised $15M from Andreessen Horowitz, for a conversation that quickly went from talk of metrics and browser extensions to talks of adderall, an impromptu beatboxing session, and a founder’s apology for telling Mark Zuckerberg to fellate him.

Rap Genius started out as a site meant to allow hiphop fans to annotate rap lyrics to explain their meanings. Over time, it’s expanded to other, non-lyrical texts; just this morning, they disclosed plans to break into annotating breaking news. In the future, it plans to make money by building a collaborative document annotiation tool for businesses called “Enterprise Genius”

The company’s three founders — Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory — are nothing if not controversial. Today alone, I’ve heard them referred to as “lunatics”, “bonkers”, and “completely insane”… and yet, their panel seems to be all anyone here is talking about. Say what you will about these guys (they probably won’t care anyway), but they know exactly what they’re doing.

I’ve pulled a few choice quotes out of the interview for the sake of everyone at work — but really, you should probably just watch the video.

On Why Rap Genius Works:

“Rap Genius is not just crowdsourced. It started with us and like, six of our homies. It was homiesourced. We opened it up to the masses so it became crowd sourced. Then we decided we wanted it to ‘ballersourced’, [so we got a bunch of these huge stars verified on the site]”

“The secret ingredient of Rap Genius is love. We often tell people that Rap Genius was built on Love on Rails”

On Working With Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, who funded their entire $15M Series A:

“We said we wanted such and such millions of dollars. [Marc] asked what we’d do with it; I said something really stupid, like we’d buy a bunch of companies. He just totally lost it, tapping his leg all over the place. I thought we’d totally tanked the meeting, but that’s just his way of showing love.”

“Ben is a real rap fan. He’s like the rap genius god father. We consider him a bro… What people don’t know is that he’s a marketing genius. He came up with the idea to call users ‘Scholars’, and ‘TopScholars’. He came up with NewsGenius. Ben, we love you dawg.”

On Rumors That The Team Used Drugs To Focus:

“Yeah, we would do naked adderall. This was before Y-Combinator. We’d do naked adderall [when we needed to turn out something] because that way we couldn’t leave the house [and would work on the site all day].”

On The Time When Co-Founder Mahbod Moghadam told The New York Times Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg Could “Suck [His] Dick”:

“I’ll say it: to the Oracle of Omaha [Warren Buffet], to the Oracle of… wherever Mark Zuckerberg is from — I’m Sorry Zuck, I love you dawg.”

On What Factors In Life Lead To Them “Not Giving A Fuck”:

“Er, the series A? I dunno. We could sell this shit, we could go be alcoholics on some island. [But we’re building something here.]”

On Their Notorious Personalities:

“I just met up with my old boss at Google. I wanted to convince him to come work at Rap Genius, and he was like ‘If I went to Rap Genius, the first thing I’d do is get rid of that Jean-Ralphio lookin’ guy.’ I was like: ‘uhh, which one? We’ve got two!'”

“A lot of people think we need to change. I… dont think that’s going to happen.”

“Yeah. If you want to ball major, you gotta drink the kool-aid. You gotta be more loose, but you gotta live the life 24/7. I don’t feel free. I gotta be the Rap Genius guy.”

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