Wednesday, December 5, 2012


A Rap Genius Interview

Mahbod Moghadam is one of the three guys behind Rap Genius, the "Wikipedia-like" site for rap lyrics that recently got $15 million of investment money. I met Mahbod (on the left) through the internet the other day, and emailed him these questions (all at once, or I'd have responded more appropriately).

Mahbod, it was nice to meet you, and thanks for the wine and guacamole.

Guac it out homie! Thank you for chillin' with me.

Yesterday when I came over to the Rap Genius HQ because of a joke someone else made on Twitter, you were doing yoga to YouTube videos, I think. Do you do a lot of yoga? Do you regularly invite people over from Twitter??

I'm trying to get into yoga. I'm trying to invite people from Twitter...

Can profiting off other people's rap ever feel as good as making good rap yourself? I feel that way sometimes — that there's never enough money, page views, RTs, or "creative new takes" to erase that inherently parasitic dynamic. Creator/observer. I'd rather create the thing than create a thing about the thing, but maybe that's selfish or pathetic.

I dunno, we built an entire edifice, also I have a lot of my OWN raps explained on the site (poems too): rapgenius.com/artists/maboo.

Besides, commentary is the deuxieme degree of rap. These days I barely do any commentary, either, I just try to motivate my young geniuses. 

I like Rap Genius, because it's at a very basic level helpful, and in theory it encourages people to think and argue, although I guess the arguments and thought processes can get ugly, and that's a problem. (More here.) But I don't know. The more I talked to people about it, the more riled up they got. People have a lot of feelings about music! But I see RG as like a book about a painting. Or like if there were a painting where you could press on parts of it (the ship, a red blob), and those parts would flip around or light up to say information about the artist, the name of the paint color, the brush they used, any relevant historic context, etc. But if you didn't touch it, it would still just be the whole painting.

Rap Genius is the couple with the boy's hand slowly going up the girl's skirt at the museum. It's not *really* even about the painting, it's about sex.

I used Rap Genius the other day to figure out a word in a song I like, and it meant a blanket that people ejaculate into.

You mean "combat jack"? (A "combat jack" is when a fighter masturbates just before a fight to get pumped.) We were just on his show too! (The dude named after the cum-blanket.)

Funny you should bring this up because I was remembering to myself today that when I was younger, I thought cum was so dirty, like feces (now I don't mind it). I would NEVER cum into a blanket, however.

[Note: It was 'skeet blanket.'] Plus the people getting bent out of shape over you profiting from other people's work (among other things) ... again, I don't know. This is what's hardest for me to articulate, but I feel like the artists who aren't financially secure could be frustrated by your success, but it would always be from a higher-up vantage point, since they know what it feels like to be the creator. Like patting or bopping you on your heads, or being like "aw, those fighting puppies are cute." Because at the end of the day they made that music, and the people who use RG are like the chickens scurrying around fighting over the kernels that they threw down. In a good way. That's like three messy metaphors, I know. And maybe all three are stupid, because I don't understand enough. The only "problem" being that you're making more money — IT SEEMS! are you? and I know it's complicated — than some of them. Or so I've read / been told. I'm not an expert on this. What do you think? And maybe that's fair! You know? Because you came up with this idea. I don't know!

I FEEL YOU!!!! I dunno, we worked hard and built an entire edifice. We don't get to be considered as "cool" as them. Also what about Twitter? Heems [of Das Racist] is Tweeting all day, and they don't give him shit, at least I offered him free weed and stuff...

How do you feel about Das Racist breaking up?

Das Racist did something nobody else did in hip-hop. We have beef with them, but whatever, I respect their originality, I am honored that they were the first to diss us on wax! I just wish they'd hit the gym and get their shit together!

But also: Would you consider donating money to, say, Kool Herc, or to hip-hop pioneers who didn't make a lot of money off it the way you have, and have been publicly strapped for cash (like when he needed but couldn't afford medical attention)?

Sure! I would do ANYTHING to meet Kool Herc.

DO you have a lot of money to throw around?

I have enough to take you to sushi all the time, Edith. But the $15M is to build Law Genius, Country Genius, etc. — also Kool Herc doesn't even have a Rap Genius account yet.

We didn't build the site to make money ... we built it for therapy, to meet Cam'ron, and for fun. So it's hard to mull over these things, but I'm not going to give some dude sugar out of nowhere, I'd love to give him an honorarium for rapping at the RG holiday party, tho...

Does money make you happy?

I don't even care about it that much. I got some Prada shoes but whatever, I had expensive Italian shoes before we ever started Rap Genius (now I have more, that's all).

What do you like to do most? 

I like to work out.

What do you think you're best at?

I have some good "jeu de mots" and I've been told that I kiss with passion and "jouissance."

You're fascinating and a little inscrutable. What percentage of your diss tracks are jokes? For instance, this one.

That particular freestyle is 0% joke — NYTimes is Carlos Slim's ho.

What's your favorite drink?

I like Laphroaig because the name reminds me of "Le Frog" — it makes me ribbit.

I'm also a big fan of Evian, it tastes like a cum-blanket, but I'm convinced it makes you glow...

I was asking a friend who knows more about rap than I do over IM about what questions to ask you, and he said to see if you'd ever "prostrate [yourself] before KRS ONE and ask forgiveness." Would you?

I would def love to chill with him and have fun! I don't think KRS would want me to get all prostration with him, though.

I also just looked it up to make sure I was thinking of the right definition, and it could either be in submission or adoration. So I guess it could also be a sexual thing, depending on your preferences.

I don't think any rapper wants me to do a whole prostate situation — but if I could, I would cut off a thumb to meet KILLA Cam'ron, since he is my favorite rapper of all time. We started the site to meet him. (I already met Gucci Mane, who is my other favorite rapper of all time.) Gucci Mane was all like "why did you appropriate meeee!!" (JK, he loved the site and was honored that we are parsing his charming, if cryptic, poetic language.)

UPDATE: [Rap Genius co-founder] Ilan [Zechory] met Cam yesterday!!! Game over.

Rap Genius is also on Twitter.

76 Comments / Post A Comment


Getting a real strong "cockroach alien from Men In Black wearing a skinsuit" vibe off these answers.


@deepomega "Sugar. Water. Cam'ron."


Oh I love it@n

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

ugh ugh ugh fuck you rap genius you are awful


@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood It's like the Simple English wiki but apparently quite lucrative??


@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood My roommate (I don't know if you've met him) works for them.

Reginal T. Squirge

Ohmygod I hate these dudes so much.

Reginal T. Squirge

These dudes are everything that is wrong with the dude industry.

runner in the garden

oh thank God.
Rap Genius can be a helpful resource (although it's essentially just what would happen if Wikipedia relaxed its policies on hosting copyrighted material), and reasonable people can disagree about what to do about the exploitative and racist music industry and how to help Kool Herc, but I'm glad we're all in agreement that these dudes are Grade-A assholes.


Well I guess I learned some new terms today

Lisa Frank

I had to stop reading after the "deuxieme degree of rap."


@Lisa Frank I wanted to stop after "Guac it out homie".

I think he needs second site to translate whatever the hell he was talking about.

pissy elliott

I like everything except Rap and Country Genius


"I have enough to take you to sushi all the time, Edith" is what I'm saying to everyone always about everything from now on.


This is how I imagine an interview with Jean-Ralphio would go.

the roughest toughest frail

@Lucienne Jean-Ralphio would be much more charming. He'd also work some form of "swag" into every answer.


@Lucienne He even sort of *looks* like Jean-Ralphio.


@veryanonymous i'd venture to guess their raps are very similar also


@abetterfate Leslie Knope would never tell this man, "dance up on me!" I can promise you that.

Reginal T. Squirge

Jean-Ralphio is also very self-aware. This guy? Not so much.


@Reginal T. Squirge Jean-Ralphio ain't self-aware! The dude who plays him is. Yes, I am potentially starting a Hairpin flame-war about Jean-Ralphio. So be it.

Reginal T. Squirge

False! What about the time he applied for that job at the accounting firm? At the end of it they said no and he was like, "Good decision! I wouldn't hire me either!" and then walked right out.

OR when he pitched a bunch of ideas to Ron and Ron said his ideas were insane and he was like, "Good decision! I wouldn't go with these ideas either!"


@Reginal T. Squirge Those were but fluke occurrences in the overarching story that is Jean Ralphio: From His Gelled Hair to His Pointy Shoes, Don't You See? Never a More Clueless Man Walked the Stress of Pawnee.


@BoozinSusan i think he's pretty self-aware, he just accepts himself the way he is. which is the exact opposite problem these gremlins have.


@Reginal T. Squirge I was just about bring up the accounting firm incident. There aren't a whole lot of other examples though...


@bananab0at For real, guys, you are making me reassess my entire image of Jean-Ralphio. Maybe he DOES have self-awareness? Chalk this one up to: Things I Learned from the 'Pin.


@BoozinSusan i feel really close to you now

Reginal T. Squirge

Eh, like most Parks & Rec characters, his entire personality changes to fit whatever jokes are in the scene at the moment. So you can be forgiven for getting confused.


@Reginal T. Squirge whoa! judging by your comments all over here you're going through something, which i respect and honestly am very intrigued by. but you're officially over the line now.

Reginal T. Squirge

Hey, I love the show! But let's not act like it's meticulously thought-out or anything.

Also, A) You can never go too far and B) fuck this guy.


@Reginal T. Squirge no, you're right, it's just hard to accept. we can guac this out.


West Side, guac it out
South Side, guac it out
East Side, guac it out
North Side, guac it out


@Lucienne You can guac until the guacs come guac. Just please, don't guac on my new Prada shoes.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@BoozinSusan all of you guys/ladies/persons are awesome. I was coming here to make an Entertainment 720 joke but you guys just beat me to it.

(Although, I do kind of thank Real-Life, Less-Appealing Jean-Ralphio because if it weren't for Rap Genius, I still wouldn't know what Jay-Z's black strap is for, even though he told me "You know what that's for")


@Lucienne Although Jean-Ralphio has the decency to make his money the old-fashioned way: getting run over by a Lexus


Although Jean-Ralphio has the decency to make his money the old-fashioned way: getting ...wrecking balm


Ayo Edith here's my rap for you
Can you put up with someone this douchey
In order to get up on all the free sushi


jizz in a blanket? aw hell naw, nada!
but jus listen to me go on an on bout my prada


I got some Prada shoes but whatever
I do this for the love
I ain't do this for the cheddar


@katiemcgillicuddy uh hi just saying i love you guys.


See, I don't mind curating other people's beautiful objects and ideas because I have no real talent myself.


Well, no real talent other than maintaining a goddamn flawless Pinterest account.

all the bacon and eggs

@frigwiggin Tell me more about this Pinterest account!


@frigwiggin That's why God made Tumblr


@all the bacon and eggs

If you enjoy attractive pins of food, clothing, giraffes, and creepy drawings, I'm your man.

all the bacon and eggs

@frigwiggin Ooh your outfits rock.


it seemed like Edith was doing ALL the work in this interview.


A quick Google search confirmed (as if further proof was needed) that he's an insufferable douche. He likes to throw gang signs in pictures, and said his ex-girlfriend attended Brooklyn Law School as an "anthropological experience."

Tough talk for a deferred Dewey associate.


@Lemonnier If he reads this comment, he is going to wrinkle his nose in the slightest show of annoyance, go methodically pick up one of his (many) pairs of fine Italian leather shoes, breathe deep their sweet musk, and slowly exhale a breathy "fuuuuck youuu."

He may also think of you over his kaiten sushi later.

Jane Marie

But, like, how hard is it to meet Kool Herc?


@Jane Marie I think you just gotta turn on the Herc Signal.


rap genius dot com is white devil sophistry

Heat Signature

Is this that performance art stuff I hear so much about?

Dog Ballou

@Heat Signature Like when Joaquin Pheonix went kinda nuts and then everyone speculated that it was all an act? Or something?

Anyway I basically get the idea that this guy, despite acting pretty insufferable, might *actually* be quite normal? And this is all some gag to be this rap personality but in reality he's building this successful brand and website and rolling in it.

Heat Signature

@Dog Ballou Twas a joke, nothing more. Sideways smiley face.


I liked it when he said "deuxieme degree" and "jouissance". Seriously.


"I had expensive italian shoes before..."

This is like when I was in college, watching 106 & Park w/ my roommate (he didn't like rap and watched it asshole-ishly/ironically, i legit loved watching it, cuz i love all kinds of hiphop from backpack to silly-ass snap music) and I was like, in a wide-eyed, non-sober young'un sort of way

"It must be really ill to have so much money you can just be spraying cristal all over. I mean, i don't even know what it tastes like, and they can just waste it."

and my roommate says, mad surprised and like 'wtf is wrong w/ you st. jean?'

"You've never had cristal before?"

Lisa Frank

@leon s "The yellow shit in the bottle ain't Cris, son"


upon further reflection i'm very mad about the existence of these characters. for one thing, we ALL bemoaned the death of Pop Up Video, so don't trot around pretending you came up with that idea. and for another thing, stop playing into hipster stereotypes under a thousand veils of irony. it reflects poorly on ALL OF US.

Reginal T. Squirge

OK, so now that you met Cam you're just gonna go away forever? Cool.

Reginal T. Squirge

Lots of not-so-hidden homophobia in there, too, buddy.

Reginal T. Squirge

I think I hate him so much because he's like me, if I had made ALL the wrong decisions with my life.


"Oh, I was thinking of what I used to think about cum just the other day."


sudden but inevitable betrayal

THIS IS THE GUY!!!! He did the most awkward, ridiculous segment with the NPR Planet Money guy after the VP debate and just totally misunderstood the whole [admittedly, really dumb] point of the thing. I listened to it alone in my car and was thisclose to flagging down other drivers and being like, "IS ANYONE ELSE HEARING THIS?!"


Scene: It's 2014. As Mahbod Moghadam bleeds out on the sidewalk outside Hot 97, he gasps out his final words: "But... it was all... a joke."


Wow, so much hating! He's clearly "in on the joke" and having fun with it -- he is, in other words, Dave from Chromeo in talking-about-rap-on-the-internet form. He comes off incredibly well in this interview, I honestly have no idea what you guys are going on about.


We are social but we cannot survive on content alone. Sometimes being passive consumers of content works against us. If you don’t do it today you’ll put if off and then it will be awkward when you decide you really, really want to email this person. dog fence wireless above ground

Jak Down

this is the fastest way to text the romance back. Your way of relating to your friends is very different from how your man relates to you. You're taught to be flirty, use your body language, and say certain things. But in order to spark a deeper attraction inside of your man, where he feels totally addicted to you, you have to go deeper.mirabelle reveals how to addict him to you

Jak Down

These factors can directly damage genes or combine with existing genetic faults within cells to cause cancerous mutations.the-fluoride-in-your-water-is-causing-cancer


But also: Would you consider donating money to, say, Kool Herc, or to hip-hop pioneers who didn't make a lot of money off it the way you have, best vitamin c serum

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