Rap Genius is an unlikely Silicon Valley darling, a website for annotating rap lyrics that is diversifying into verticals like news, food, and health after receiving a high-profile $15 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz last year.
Today they’re eating crow after tweeting what sounded like a rape joke yesterday.
Rap Genius founder Mahbod Moghadam, speaking to Fast Company today, blamed the tweet on a “rogue tweeter,” explaining that up to 50 people had access to the official @RapGenius account. They’ve since changed the password, but still about 20 people can use the account, he says, and that’s all part of Rap Genius’s crowdsourcing appeal. “I hope what will happen is that people tweet better stuff, but the brain unlimited is the whole purpose of Rap Genius,” he said. “I hate when people do anything deplorable like this, but for every one person who does something, you don’t hear about the people who have correct incentives.”
Both the original tweet, an apology from Rap Genius, and all annotations on the song in question, have since been deleted, but a Rap Genius-style annotation reveals that while ill-considered, the offending tweet wasn’t exactly “out of context.”
Chris Weingarten, a music critic for Spin, was referring to the following annotation on the song “Put Cha D. in Her Mouth” by Three Six Mafia, a rap group from Memphis recording on Columbia Records, from the album Da Unbreakables, released in 2003. The song is about consensual fellatio, but at least one commenter/community member, as shown in the image below, made a reference to nonconsensual fellatio.
If you put the phrase used in RapGenius’s reply tweet into their own search engine, you get back a direct quote from a Sacramento-based recording artist called Brotha Lynch Hung. The track, titled “Disappeared,” is off an album titled Mannibalector, which seems to be an extended serial killer fantasy.
So, to recap: lots of hip-hop, like other pop music, is juvenile, obscene, full of macho posturing, and offensive toward women and other individuals. Assuming this tone over social media, however, while “authentic” to RapGenius’s brand, is not acceptable for a prominent, well-funded startup. Looks like a little more code-switching is in order.
[Image: Flickr user passer-by]