Fighting for online real estate, converting users and calculating unique impressions is the new blood sport. We live in a world where every Joe with a bright idea considers himself a ‘start-up’ and every girl with an iPhone 5 thinks taking ‘selfies’ of herself makes her a viable fashion blogger. But there is a clear separation between those who are the real deal and those who barely qualify as wannabes. Rest assured, the boys from Rap Genius are the absolute real deal. With 80 million impressions/month they are one of the most top ranking sites in the US and growing exponentially everyday. Their head offices are in Williamsburg where their team of real geniuses are making it possible for you to see artists like Kanye West and Chris Brown explain the lyrics to their mega popular songs.
The three founders, Mahbod Moghadam , Tom Lehman , and Ilan Zechory met at Yale University where they formed a friendship. It was after Moghadam graduated from Stanford Law that the boys got together to work on a unique idea to annotate popular rap song lyrics. If you’re unfamiliar with rap music you are probably wondering how many ways can you interpret songs about strippers, bottle service and Lamborghinis. However, one afternoon with Moghadam and you discover the intricacy, beauty and depth of rap. His passion for what he does is infectious and you can’t help be drawn in.
When I sat down with Mahbod I was surprised at how different he was from his Rap Genius personality. He infamously told certain tech icons to “F&*K off” and also claimed that while he was in a desert in Las Vegas, “Jesus came down and said wassup and told us that our site was going to be the biggest in the world.” All this had painted quite the vivid picture. So, naturally when I met him, one of the first things I asked him was whether it was all an act. He shrugged and said, “Yes of course”. People are intrigued by controversy and he certainly delivers.
For the next couple of hours we chatted about everything from how he went from being a Yale undergrad to working with some of the biggest rap artists in the business. “I’m actually going to LA next week to meet with Kanye to discuss his verified account. That’s so surreal”, he said humbly. In addition to being incredibly intelligent, I discovered that he is a poet, a rapper and somewhat of a fashionista. He not only completely changed my perception of rap but of what a tech entrepreneur was like. The three boys and their entire team have an incredible vibe: they are young, intelligent, determined, hardworking but definitely know how to have fun. They are great role models for today’s generation because although they may be working in an unconventional office (I mean they play ping pong in the middle of the day) they have the depth, the motivation and academic credentials to back it all up.