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[Interview] Rap Genius
(Tom, Mahbod, Ilan)
LE: There are many fan of yours in Korea, you can say hello to them.
Rap Genius: WADDUUUUUP! Korea is my favorite country - best food! I have to learn the language...
LE: I guarantee everybody's dying to know this. What made you do this thing? Since when did you become Rap Genius? And.. what about the meaning of the name, Rap Genius?
I was working at a law firm and staying with my homie who worked at a hedge fund. I was explaining this Cam'ron song to him and it inspired him to build this site:
Originally the name was "Rap Exegesis" - meaning we wanted to explain rap like the Bible. We changed it to "Rap Genius" in honor of the Notorious BIG (also because nobody can spell "Exegesis" LOL)
Here is the line that inspired the name:
LE: What is the management structure like?
I am the Emperor of Rap Genius. I have about 500 editors who serve me, and they have power over 250,000 people who have written explanations on the site.
LE: Could we ask you things about incomes? It's not about how much but just how. How do you get holding cost?
We used to work in law/finance. Money is no object.
LE: We've been able to witness Rap Genius blowing up. Has everything gone well as you've wished?
I feel like I've been living in a dream for the past year or so...NAS has a rap genius account now!!
LE: What was the main resource to build this large database?
We use Heroku and Ruby on Rails on the technical side - on the non-technical side, the main resource is love.
LE: Who does run your Twitter account? We can't deny his wits and sense of humor.
MUCH LOVE HOMIE! That is mainly me although I share access with my most committed soldiers. In reality I'm not very funny but on twitter it's easy to pretend you're funny.
LE: And is there any specific reason that he is always saying "RT IF YOU FEEL ME"
LOL!!! I learned it from my little cousin, he would always post "LIKE IF YOU FEEL ME" on facebook. It is the modern, internet way of saying "can I get a yay yay?!"
LE: The other day you mentioned that your favorite artist is Cam'ron. As far as I see Cam'ron is not a big star on your site. What do you think about this?
It is heartbreaking. True genius is never appreciated, sadly. Kanye West is the most popular rapper on the site and I like him too. But I think even Kanye would admit that Cam'ron is much, much better....
LE: This is about the logo on your Twitter page. I mean the intersection of rap lyrics, Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary. Who did come up with this idea? Because I love this.
Tom, the genius who built the site, also made the Venn Diagram. I also think it is absolutely beautiful - Tom is equal parts artist, engineer and pimp. Here is his Rap Genius account, please show him love!
LE: Because you're RapGenius, this kind of question would be very meaningful. What do lyrics mean to rap?
Lyrics are central to some hip-hop and incidental in other hip-hop. Sometimes the voice/rhythm is more important than the lyrics.. it depends on the region/subgenre. What's funny is...I'm the kind of guy who doesn't even listen to the lyrics the first time I hear a song. Only after I listen to a song 50 times do I suddenly become committed and focus on memorizing the lyrics so I can rap it!
LE: So in your opinion, what are the worst lyrics? You can name some artists if don't mind.
Honestly, I love all music. The worst rappers in the U.S. are Das Racist, they are hipster losers. They wrote a diss song about Rap Genius so they can def suck my d**k.
LE: What do you think about N-word?
I don't think it's a big deal, it's just a word. I say it all the time! I was called a "sand ni**er" growing up so it has been used against me in an insulting way but I don't mind LOL.
However, that words has gotten me into a LOT of trouble! A lot of people are verrrry sensitive...
LE: Some say that the word 'ghost-writing' means nothing any more in this game. Is the law "you should wirte down yourself" still in effect?
As we discussed earlier, lyrics is just one part of rap. Ghost-writing usually goes along with commercial music that is shit, but it does not automatically indicate a bad song. All I care is what I hear, I don't care who wrote the lyrics or what the artistic process was behind the scenes. (I mean...I DO care....but not as a listener you feel me?)
I love it when dudes write verses for girl rappers - amazing to think that Notorious BIG wrote "my c**chie remains in the Gucci name".....
LE: It seems that Lupe Fiasco has more fans than any other artists on Rap Genius. Why is this?
He is a lyricist. His lyrics are impossible to understand without RG - this line is deep! "Fast money like Zakat al-Fitr" - (explained here: http://rapgenius.com/267092 )
With Lupe, a lot of times it's like "daaaaaaaaaaaaamn!" - he is a literary genius.
LE: Let's talk about your system again. We can see IQ system is so innovative. Where did you get it?
It was Tom's idea. He was inspired by Stack Overflow, which is basically Rap Genius for Programming. They call their version of Rap IQ "karma".
Someday, we hope Rap IQ will be used as a virtual currency to buy drugs/hookers - like a hip-hop Bitcoin.
LE: What about Verified accounts? Do artists make their own accounts theirselves or do you make them for them?
It's 100% the artists themselves homie! We help em out tho - chillin with 50 Cent and setting up his account (http://rapgenius.com/50cent) was madd fun... he has over $200 million...such a pimp.
LE: So, on Rap Genius, lyrics are supposed to be decoded by fans, not by artists who wrote them. It can cause misguided translations. What do you think about this?
The purpose is not "translations" the purpose is to be playful and write interesting things exploring the music. Much like all great literature, 99% of Rap Genius is lies.....
LE: It seems that your hip-hop is not limited to U.S.A.. We've seen Rap Genius France, Rap Genius Brazil, Rap Genius Netherlands you name it.
What is hip hop blue print of Rap Genius?
I'm from IRAN so you know I'm proud of this: http://facebook.com/rapgeniusiran
Where is Rap Genius KOREA at bruh??? We need y'all! Hit me up let's get it started: firstname.lastname@example.org
LE: With that, you are trying to extend your game up to other genres besides hip hop, aren't you?
Yeah we have StereoIQ aka "Rock Genius": http://facebook.com/stereoIQ
PoetryBrain is for poems and literature (and the Bible): http://facebook.com/poetrybrain
Law Genius for the law: http://facebook.com/thelawgenius
Eventually, we will explain everything and Rap Genius will be the new printing press. Imagine NEVER reading a book without having the Rap Genius explanations available (on your Kindle/Ipad/whatever).
LE: We've seen you meet Nas, RZA, Raekwon, Currensy, Big KRIT, 2 Chainz to interview them. What made you do this? What were their thoughts about Rap Genius like?
We meet with them to set up their Rap Genius accounts!
SOMETIMES...we also end up smoking weed with them (altho I'm trying to cut down!)
LE: Smoke DZA had called you "Game Changer". How much do you think you currently have influences on this game? Is Rap Genius contributing to lyricism? (Our answer is HELL YEAH!!)
Love you fam, that is inspiring. Smoke DZA is amazing, he even explained where he got his name from!
LE: Do you think everything is going well for hip hop in the right direction?
Sure! Hip-hop is opening up to new subgenres, all the college kids are obsessed with hip-hop, there are "nerd rappers" like Childish Gambino, "skater rappers" - I'm feelin it!
Of course I'm an old man so my favorite hip-hop will always be the good old shit, but it's good that the kids are having fun!
LE: Apart from decoding lyrics you have various features on the menu, Blog. What caused you to do this?
Why not? Thug life! I can't wait until we have blogs for the other genres too... the Law Genius blog will be madd funny, I assure you.
LE: You have any plans to range over other contents?
Everything homie! Someday...
LE: Have you ever heard about Korean hip hop?
I know one song real well - San-E's RAP GENIUS - but that dude lives in the U.S.? Is he legit? You gotta put me on to the dope shit!
When Rap Genius Korea gets poppin I'm sure I'll know more - hopefully that will inspire me to learn the beautiful language!
LE: The last one. Though we know this question may sound corny, who is Rap Genius' rap genius at this moment?
Sorry to toot my own horn, but.... I am THE Rap Genius - that's why I have the highest rap IQ: http://rapgenius.com/maboo.
please also put my man SHAWN! He knows everything about rap, he is the Bible of rap, that's why we made him Editor-in-Chief of Rap Genius http://rapgenius.com/sameoldshawn
Interview | Kancho, HIPHOPLE
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