|Founded||Brooklyn, New York City
New York City
|Key people||Tom Lehman
|Slogan(s)||"If you don't know, now you know."
"Annotate the world."
|Alexa rank||1,844 (June 2014)|
|Type of site||Crowdsourced knowledge base|
|Registration||Required to edit.|
Genius (formerly Rap Genius) is an online knowledge base. The site allows users to provide annotations and interpretation of song lyrics, news stories, primary source documents, poetry, and other forms of text.
Launching in 2009 with a specific focus on rap music, the site expanded in 2014 to cover other forms of media and a platform for embedding annotations into other websites. To reflect these new goals, the site re-launched as simply Genius in July 2014.
Rap Genius was created in October 2009 by founders Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory, who met during their undergraduate years at Yale University. Lehman and Moghadam came up with the idea for the site in the summer of 2009 when Lehman asked Moghadam about the meaning of a Cam'ron lyric. After Lehman built the earliest version of the site, Moghadam, a 2008 graduate of Stanford Law School and a first year employee at Dewey and LeBoeuf who was on a paid sabbatical leave, decided to pursue the idea full-time. Lehman, the programmer of the site, and Zechory soon joined him and brought the idea to fruition. Originally named Rap Exegesis, the site changed its name in December 2009 to Rap Genius because "exegesis" was difficult for users to spell. The ability to listen to the songs while viewing their lyrics, the Rap Map, and Music Video annotations were eventually added to the site as well.
In October 2013, Rap Genius was one of fifty sites targeted with notices by the National Music Publishers Association for the unlicensed online publication of song lyrics; most of the sites that were targeted were ad-supported. In response, Zechory stated that they "can't wait to have a conversation with them about how all writers can participate in and benefit from the Rap Genius knowledge project."
In December 2013, Google penalized Rap Genius by removing them from its top search results. Even for the search query of "rap genius", results from rapgenius.com did not appear on the top results. Instead, the top results showed Rap Genius' Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia pages, as well as news related to the penalty. This happened after blogger and Rap Genius contributor John Marbach exposed its link scheme to manipulate Google search results, by offering Tweets or Facebook shares, in exchange for linking to Rap Genius with keyword rich texts. Rap Genius posted an apology, promising to stop and reverse the practice. Rap Genius also pointed out that its competitors were doing similar or worse practices, and asked Google to look at "the whole lyrics search landscape" and improve its lyric search results.
Ten days later, after removing links in violation of Google's Quality Guidelines, Rap Genius partially recovered from their penalty. In fact, some opinions discussed how well the penalty process served Rap Genius' Search Engine authority, as the aftermath showed dozens of fresh incoming links from online magazines and a rise in people searching Rap Genius in Google.
Expansion, resignation of Mahbod Moghadam
In an effort to extend the concept into other genres of media works, Rap Genius launched several new channels including News Genius, Rock Genius, and Poetry Genius. The service also added the ability for outside publishers to integrate Rap Genius's platform into other websites to create annotated articles. At one point, rapper Kanye West, a fan of the site, submitted a mock up of a redesign to Ben Horowitz, an investor in the site  The redesign was not used although Lehman was impressed telling Business Insider that future redesigns could use elements from it. 
In May 2014, Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam resigned after publishing and annotating the manifesto of Isa Vista spree killer Elliot Rodger. Many of Moghadm's annotations were labeled as being insensitive, particularly his comment "MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot". In a statement explaining Moghadam's decision to resign, Tom Lehman said “Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam posted incendiary annotations to Elliot Rodger’s 141-page manifesto. The manifesto had been uploaded to News Genius. He didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius. Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a new Rap Genius user, it would be up to our community leaders, who set the tone of the site and our approach to annotation, to delete them and explain to the new user why they were unacceptable. Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a Rap Genius moderator, that person would cease to be an effective community leader and would have to step down. And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned — both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately." Moghadam has since apologized.
On July 11, 2014, reflecting its recent expansions and growth into a platform, Rap Genius re-launched as simply Genius. Speaking about the changes, the co-founders explained that most internet users fail to "dive into" stories they find in greater deal, and that Genius aimed to "help us all realize the richness and depth in every line of text." The company also raised an additional $40 million in series B funding led by investor Dan Gilbert.
Works and articles on Genius are presented with various lines highlighted in grey; by clicking on these lines, pop-up annotations are displayed which provide additional details and context for the section in question. Users can provide their own annotations by highlighting fragments of text. Texts on Genius are sorted into various topic channels, including rap and rock music, literature, news, music (Pop Genius), historical texts (History Genius), sports, television and film (Screen Genius), and "X"—any other subject not covered by other categories. The site also offers the "Rap Map", a Google Maps display featuring profiles and placemarks for geographical locations related to rap culture or mentioned in rap songs.
Registered users can upload, correct, and annotate texts. They can also offer suggestions to improve already published texts and annotations. Editors and Moderators help to generate and monitor content to ensure quality writing. Users earn "IQ" with every published annotation. Points are rewarded on the basis of not only the quantity of text that is annotated, but also the quality of the annotations. Users are rewarded with greater editorial and moderating privileges as more IQ points are awarded.
Contributors to Genius receive points, "IQ", for annotations and suggestions on each channel. The IQ system employs both direct points, for example a 10 IQ point increase for an annotation, and a voting system. Especially insightful and popular annotations gain positive reviews, increasing the IQ value of an annotation. As of now, IQ has no redemption purpose, but serves as measure of a contributor's impact and work on the site. Editors and Moderators gain additional means of obtaining IQ, including publishing completed texts and reviewing the work of others.
On January 28, 2014, Rap Genius released an app for the iPhone, called "Genius". Rap Genius co-founder Tom Lehman said at launch:
In March 2014, Genius launched a feature allowing users to "embed" annotated texts on other websites. Felix Salmon of Reuters was a noted early user, using the platform to create an annotated breakdown of Janet Yellen's first FOMC statement. Nas embedded the entire annotated Illmatic album onto his website to promote the release of Illmatic XX.
Rap Genius offers verified accounts to established rap artists where they annotate, moderate and correct their own lyrics. The Queensbridge rapper Nas was the first rapper to get a verified Rap Genius account where he'll be annotating all his own lyrics and commenting on the lyrics of other rappers he admires. The RZA, one member of the American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, was also one of the rappers with verified account on Rap Genius. The two rappers have already started annotating their own lyrics.
In the late of 2012, San Francisco novelist Bacchus Paine became the first current release author to voluntarily annotate part of her own work, a semi-fictional mixture of philosophy and pornography, on the site, including supplementing the narrative with photos taken at events like Folsom Street Fair, featured in the novel.
|Annotate a lyric||+15, +10, +5 (Depending on current IQ or account type)|
|(For Editors and Moderators) Accept an annotation||+5|
|(For Editors and Moderators) Reject an annotation||+2|
|(For Verified Artists) Verify own lyrics/text||+15|
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- Salmon, Felix. "Janet Yellen’s first FOMC statement, annotated". Reuters. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- "Rap Genius & Nas Breakdown "Illmatic" in its Entirety". Nas. April 18, 2014.
- Nas verified account on Rap Genius Accessed: 16/03/2012
- NAS INTERVIEW: why Nas wants to annotate his own lyrics on Rap Genius Accessed: 16/03/2012
- RZA verified account on Rap Genius Accessed: 16/03/2012
-  Accessed: 27/02/2013
-  Accessed: 16/01/2013
-  Accessed: 16/01/2013