Rap Genius, a community site where members can leave in-line annotations analysing song lyrics, literature, speeches, and news items, recently let us inside its operations.
Rap Genius rocketed to notoriety after raising $US15 million from Andreessen Horowitz a little over a year ago.
The company is known for a few things. For one, there’s the controversial statements of its Yale-grad founders Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory. But on the plus side, Rap Genius has a roster of supporters like Nas and Kendrick Lamar. But it recently made headlines when the National Music Publishers Association called it — and other lyrics sites — “blatantly illegal.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rap Genius’ office is as non-traditional as its public image.
The company’s 40+ employees work in the seventh-floor penthouse suites of an apartment building on Kent Street in Williamsburg (the building used to be the warehouse of a large grocer). In total, the company works out of nine different offices.
Each of the suites has a kitchen, bathroom, common area, and several bedrooms turned into offices. In some ways, it feels more like a giant collegiate crash pad than an office.
When you arrive on the seventh floor, you're in Rap Genius territory. I spotted several employees walking through the halls with bare feet.
Although there's no reception desk, the company proudly touts its logo on the wall in the main suite.
This space hosts the offices for the Rock Genius and News Genius sections, and the main common area where the company entertains guests.
Rap Genius keeps its analytics up at all times, to keep track of which lyrics pages are getting the most visitors. Beyonce and Eminem were on top during my visit.
The office has hosted musicians of all degrees of fame, from local, community artists to more established names, like Childish Gambino.
Raphael Pope-Sussman works on News Genius. Among many, many other things, he plans Rap Genius trivia nights.
A peek at his desk hints at what News Genius annotates: historical texts, speeches, policy documents, laws, and the occasional Kanye rant or crazy open letter from a CEO.
The Rock Genius dudes keep a list of chart-topping songs, to make sure the lyrics of the hottest songs are always on the site.
Outside the Rock Genius office, the company has posted the plans for a NEW space it will move to next year. The fresh digs will seat about 80 people.
Highlights: A 'Where's Waldo'-inspired t-shirt featuring Jay-Z (get the song reference?) and this 'Baller Water.'
Here are Rap Genius' two other founders, Mahbod Moghadam and Ilan Zechory. They compare themselves to the two grumpy muppets who heckle the rest of the cast from their balcony seats.
Rap Genius employees can feel free to shower in one of the many full bathrooms (which is especially handy since the building also has a gym).
Moghadam doesn't have his own office on the seventh floor, but will often work out of the apartment that he shares with Lehman. Which is only three floors down.
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