Live, Work and Party in Bel Air: The Crazy Life of Interning Under the Founder of Rap Genius
We all dream of getting a chance to work that dream job right out of college- I know I would have killed to intern for someone like Kanye West. Some students do get that lucky though and we had the chance to talk with a couple of interns for Rap Genius founder Mahbod Moghadam. We bet you’ll be jealous when you read how they live and work.
Mahbod is known as the most controversial Rap Genius founder because of his crazy antics that started beef with the likes of Warren Buffett as well as Rap Genius’s recent bout with Google. Recently coming out of surgery for a brain tumor, Mahbod now works to extend Rap Genius’s arms into the poetry game, simply known as Poetry Genius.
We got the awesome chance to hang out at Rap Genius’s Bel Air mansion/lair/headquarters for a day to interview Mahbod and a couple of his new Poetry Genius interns/goons Jeremy Lilly and Zach Schwartz. While we were there we got to talking about what it’s like working under the most controversial Rap Genius founder.
We arrived at Rap Genius’s mansion in the hills of Bel Air on a sunny day. Walking in the house there were some boxes of Rap Genius shirts that said in colorful letters “Fuck Fuck Swag,” a volcano vaporizer was chilling in the corner, and they even had their own Rap Genius lighters and bottled water. Mahbod greeted us, a cup of tea in each hand, and that’s when we first met Zach and Jeremy.
Zach and Jeremy come from the mid-west and the east coast respectively. Jeremy recently graduated from Columbia while Zach is a current student there. Now they both find themselves living in the best spot for women, weed, and weather, living in a mansion working for one of the coolest guys to work on the rap scene. Cigarettes in hand, we went to sit outside on the pool deck to talk about what their lives are like now.
Jeremy explained that he got in touch with Rap Genius when he was looking for writing jobs in New York. “They had this really ridiculous Craigslist ad that didn’t quite make any sense, it didn’t describe the position at all. It was just like, “Baller writer needed to save poetry and start literature renaissance” or something. “Send us a poem that’s made you cry, a few annotations and email heading counts for half your grade.”
I turned to Zach and asked him how he came to know Mahbod.
“So I found the site because of a Gucci Mane lyric that my friend told me to look up using Rap Genius and I got involved by writing articles for them about “Scarface,” blunts and rap music and “Why No One Has Killed Your Favorite Rapper.” So from that I started talking to Mahbod and now I’m here.”
While they do some work for the other arms of Rap Genius, Zach and Jeremy work under Mahbod primarily for Poetry Genius.
Zach explained to me:
“We are trying to bring on verified artists and young authors and poets. We got all the really good up-and-coming rappers, so now we are trying to get the up-and-coming literature giants, so 18-20-year-olds, we are just trying to get them on Poetry Genius.”
Jeremy chimed in:
“But we’ll be bringing back the glory days of literature, finding the next Eliot, Pound, Crane, or Lawrence, people who wrote that real shit.”
I then asked them to walk me through a typical day in the life.
“A typical day is like, we all get up, we might exercise or something, and we all go to Whole Foods. Mahbod loves Whole Foods. We all get these huge salads, oysters, smoothies, all this really nice stuff, and then we go back, we feast, and then we work for ten hours straight. At the end, its 9 or 10 p.m. and we just relax. Mahbod meditates, Jeremy and I go out, its really cool… It’s been crazy, they filmed a music video here with Isaiah Rashad and that just happens like every day shit. It’s crazy.”
So tell us what you think of your job so far.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had for a job but also the most work I’ve ever had, and yeah Mahbod’s a good boss and he gives us a lot of freedom, but ultimately its because we’ve been trusted to to incredibly important work, annotate all the literature, so we never try to let them down and we work our asses off day and night. And yeah the perks and benefits are really nice but when it comes down to the end of the day, what’s most important is the annotation, all literature, all rap, all text in human history.”
As a young generation, we typically look for jobs outside the normal 9-5 office job or we become entrepreneurs. What you guys have going on here is pretty special. Is this a model that you see spreading?
Zach shared his thoughts first.
“I went in to Google once and I had the best food ever, there were massages upstairs… this is kind of the same thing except you are living in a mansion as a young person and it’s like, if you are willing to work hard really really hard, and do the things that need to be done, not take things for granted, and not be entitled, then this is a good job because you are trusted with a lot but its a reward for your hard work, so they really take care of you but in order to produce at maximum output for the company. It’s nice, I like it, it’s the new model it seems… we all do hard work though, he’s a good boss.”
“Mahbod’s really chill about work. Although the house is technically our office, we can do work from wherever we are… and since it’s really informal, you can wake up early, do some writing, exercise, work, then rage at night. It’s the life.”
Being a part of Rap Genius, you must have met some pretty interesting people and artists. Can you share some interesting stories?
Zach went on to tell me:
“The craziest thing that happened was when that music video went on, there were a bunch of really young rappers my age, so I kind of made friends with them and went to a party with them the next night in this girl’s tiny apartment. There were only six or seven people there. Do you know who Ab-Soul is, the rapper? He rolls through, just stops by to say “hi,” and I was just like “damn,” I talked to him for a little bit and that was just amazing because talking to someone like that when they are so cool, it made me feel good, made me feel positive. There were only a few people in that room and they were all rappers or doing something so it was nice, I liked the feeling.”
I knew that Zach and Mahbod shared the same interests in hip-hop, so I asked Zach and Jeremy what kind of hip-hop they both like.
Zach went first.
“Hip-hop is the soundtrack to my life and I’m being genuine in that’s the only thing I listen to. My life has been influenced by hip-hop to a belligerent degree… It’s music that I’ve related to all my life… My favorite artists are Gucci Mane, Lil’ Wayne, Wacka Flocka Flame, Slim Dunkin… I like Max B, Three 6 Mafia, Outkast, UGK, Pimp C, I really fuck with the southern rappers because that’s what reached our ears the most.”
And what about you, Jeremy?
“I actually don’t listen to hip-hop that much, I’m more into indie and classical music, but having worked here for a few months I’ve definitely started to acquired a taste for it, and once you get into it it’s a lot more intelligent and moving and clever than you would think. There’s a lot of “fuck bitches and get money” and the bass is insanely simple, but there’s a lot more behind it than meets the eye that I need to appreciate.”
Earlier when we met, there was a mention of a poetry reading/party, so curious as I am, I asked if we can expect to see Mahbod raging on Saturday night. I learned soon after that since Mahbod’s operation, he is fairly limited on the substances that he can indulge in.
“He’ll drink on occasion… but he’s still definitely down with partying.”
Zach then told me a little more about their party.
“For this party on Saturday, he’s telling his friends about all the booze he’s going to have… It’s not your typical poetry reading, it’s like a mansion party and then a poetry reading. There will be some really young authors, it’s going to be like a rap party but with really young writers… a lot of people that the world hasn’t seen… You should come!”
So how was the party on Saturday? Filled with hipsters, a few rappers, a killer hip-hop playlist, some great booze, blunts, and other substances to medicate yourself with. Mahbod stuck to a strict diet of Scotch the whole night and when some Gucci Mane came on, he asked us jokingly, “Do you guys want to know what this song is about?” If I say anymore I could get into some trouble, but that’s how the ballers of Poetry Genius live, work, and party in the hills of Bel Air.