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1. When did you first start working for StereoIQ, and how did it come about?
My ink-slinging pursuits began one shady and humid evening in July 2011 when the ghost of beloved rock critic Lester Bangs whisked through my open apartment window. He drifted above my mahogany desk and urged me into a career of music journalism. I don’t usually heed advice given to me by spectral spirits, but hey—I needed a job.
From there, I emailed Mahbod Moghadam, the founder of Rap Genius. I offered to help him elevate his media company to the next level. The concept of Stereo IQ was still in its nascent stages and we worked together over the next several months to educe that concept towards a reality.
2. Tell us a little bit about what StereoIQ does, and what your job there details.
Most of my days follow the same trajectory as the lyrics in Sublime’s “What I Got,” but with much less Mary Jane and more time in the gym. I’m a staunch advocate for clean living and I take my writing very seriously. My only fitness and journalistic competitor is Ron Burgundy.
A typical workday involves me researching songs to annotate for the site and deciding which ones to promote on StereoIQ.com and our social media outlets. We try to make the annotations as funny as they are informative, but we try not to let the humor overshadow the facts.
3. What has been your biggest achievement throughout your career at StereoIQ so far?
Probably seeing the band Phoenix share one of the songs I annotated on their official Facebook feed. The fact that a non-rap act of that caliber is a fan of what we do makes me pretty optimistic.
4. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
When I was a student, balancing school with work was extremely difficult. College and I were about as agreeable as Ferris Bueller and Edward Rooney. I have a vague recollection of getting hoisted out of my graduation ceremony after folding my diploma into a paper airplane and flinging it at the dean.
5. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
My goal as a journalist is to write the definitive biography of the Strokes, which has been a thoroughly arduous journey so far because their frontman Julian Casablancas still hasn’t responded to my Linkedin requests.
6. Where did you study, what did you study, and what was the experience like for you?
I studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. I remember one day I walked into class and my professor was lecturing us on how to run a column. Two hours earlier, I published an article in Stereo IQ’s Huffington Post column. That pretty much sums up my academic experience.
I’m not anti-school, though. If you’ve got good professors and challenging curriculum, undergrad can be a very rewarding experience. I wish that were the case for me. College didn’t challenge my intellect; it challenged my patience.
7. How did you decide that you wanted to combine your bachelor’s degree with a career in music?
I wanted to study what would be useful and applicable to modern society, and since a major in “Underwater Fire Prevention” wasn’t currently offered, I chose to study Journalism.
8. You have broken down and interpreted so many lyrics throughout your career, were there any interpretations or songs that you felt the most connected to?
The annotations for Rebecca Black’s “Friday ” are replete with unnerving Illuminati references. After reading them, you’ll never listen to a seemingly innocuous pop song again.
That 13-year-old girl still gives me nightmares.
9. You have written several album reviews. Which was the closest to your heart, and why?
Writing a review of the Strokes’ “Comedown Machine” was a highlight, primarily because it appeased my inner 14-year-old. I remember being transfixed by the band’s sweat-free cool after seeing them in concert for the first time. Casablancas the singer could inspire an impressible lad into chain-smoking more than Casablanca the movie, and my parents had to remind me of the health dangers after seeing the Strokes live. Quote Bill Clinton, “I did not inhale.”
10. For a period of time, you worked out-of-office, from your college dorm. What was that like and what were some of the challenges you faced throughout this time period?
Working at home definitely has its perks—you avoid a traffic commute, follow flexible self-imposed hours, and of course, pants are optional—but it can be a challenge. The most important thing is to avoid distractions, which has been especially difficult since the advent of YouTube. I can’t tell you how many deadlines I’ve staved off due to my recurring viewing of LOLCats videos.
11. You graduated early and moved to Los Angeles to devote yourself more to your work. What has this been like for you so far?
I don’t actually work full-time for Rap Genius just yet. I’m working my way up to a promotion. It’s been fun so far, but I’m crestfallen that no one on staff has taught me the Harlem Shake.
12. Has there been anyone throughout your career so far who has inspired you in a profound way, and if so, why?
From an entrepreneurship perspective, Sean Parker is that dude. With Napster, he pulled the rug from under the music industry; with Spotify, he’s helping to knit a new one.
My favorite journalist is Jeff Weiss, and not just because he’s a good friend and mentor of mine. He brought acerbic wit back into a music writing game that was abounding with egg-headed gobbledygook. His website Passion of the Weiss is my favorite place to discover new music.
Of course, much respect is due to the Rap Genius founders Mahbod, Tom, and Ilan. At their best, they exemplify the brazen nature of the finest modern hip-hop, and have the intelligence to boot.
13. StereoIQ was the sequel to RapGenius. How do the two branches differ?
I consider Stereo IQ to be less of a sequel and more of Rap Genius’s cool younger brother.
Rap Genius is essentially the home base. All of the rock and roll and pop content of Stereo IQ is hosted on Rap Genius. Not that it really matters—genre is ephemeral and artists make crossovers into other forms of music all the time. If Lil Wayne has the audacity to make an ear-shattering schlock-rock album, we should have no qualms hosting the Beatles’ annotations on a hip-hop site.
14. What distinguishes StereoIQ from other music companies?
Stereo IQ isn’t actually a music company—Genius Media Group, which runs Rap Genius and Stereo IQ, is a music company. Anyone who goes to RapGenius.com for ten minutes will recognize our selling point—the line-by-line annotation of all texts. No one else offers a site as fully developed and dedicated to create an Internet Talmud.
15. Who is your favorite music artist?
Right now, Kendrick Lamar is bringing the swaggering, Dr. Dre-infused Compton attitude back into hip-hop. Tame Impala are probably my favorite band. They write lysergic, kaleidoscopic anthems that make me want to dance in front of my mirror when no one is watching.
16. Where do you ideally see yourself twenty years from now?
Hopefully in twenty years from now they’ll have invented a time machine, which I’ll use to go back to the mid-1990s and save the lives of Biggie and 2pac. If I have any extra free time, I’ll invest in Tamagotchis.
17. You studied Entertainment and Media Management for a summer, how has this helped you in your career so far and what did you feel you gained the most from this experience?
Studying at UCLA during the summer of 2012 was one of the most enlightening academic experiences of my life. Let me put it to you this way: it felt strangely inappropriate to blast Alice Cooper’s celebratory “School’s Out” when I finished my session there, because I was sad to leave.
18. If you could describe your work experience so far in one word, what would it be?
19. To what extent do you believe music journalism has helped promote the careers of musicians, and how has StereoIQ worked with music fans the world over to help them become more engaged with the artists’ songs?
I personally never sought out to promote the career of an artist. The behemoth that is the Internet Hype Machine churns out artists every day, and for all the talk of loathsome and overrated musicians, the cream often rises to the top. A positive review can definitely catalyze the hype, but ultimately it’s the quality of the work that needs to stand up.
My role in Stereo IQ isn’t so much to promote the career of a musician so much as to promote an insight of their work from a different vantage point.
20. Do you have any advice for anyone aspiring to go into a career in music or journalism in the future?
My advice to anyone in the field of music or journalism is to love the game and fight hard for your vision. Don’t let anybody dull your creativity. I offer a fair warning to music journalists, though: don’t get too effusive. If there are three things guaranteed in life, it’s death, taxes, and bloggers that fetishize overhyped musicians.
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