Despite the big, outlandish rap-bro caricatures its three founders put forward, Rap Genius envisions itself the “Talmud for the Internet,” the foremost annotation platform of Western civilization. And aside from bombing Google with spammy search engine tactics (for which the service was swiftly punished) the Rap Genius guys have mostly managed to avoid negative press lately–which, all things considered, is a good thing for a company looking to one day become a serious knowledge resource to rival the likes of Wikipedia.
But Rap Genius was back in the news this weekend.
When Elliot Rodger went on a shooting and stabbing spree in a neighborhood near UC Santa Barbara on Friday night, killing at least six people, the mentally unstable 22-year-old’s bizarre, misogyny-riddled manifesto was soon pasted to News Genius, one of several sub-sites under the Rap Genius umbrella. As first spotted by Valleywag, Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam–the one who once told Mark Zuckerberg to “suck his d*ck” and, more recently, had a brain tumor removed–left his own series of awful, misogynist annotations on Rodger’s screed.
At one point, Moghadam facetiously labeled one sentence written by the killer “beautifully written”; in another section–in which Rodger talks about becoming angry after hearing his sister having sex with her boyfriend–Moghadam wrote, “MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.”
On Monday, it was announced that Moghadam had resigned from Rap Genius entirely, which Re/code reports was a decision made by cofounder and CEO Tom Lehman. Per a statement published by Lehman: “Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny.”
Lehman continued, “I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission–a mission that remains almost as delicate and inchoate as it was when we three founders decided to devote our lives to it almost 5 years ago.”
You can read Lehman’s statement in full here. On Sunday, before his removal from the company was announced publicly, Moghadam tweeted this: “I want to apologize to everyone. I need to hear these criticisms, reflect for real, and work on becoming a better person.”
His dismissal seems to clearly illustrate that the other Genius bros (and presumably its investors, most notably legendary firm Andreessen Horowitz, which famously invested $15 million in 2012) are serious about ensuring that Rap Genius reaches its full potential.
Moghadam has something of a reputation for speaking before thinking. In 2013, during a particularly rambling interview with Fast Company, the cofounder claimed that it was divinely ordained that Rap Genius would one day become one of the largest websites in the world. “Jesus came down, he told us wassup,” said Moghadam, “and he said this is going to be the biggest site–the Facebook of love.” While most of Rap Genius users could probably care less about its founders’s antics, annotating a heartbreaking story with jokes a fourth-grader might make strikes us as anything but loving.