You may not recognize this man, but if you’ve spent any amount of time online reading hip-hop album reviews or lyrics transcriptions over the past 25 years, you’re familiar with his work.
Steve “Flash” Juon is widely considered the person who brought hip-hop into the internet age. Before Soundcloud, before MySpace, before Google and even before Yahoo, Juon was the visionary behind creating a space online for hip-hop-centric discussion. While rap postings had previously been clandestine to funk and alternative music digital spaces, Juon mapped out an all hip-hop corner online and on February 3, 1995 Juon made the first posting in rec.music.hip-hop.
In a time prior to social media and messageboards, discussing topics on the world wide web was relegated to Usenet newsgroups, basically a proto-messageboard where users could post messages back and forth over a specific topic. Steve was a teenager in Iowa who, using his sister’s email address, would drive to nearby college campuses and begin sharing album reviews and rap lyric transcriptions online.
Juon’s personal collection of transcribed rap lyrics date back to his earlier newsletters in 1992, making his eventual launch of The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive that same decade the go-to for any and all regions of hip-hop wordplay. OHHLA became such a definitive source, it would be cited in Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and XXL. OHHLA is still active today, offering a more comprehensive and diverse database of rap lyrics than any other site.
Juon would bring a comparably prolific documentation of the entire hip-hop map with his other major site, RapReviews. Launched in 2000, RapReviews covered seemingly every hip-hop release from the mainstream heights of the music industry through the dusty corners of the underground. From megastars to open mic weekend warriors and all points in-between, detailed descriptions of the lyrics and “vibes” have immortalized entire hip-hop movements in a way no other corner of the internet has consistently managed.
This week Juon celebrates a birthday, so raise a toast to the man who ensured hip-hop in its purest form had and always will have a stable foundation online.