This Is What Rap Genius Is Really Like

Rap Genius Founders Tom Ilan and MahbodRap GeniusRap Genius founders

Rap Genius, a community site where members can leave in-line annotations analyzing song lyrics, literature, speeches, and news items, recently let us inside its operations.

Rap Genius rocketed to notoriety after raising $15 million from Andreessen Horowitz a little over a year ago.

The company is known for a few things. For one, there's the controversial statements of its Yale-grad founders Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory. But on the plus side, Rap Genius has a roster of supporters like Nas and Kendrick Lamar. But it recently made headlines when the National Music Publishers Association called it-and other lyrics sites-"blatantly illegal."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rap Genius' office is non-traditional as its public image.

The company's 40+ employees work in the 7th floor penthouse suites of an apartment building on Kent Street in Williamsburg (the building used to be the warehouse of a large grocer). In total, the company works out of 9 different offices.

Each of the suites has a kitchen, bathroom, common area, and several bedrooms turned into offices. In some ways, it feels more like a giant collegiate crashpad than an office.

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When you arrive on the 7th floor, you're in Rap Genius territory. I spotted several employees walking through the halls with bare feet.

When you arrive on the 7th floor, you're in Rap Genius territory. I spotted several employees walking through the halls with bare feet.

Although there's no reception desk, the company proudly touts its logo on the wall in the main suite.

Although there's no reception desk, the company proudly touts its logo on the wall in the main suite.

This space hosts the offices for the Rock Genius and News Genius sections, and the main common area where the company entertains guests.

This space hosts the offices for the Rock Genius and News Genius sections, and the main common area where the company entertains guests.

Rap Genius keeps its analytics up at all times, to keep track of which lyrics pages are getting the most visitors. Beyonce and Eminem were on top during my visit.

Rap Genius keeps its analytics up at all times, to keep track of which lyrics pages are getting the most visitors. Beyonce and Eminem were on top during my visit.

A collage of photos from the Rap Genius Instagram account decorates a main wall.

A collage of photos from the Rap Genius Instagram account decorates a main wall.

The collection is pretty star-studded. Even Lady Gaga makes an appearance.

The collection is pretty star-studded. Even Lady Gaga makes an appearance.

Rap Genius also encourages artists to sign their names when they visit.

Rap Genius also encourages artists to sign their names when they visit.

The office has hosted musicians of all degrees of fame, from local, community artists to more established names, like Childish Gambino.

The office has hosted musicians of all degrees of fame, from local, community artists to more established names, like Childish Gambino.

The best part of this suite is the amazing view from the deck.

The best part of this suite is the amazing view from the deck.

"We definitely chill out here a lot," operations manager Jael McCants told me.

"We definitely chill out here a lot," operations manager Jael McCants told me.

Naturally, this grill gets a lot of love in the warmer months.

Naturally, this grill gets a lot of love in the warmer months.

Some plant life spices up the office, too.

Some plant life spices up the office, too.

Raphael Pope-Sussman works on News Genius. Among many, many other things, he plans Rap Genius trivia nights.

Raphael Pope-Sussman works on News Genius. Among many, many other things, he plans Rap Genius trivia nights.

A peek at his desk hints at what News Genius annotates: historical texts, speeches, policy documents, laws, and the occasional Kanye rant or crazy open letter from a CEO.

A peek at his desk hints at what News Genius annotates: historical texts, speeches, policy documents, laws, and the occasional Kanye rant or crazy open letter from a CEO.

If you're a guest at Rap Genius, you'll be offered any type of drink you could want.

If you're a guest at Rap Genius, you'll be offered any type of drink you could want.

Here's a peek into the Rock Genius office.

Here's a peek into the Rock Genius office.

A visiting rapper wrote the company an original piece on an old pizza box.

A visiting rapper wrote the company an original piece on an old pizza box.

The Rock Genius dudes keep a list of chart-topping songs, to make sure the lyrics of the hottest songs are always on the site.

The Rock Genius dudes keep a list of chart-topping songs, to make sure the lyrics of the hottest songs are always on the site.

Outside the Rock Genius office, the company has posted the plans for a NEW space it will move to next year. The fresh digs will seat about 80 people.

Outside the Rock Genius office, the company has posted the plans for a NEW space it will move to next year. The fresh digs will seat about 80 people.

Rap Genius has a lot of different swag options to dish out.

Rap Genius has a lot of different swag options to dish out.

Highlights: A Where's Waldo-inspired t-shirt featuring Jay-Z (get the song reference?) and this "Baller Water."

Highlights: A Where's Waldo-inspired t-shirt featuring Jay-Z (get the song reference?) and this "Baller Water."

We checked out the suite down the hall next. Rap Genius is very bike friendly.

We checked out the suite down the hall next. Rap Genius is very bike friendly.

This suite has another signature board.

This suite has another signature board.

Employees often order food through Seamless and eat together at this big, common room table.

Employees often order food through Seamless and eat together at this big, common room table.

This barren office is perfect for when the Rap Genius programmers need to hard-core concentrate.

This barren office is perfect for when the Rap Genius programmers need to hard-core concentrate.

Outside the office, programming books nestle next to big speakers.

Outside the office, programming books nestle next to big speakers.

Founder Tom Lehman's office is in this suite.

Founder Tom Lehman's office is in this suite.

With a loaded closet, it feels like a bedroom, sans bed.

With a loaded closet, it feels like a bedroom, sans bed.

Here are Rap Genius' two other founders, Mahbod Moghadam and Ilan Zechory. They compare themselves to the two grumpy muppets who heckle the rest of the cast from their balcony seats.

Here are Rap Genius' two other founders, Mahbod Moghadam and Ilan Zechory. They compare themselves to the two grumpy muppets who heckle the rest of the cast from their balcony seats.

This is Zechory's office.

This is Zechory's office.

He's got this poster hanging on his wall. Zechory practices clinical hypnosis.

He's got this poster hanging on his wall. Zechory practices clinical hypnosis.

He also has a bunch of blankets in his office because he "likes to be swaddled."

He also has a bunch of blankets in his office because he "likes to be swaddled."

Rap Genius employees can feel free to shower in one of the many full bathrooms (which is especially handy since the building also has a gym).

Rap Genius employees can feel free to shower in one of the many full bathrooms (which is especially handy since the building also has a gym).

There's a keyboard in the common room of this suite. Moghadam knows how to tickle the ivories.

There's a keyboard in the common room of this suite. Moghadam knows how to tickle the ivories.

Lots of home-y clutter in this suite.

Lots of home-y clutter in this suite.

Here's the office of Rap Genius' lawyer.

Here's the office of Rap Genius' lawyer.

This piece exemplifies what Rap Genius is all about, he tells me.

This piece exemplifies what Rap Genius is all about, he tells me.

One floor down, Rap Genius has a big conference room where the staff has daily meetings.

One floor down, Rap Genius has a big conference room where the staff has daily meetings.

Moghadam doesn't have his own office on the 7th floor, but will often work out of the apartment that he shares with Lehman. Which is only three floors down.

Moghadam doesn't have his own office on the 7th floor, but will often work out of the apartment that he shares with Lehman. Which is only three floors down.

Lehman loves making pottery. The apartment is decked out with his work.

Lehman loves making pottery. The apartment is decked out with his work.

He also has an inordinate collection of shoes.

He also has an inordinate collection of shoes.

Wanna check out some other startups?

Wanna check out some other startups?

These companies are doing cool things in Portland, Oregon>>

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