Sasha Frere-Jones’ move from The New Yorker to Genius is actually quite the opposite. That is, not genius, but nonsensical.
Last week, Jones publicly announced his decision to leave the well-respected, highly acclaimed, and beloved American magazine to become the executive editor of a company that will rewrite hip-hop lyrics in colloquial terms.
The company, Genius, was founded in 2009 by three Yale graduates with the collective idea of explaining hip-hop, or rap lyrics to the common person.
Astonishingly, Genius, originally known as Rap Genius, was able to fund $56.8 million in its first five years of business.
Its founders, and other executive team members, say that they’re confident the company will still be profitable in the next five years, unlike print and conventional journalism, which is apparently dying.
According to The Times, in the article that broke the news, Genius will expand to commenting on restaurant menus as well. And Shakespeare.
Genius founders told The Times, “The site will continue to hire people with expertise in particular subject areas, aiming to bring in more users from online communities obsessed with particular topics.”
On its website, Genius says, “have you ever been confused by a song’s lyrics? Had trouble understanding a line from Shakespeare or the Bible? Struggled to finish a boring article that seems important? With genius you never have to worry about this- or anything else- ever again.”
Think Sparknotes, but for music, and menus, and the Bible.
In an interview with The Times, Jones said that his work for Genius will involve the lyrics side of things, as well as working to evolve the company’s team.
Though the site is monitored by editors, anyone can comment; Genius prides itself on that.
It says on its website, “There is no single genius who writes all the annotations—anyone can contribute. Genius is powered by the community, and that’s what makes it special.”
Job security or not, Genius is not the platform for veteran critic, Sasha Frere-Jones.
Jones’ 11-year career as a staff writer for The New Yorker is ending all too soon; some of his past work includes reviews on Neil Diamond, Mariah Carey, Bon Iver and Prince, as well as Lil Wayne and Wu-Tang Clan.
In 2007, Jones published a piece in The New Yorker, “A Paler Shade of White,” which pushed mainstream journalism’s comfort zone for racial discourse; it discussed the transforming role of race in contemporary music, like indie rock and hip-hop over the last twenty years.
Jones’ fearlessness, and his love and appreciation for music, which was revealed through his brilliant prose, will be sorely missed in The New Yorker.
His work for Genius just won’t do his talent justice.