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Rap Genius cofounder resigns after tasteless comments on Elliot Rodger manifesto

The user comments on Rap Genius are often dubious in tone and content. It’s different when the public face of a company decides to annotate. 


Audra Schroeder


Posted on May 26, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 6:13 am CDT

Originally intended as a place for analyzing lyrics, Rap Genius has become a forum for annotating any culturally significant text. Sometimes, the site’s founders even step in and leave their two cents, and yesterday cofounder Mahbod Moghadam did just that on alleged UCSB shooter Elliot Rodger’s 140-page manifesto, “My Twisted World.”

If you read the text over the weekend, like so many people did, you may have been sickened, terrified, or distressed by Rodger’s words. Moghadam didn’t seem to be, and he left a series of annotations on the missive, via his Rap Genius user page.

Moghadam attempts to dissect Rodger’s entries on his family history, home life, and struggles with addiction, which isn’t that odd. However, he steps over the line from critical assessment to creepily personal on a few entries. They appear to have been deleted, but Gawker had a few screengrabs yesterday.

In response to mounting criticism about the comments, Moghadam told Valleywag he was “fascinated by the fact that a text was associated with such a heartbreaking crime, especially since Elliot is talking about my neighborhood growing up. I got carried away with making the annotations and making any comment about his sister was in horrible taste, thankfully the rap genius community edits out my poor judgement, I am very sorry for writing it.”

He also apologized on Twitter.

I want to apologize to everyone. I need to hear these criticisms, reflect for real, and work on becoming a better person

— Mabode (@mahbodmoghadam) May 26, 2014

Earlier today, Rap Genius went a step further than editing out his poor judgement, and announced Moghadam had resigned. Cofounder and CEO Tom Lehman posted an official statement on the matter. Here’s an excerpt:

“Almost all the annotations were at least attempting a close reading – they were genuinely, though imperfectly, trying to add context to the text and make it easier to understand.

However, 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. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.

Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a new Rap Genius user, it would be up to our community leaders, who set the tone of the site and our approach to annotation, to delete them and explain to the new user why they were unacceptable.

Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a Rap Genius moderator, that person would cease to be an effective community leader and would have to step down.

And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned – both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately.”

According to Re/code, Rap Genius was allegedly under pressure from investors to get rid of Moghadam, and was likely trying to avoid a PR disaster that hinged on a very recent mass murder, one fueled in part by the alleged perpetrator’s hatred and misogyny.

The user comments on Rap Genius are often dubious in tone and content, but it’s a bit different when someone who’s the public face of a company decides to annotate. A scroll through Moghadam’s Twitter feed shows these comments might not have been some isolated event.

you know that boner feeling you get when a really hot girl favorites your tweets?

— Mabode (@mahbodmoghadam) May 22, 2014

errbody putting up young photos of their moms, many of them looked surprisingly fuckable back in tha day….

— Mabode (@mahbodmoghadam) May 11, 2014

You can read the whole statement here

Photo via TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: May 26, 2014, 5:08 pm CDT