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Rap Genius is a lyrics site that crowdsources annotations including interpretations and references. Annotations can be suggested by any registered user as well as a number of verified artists including 50 Cent, Nas, Mac Miller and Watsky. Since its launch in 2009, the site has expanded to include section for rock lyrics, poetry and news.
Rap Genius was developed in the summer of 2009 after founder Mahbod Moghadam was asked to explain the lyrics to the Cam’ron song “Family Ties” with his former Yale University classmate Ilan Zechory to another Yalie, Tom Lehman. After explaining a line about Jamaican clothing, Lehman was so inspired, he began to build the site. It launched in October 2009 as Rap Exegesis, with the intent of offering detailed explanations and context for rap lyrics. That December, the site was renamed Rap Genius and within a year, they had attracted approximately 75 contributing editors.
In November 2009, Rap Genius saw its first bit of press after annotating the lyrics to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ 2009 single “Empire State of Mind.” That month, the review was featured on the Huffington Post, Newser and BlackBook. In January 2010, the Rap Genius Facebook fan page launched, gaining more than 388,000 fans as of July 2013. Around the same time, they launched their Twitter account, which has accrued more than 100,000 followers within the same time period. As press around the site continued to build in 2011 and 2012 with features on Mashable, the Next Web, Esquire and BetaBeat, other sections of the site launched including places to annotate rock lyrics and poetry and literature (shown below).
In October 2012, Rap Genius announced that venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz would be investing $15 million into the site, one of the fastest-growing sites to come out of the startup incubator Y Combinator. News of this investment spread on Wired and Gawker. In April 2013, the Rap Genius founders were interviewed on NPR Music, shortly before they announced the launch of News Genius (shown below), a way to annotate current events, on May 1st.
Once a person makes an account, they can earn Rap IQ points for their contributions to the site. Rap IQ can be earned by writing new annotations or suggestions to already existing ones as well as having those submissions upvoted by site editors and moderators. Once 200 IQ is earned, users are granted access to the Rap Genius forums, where people may post about any topic and posts are ranked with a voting system similar to Reddit. Earning 300 allows users to message each other and 600 allows access to annotate songs that have already been published or completed. There is a live leaderboard that ranks the users with the most IQ points.
The Rap Map
In August 2010, Rap Genius launched the Rap Map, which uses Google Maps to pinpoint notable places and landmarks from rap and hip hop songs in a number of cities including New York City, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit and Miami, linking back to the lyrics in question. That month, the map was linked on Programmable Web, Mashable, Refinery29, Gizmodo and the Huffington Post.
In March 2012, Rap Genius began offering Verified Accounts to artists who wanted to annotate their own lyrics. The first Verified Account was given to the rapper Nas (shown below), who has gone on to earn 10,875 Rap IQ from making annotations and suggestions on his own work as well as lyrics by other artists including Salaam Remi, Rick Ross and No I.D. In January 2013, Verified Accounts were expanded to authors, poets and memoirists.
As of July 2013, Rap Genius has a steadily increasing Alexa global rank of 2,478 and US rank of 793. Quantcast reports Rap Genius attracting more than 6.8 million unique monthly visitors in the US and 14.4 million globally, resulting in a rank of 172.
Huffington Post – ‘Rap Map’ Plots Famous Locales Referenced In Hip-Hop Lyrics