Ilan Zechory is from Detroit Michigan; Malcolm X was an important figure in his early development. It may have been Malcolm X's swagger and preachings that led Ilan to focus on religious studies at Yale University, where he, Tom and Mahbod first became lifelong friends. His senior thesis at Yale was on the Divine Religion of the Actual God, a study of a reclusive man who created his own religion (similar to Rap Genius in certain aspects) in the 1980s. Prior to beginning his life's work on Rap Genius, Ilan wrote for HBO's Deadwood. He worked at Google for two years, where he learned to appreciate sushi and eat it every day. Ilan is also a clinically trained hypnotherapist.