EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you to everyone who supported RapReviews on Patreon this month. As a token of my gratitude I decided to write this “20 Years Ago” retrospective to take stock of where we’ve come from to get to where we are today. Enjoy!
According to the WHOIS lookup for RapReviews.com, I first registered this domain name on December 26, 1999. 20 years. It hardly seems like it has been that long. The history of RR dates back even further than that though, and for those of you who weren’t around in the early days of hip-hop journalism online, let me give you a brief summary of how it all started.
In the early 1990’s I had access to something most people didn’t at the time — the internet. My sister is four years older than me, she was already in college, and she knew the three things I was obsessed with — rap music, computers, and video games. She probably thought it was mostly harmless to let me use her login and password from college to indulge all three, until my posts on the alt.rap newsgroup wound up flooding her inbox with replies. In particular my suggestion that there should be a Committee Of Rap Excellence (C.O.R.E.) led to people saying it was a great idea and wanting to join. Join? To do what?
Sis went to the university and told them to give me my OWN account even though I wasn’t a student. Really I think she just wanted out of the loop with all the e-mails suddenly flooding her inbox, but having my own account and a group of like-minded individuals with their own accounts led us to create something around that idea — the HardC.O.R.E. newsletter. It was from that single branch planted in the ground that we now stand under the tree of RapReviews 25 years later.
There were several prototypes along the way. When HardC.O.R.E. folded I started a web based e-zine called HEADz Up! That too ultimately folded and I joined another one called 181.4 Degrees. Neither of these things exist any more yet those reviews got folded into what eventually became RR. In 1999 many people irrationally believed the Y2K bug was proof that the end of the world was upon us. I’m a rational person and I didn’t believe the world would end, so I started this site. “I’m going to compile everything in one place. Every review I’ve written to date and every new review I’ll ever write. It’s going to be the OHHLA of rap reviews.”
Here were are 20 years later. I have a closet full of rap albums, a wall full of vinyl records, and an archive of 8,000 plus reviews. That’s pretty amazing, but those staff writers I mentioned in the opening paragraph are even more amazing. It’s not like I wrote 8,000 plus reviews all by myself. Either way I’m already an old shit by hip-hop standards. I still remember buying used Kurtis Blow and Sugarhill Gang records and having to borrow a record player just to dub them off to a tape so I could listen to them on a knockoff Walkman. I remember when every parent was scared of Public Enemy and N.W.A. I feel like a living fossil for hip-hop’s past, but I put love into what I do, and so do all of our amazing contributors. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the journey thus far and like me look forward to what comes next.