Lately there has been a lot of talk about the popular internet website Rap Genius and its founders, who convinced some old people to write them a giant sized novelty check as their reward for not being black. So I wanted to take a quick moment to consider how Rap Genius became, as one such old person called it, “the biggest hip-hop site.”*
A little over a year ago noz was tweeting info about “Money on the Floor” and concluded, “i just wish there was a better way to broadcast that information,” to which I replied, “@noz rapgenius.com lmao,” which led into noz and Chris Weingarten deservedly clowning on Rap Genius.
The next morning I got an email from a friend of mine, which included the following:
The RG people have had me consult on the site from the beginning, and I told them I wanted an interface with the intelligence of the I Love Music board. It is essential that knowledgeable music writers contribute to the site, and I told the founders to contact writers like your colleagues for months. In fact I did send out feelers to a few others from the beginning, but with little success. Our financial issues have prevented us from paying writers to contribute in the past, though that may be changing (I cannot promise, unfortunately, as I do not make the final decision).
This friend is good people, and knows her shit about rap, (and cc:ed the email to Maura Johnston, then-Sound of the City editor, via the Village Voice tipline,) so I thought, at the time, that this was an opportunity to offer useful suggestions to Rap Genius. I replied with like 700 words of constructive criticism, using the Rap Genius page for “Hey Ma” as an example text to break down specific issues.
I also cc:ed Chris Weingarten, who knew better:
the whole thing could actually be useful, but in essence is a place for internet people to perpetuate the ugly and downright racist joke of “rap lyrics translated in stilted and academic tones.”
no one is going to look me in the eye (or email) and tell me a site that translates “bitch you like this dick” to “Jasper wants clarification on whether or not the girl enjoys his penis” is anything more than format for people to assert dominance over people who talk differently than them.
At this point my friend clarified:
Thanks so much for these comments, and so late on a Friday. I will get back to the managing editor, Mahbod Moghadam, with your messages later next week after [redacted—unrelated]. Hope to follow up with you soon with his response. So it’s clear, my work with the founders is more of an unofficial part-time consulting thing. We know each other from college, where I also met Nick. I have some Web editorial experience, so the founders ask me for periodic feedback. I’ll try for you guys.
At which point I realized that my friend agreed with us but her “consulting” was falling on deaf ears at Rap Genius, and my good-faith critique was going to suffer the same fate. Even still, I wasn’t quite prepared for the response we got from Mahbod (quoted here in its entirety):
Yooo wassup famlay! Thank you so much for your suggestions on Rap Genius - [redacted] sent them to me, y’all are G’s..
Do you have Rap Genius accounts tho? Let me make you an editor! That way you can delete anything that looks sloppy-sloppy - makes the site more fun for smart people!
Much love.. thank you for the criticism, we def gonna step our game up
Sidenote: Mahbod added me on Facebook immediately after sending this email.
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