Rap Genius trumps The New Yorker by poaching music critic Sasha Frere-Jones

Rap Genius trumps The New Yorker by poaching music critic Sasha Frere-Jones

In what looks an awful lot like some sort of watershed moment in the ongoing saga between print and digital, Complex has pointed out that Sasha Frere-Jones, who had been a very popular music critic with print mainstay The New Yorker, has jumped ship to take on the role of executive editor of the website Genius (f.k.a. Rap Genius).

Genius began back in 2009 as a crowd-sourced platform where users could annotate rap lyrics, kind of like footnoting essays at a university, only you get to footnote “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj instead of some boring thesis on the cultural relativity of Brendan Fraser post-Encino Man.

In 2013, the site came under fire for alleged copyright breach by republishing lyrics without permission. This minor hiccup saw Google pretending the website didn’t exist for a while. The site rebranded as simply “Genius” mid-2014 and now allows users to annotate more than just rap lyrics, with sections dedicate to rock, country, pop, and lesser-known subgenres like legal decisions, literature, and tech. The website has apparently raised over $55 million in venture capital of late.

Frere-Jones, who championed bands such as Shabazz Palaces, William Basinski, Run the Jewels, and Oren Ambarchi within the pages of the highfalutin New Yorker, said the move was partly motivated by the fact that he saw Genius’ annotations draw out the nuances of music. An in-depth explanation of his reasoning can be found here.

Given Frere-Jones’ taste in music, as evidenced by his list of favorite albums in 2014, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to soon see a subsite dedicated to annotating the song titles of Haino/Ambarchi/O’Rourke jams.

• Genius: http://genius.com
• Sasha Frere-Jones: https://twitter.com/sfj

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