Rap Genius Co-Founder Resigns After Leaving Weird Annotations on UCSB Shooter’s Manifesto

Photo: Mark Ostow/Rap Genius

Earlier this weekend, Rap Genius — the lyrics annotation site that aspires to be an Internet Talmud — posted the disturbing manifesto of UCSB shooter Elliot Rodger. On Sunday, Gawker noted that one of Rap Genius’s three Yale-educated founders, Mahbod Moghadam, had been leaving comments on passages of Rodger’s 141-page memoir/terrifying rant. The most generous thing one could say about Moghadam’s observations is that they were not insightful.

Here are some of Moghadam’s weirder annotations:

Later in the day, Moghadam sent Valleywag an email in which he attempted to explain the reasoning behind his comments. “I 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,” he wrote. “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.”

Now, Re/Code reports that Moghadam, who has caused some problems for the well-funded start-up in the past, has resigned. “Yesterday the Rap Genius community annotated Elliot Rodger’s manifesto on News Genius. Because this tragedy is still so raw, there was internal debate as to whether this document belonged on the site at all. Ultimately we decided that it was worthy of close reading – understanding the psychology of people who do horrible things can help us to better understand our society and ourselves,” said one of Rap Genius’s other founders, Tom Lehman, in a statement posted to the site. After noting that most of the annotations “were at least attempting a close reading,” Lehman acknowledged that his friend and partner “didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text” and “went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny.”

Lehman continued, “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.”

Re/Code added that “someone close to the situation” said that Moghadam had, in fact, been “asked to leave the company,” in part because of “pressure from investors,” which shouldn’t strike anyone as a major surprise. Some aspects of Rodger’s story are certainly sad, but sympathizing with him just hours after he murdered six college students isn’t a good look.

Rap Genius Co-Founder Resigns