Business

The history of Rap Genius: from rap lyrics blog to annotation powerhouse

Above: Genius' logo, formerly known as Rap Genius

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First Rap Genius helped the Web understand rap. Then the startup set out to annotate everything, from literature and history to sports and film.

Now with 40 million in new funding from Dan Gilbert and Andreessen Horowitz, Rap Genius has a new name: “Genius.”

Genius had no plans to expand beyond rap lyrics when it launched in 2009. To understand how the startup became the annotation powerhouse it is today, let’s once again take a trip down context lane.

Click on the dates below to learn more about each milestone.

 October 2009:  RapExegesis launches with a small team of less than ten people annotating rap lyrics. The site first debuted as a blog to explain the lyrics from Cam’ron’s “Purple Haze” album, according to the Wall Street Journal.

 December 2009:  RapExegesis rebrands as Rap Genius.

 June 2011:  Rap Genius joins the Y-Combinator startup accelerator, and is later dubbed “the fastest-growing Y Combinator company” of all time.

 August 25, 2011:  The startup raises a $1.8 million seed round from Betaworks.

 Mid 2011:  Rap Genius surpasses one million unique hits per month.

 October 3, 2012:  Andreessen Horowitz invests $15M in Rap Genius, with additional participation from Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian and AF Square. The company proclaims that its serious, academic take on rap lyrics will help elevate the genre to the level of poetry.

 June 25, 2013:  Rap Genius expands beyond rap lyrics, launches “News Genius,” “Poetry Genius,” and “Rock Genius.”

August 19, 2013: The company surpasses 4.9 million unique visitors per month (comScore) and hits 25 employees.

 November 11, 2013:  Rap Genius is targeted by the National Music Publishers Association for not obtaining licenses to publish song lyrics.

 December 24, 2013:  The startup comes under fire from Google for using unscrupulous SEO methods to make sure it pops up as the first result in any lyric-related Google search.

 January 4, 2014:  Rap Genius apologizes to Google, and the lyrics site’s pages return to search results.

 January 28, 2014:  The company launches its first app, “Genius,” for iPhone — hinting at the company’s future rebrand.

 May 26, 2014:  Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam is forced out of the company over insensitive comments about the Santa Barbara shooting.

 July 11, 2014:  Rap Genius changes its name to “Genius,” raises $40 million from Dan Gilbert and Andreessen Horowitz, and debuts embedded annotations service.

What’s next for Genius? A 2018 IPO, according to one of its founders. Tells us what you think of the startup’s new direction in the comments below.

More about the companies and people from this article:

Andreessen Horowitz is a $950 million venture capital firm that was launched on July 6, 2009. Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are the general partners of the firm.... read more »

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13 comments
Jake Seip
Jake Seip

Wait, is this venturebeat or the onion?

Al Leo
Al Leo

Looks like anti piramid? Are they already discussing this?

Ward Chandler
Ward Chandler

Lame logo. I wonder what they paid for genius.com.

Christos Chatzisavvas
Christos Chatzisavvas

I love Rap Genius, it made me appreciate some rappers a ton more. I learned about stories/meanings hiding behind the words that I wouldn't have otherwise. It's a great idea. Here's hoping that they spread out and make a Metal/Rock Genius or something. I love discussing Brand New lyrics on forums; imagine having it in such a format!