"This part of the 'Commerce Clause,' which gives Congress the authority to regulate foreign and interstate commerce, is the basis for most federal law regulating economic activity. Prior to the New Deal, this clause was often cited by courts that struck down state laws that favored local businesses over out-of-state competitors. But since the 1930s, the courts have relied on this clause primarily to uphold federal regulation of economic activity."
With help from their recent investment, Moghadam and his team hope to finish developing beta annotation sites for legal documents (LawGenius), and indie music (StereoIQ) in the near future. Even sites for bible verses and country music have been proposed. Two Stanford law professors, Lawrence Lessig and Mark Lemley, have recently signed on as the first two verified accounts for what will become LawGenius.
The average RapGenius user only experiences 10 percent of the site, says Moghadam. As a user's reputation on the site grows, they may become more entitled to special privileges by being selected as an editor.
"Right now only the powerful users [editors] have access to the chat feature, and other advanced features," says Moghadam. "Nine-tenths of the site is only visible to the editors who have accounts. That's how we have [rapper] Mac Miller in the chat room helping editors understand his lyrics."
Moghadam says that RapGenius is as much a social networking site as it is a place to compile rap annotations.
But rather than charging users for a membership or opening the whole site to the public, a contributor must prove themselves competent enough to join the inner social circle of RapGenius "editorship" by explaining songs insightfully and earning RapIQ.
The editorial community of RapGenius is a close-knit group of international users and hip-hop buffs. Through the use of the chat feature and message boards, editors can network, discuss, and spread their own hip-hop experience with contributors who share their passion. Topics ranging from making RapGenius a more user-friendly site, to questions regarding 1970s Jamaican slang terminology, are all discussed in editor-only chats and private messages.
This editor-centered power structure promotes civil discussion between Internet users who have been verified as having a baseline knowledge of hip-hop. It limits the editorial power of novice users, while not excluding them completely. The site maintains a base of veteran editors who help keep the site organized, while new users complete much of the original content creation.
"We initially wanted it to be a circle of friends explaining rap," Moghadam said. "Then we started letting outsiders in, and now they're the people working on the site. The original purpose was to find homies. It's a social site primarily," but it has the added dimension of providing quality hip-hop annotations.
RapGenius seems to have melded the web-research element of Wikipedia, the wise-ass cultural understanding of UrbanDictionary, the social networking of Facebook, and a new kind of crowd power.
The owners of Andreessen Horowitz and RapGenius believe that their crowdsourcing model is the future of massively compiled online information. The annotation style of utilizing the crowd is relatively new, and still extremely pliable.
But Moghadam says he won't be completely satisfied with the RapGenius model until he gets his "three white whales" on the site as verified users: Barack Obama (for LawGenius), Kanye West (for RapGenius), and Radiohead (for StereoIQ).