Former Rap Genius Founder Interviews Intern

Learn why Ivy League schools suck and what it's like to work for a crazy ass startup founder.


July 17, 2015
Former Rap Genius Founder Interviews Intern

Zach Schwartz is the definition of a “young pimp”. Zach is graduating from Columbia University this year and is internet famous for writing a hilarious article about how much Columbia sucks (and everything else sucks too).

And indeed, for someone as smart as Zach, all of us do suck. We are all insufferable peons to him. Even though Zach has a Jewish-ass name, his mom’s last name is “Hsu” (aka “Tzu” like mufuckin Sun Tzu), so he probably knows the Art of War and could kill you with a Sand Palm to your face like blaow!

Zach is a writer for Vice. Before that he was an intern at Rap Genius during a transformative time when the brand changed to “Genius“.

Zach’s time interning with me for Genius got a lot of press coverage because he told the reporter we get oysters from Whole Foods. Really, it was a pleasant, thoughtful time – we spent the days annotating poetry and listening to the birds.

I interviewed Zach for The Hustle because he’s the definition of a True Hustler, as well as a charming, young, Ivy League / street pimp.


Tell us, what were some of the reactions to your O.G. infamous interview about interning at Rap Genius?

The interview got picked up by Gawker, and then Business Insider did a piece criticizing both of us. One of my friends called to tell me that if I was trying to be a writer, this would forever be associated with my name. Another one of my friends called to excitedly tell me I was on the front page of LinkedIn.

That’s why the coverage the Ivy League piece got didn’t really faze me. This has happened before, it’ll happen again. I’d put money on it.

You were living at the Rap Genius Mansion at a formative time — please describe the scene for us.

It was awesome. My room’s shower had green lights. I would watch rap videos in our private movie theater that had artificial starlight. Our poetry readings/parties were legendary. It was a lot of fun — and somewhat overwhelming — for a 19-year-old.

Shout out to the friends I made during that time — Paperham Lincoln, Kehlani, Lyfe Harris, Jean Deaux. I wrote a piece for our friend Ryan Holiday about the celebrities I met during my time there.

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Check out the RG Mansion
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Check out the RG Mansion
Who are the top three rappers who you would say have a literary voice?

Cam’ron, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. [Mahbod’s note: Kendrick even annotates his lyrics on Genius so you know he is literary as fuck.]

While interning at Genius, you met the owner of your NBA home team, Dan Gilbert. What was that like?

Dope! Wonderful guy, we talked about the Cavs. I’ll see him again one day.

Your article on how much Columbia sucks broke the internet. Give us the behind-the-scenes on that.

I had a completely different life before this in Ohio. I wasn’t friends with or related to anyone who went to an Ivy League school. In fact, out of my childhood friend group, I might be the only who finishes college (IF I finish! Columbia flexes on me constantly …).

Growing up, all I cared about was skateboarding and rap music. Then, my junior and senior year, I worked my heart out trying to go to a good school.

When I got into Columbia, I met a lot of kids who were sheltered and privileged in an out-of-touch way. Many of them seemed to have a hard time being genuine.

For a while, other than my relationship with my girlfriend at the time, I felt very alienated and alone. That’s where the original feelings of that article came from.

Last year, I had a wonderful time at Columbia. I love my friends there. But that article was my attack on elitism. I wanted people who weren’t accepted to an Ivy League school to realize that they might be better off, and I wanted people who attended Ivy League schools to realize that they’re not that special after all.

Millions of people read that article. Now, when I’m on campus, I’ll have security guards asking me stuff like, “Are you the kid who wrote that article about how everyone here are weirdos?” and dapping me up.

What would you say are the top three most overrated institutions?

The U.S. Government, the police and the prison system.

In your social media, you often talk about the “Asian Health Life” — what are the basic tenets of this diet philosophy?

Actually, much of it is influenced by the “Mahbod health life”! The first time I made a conscious effort to be healthy is when we lived together. The “Asian Health Life” is also influenced by my Mom — she is its true originator. Here are its basic philosophies:

  • Work out to the point of exhaustion every day to stave off depression.
  • Eat greens. Don’t eat sweets.
  • Drink more water.
  • Sleep from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. every night. This is when your body needs rest the most.
  • Occasionally consume rare herbs as prescribed by Eastern medicine (you probably need an Asian mother for this).
  • Get acupuncture occasionally.
  • Only eat Eastern Asian food: Taiwanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, etc.
Who are your fashion icons? What is the philosophy of fashion for you?

ASAP Bari, Ian Connor, Virgil Abloh. Sometimes brands send me clothing to wear in articles and/or I’ll model for them — shout out Haculla, Smoking Kills, RAWASL, etc.

I feel, increasingly, that one of the only points of life is to be well-dressed. My color palette is blacks and whites, with splashes of specific colors — deep purple, baby blue, etc.

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Zach and Mateo Staltari
In what ways does the Jewish side of your heritage manifest itself in your life?

I feel like Eli Roth in “Inglorious Basterds” — AKA “The Bear Jew.” Just kidding! People don’t know that I grew up pretty religious — in fact I won the “Chidon HaTanach” national bible contest when I was in sixth grade. It is like the spelling bee for Jewish people.

Although I don’t believe in organized religion anymore, I talk to God as much as possible. I believe I’m on Earth to do God’s work. I still use parts of Judaism (and Buddhism, which I was taught as a child and which influences me as well) to interact with God.

I do think a lot more people should convert to Judaism. I keep telling my friends to stop eating pork.

How do you feel about Drake?

Drake is the closest rapper we have to the voice of this generation. My favorite Drake memory is either when I snuck out to the Club Paradise tour with my friend Jordan Castro, watching Drake perform “Crew Love” (Smoking weed under star projectors / guess we’ll never know what Harvard gets us) while chillin’ under the stars, or the other day when me and you were in the Chateau Marmont hotel suite, swangin’ and listening to “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.”

The girl I’ve been seeing out here, we listen to the first half of “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” a lot. The other day, we went hiking at 5 a.m. near the Hollywood sign. I played “Energy” when we got to the top.

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