Grunge. Wu-Tang Clan. Radiohead. “Wonderwall.” The music of the ’90s was as exciting as it was diverse. But what does it say about the era—and why does it still matter? 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s is back for 30 more episodes to try to answer those questions. Join Ringer music writer and ’90s survivor Rob Harvilla as he treks through the soundtrack of his youth, one song (and embarrassing anecdote) at a time. Follow and listen for free exclusively on Spotify. In Episode 62 of 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s—yep, you read that right—we’re breaking down “Whoomp! (There It Is),” Miami bass, and the question of who owns the song’s titular phrase.
“Whoomp! (There It Is)” came out in April or May of 1993—the month matters, in this story, generally, as we will discover—and by that July it had peaked at no. 2, on the Billboard Hot 100, no. 2 being my favorite chart position, as it compels me to inform you that “Whoomp! (There It Is)” was beaten out for the top spot by, you guessed it, UB40’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Tough break. I got the title wrong: UB40’s “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You.” Sorry. This is a killer top five on the Hot 100, actually. No. 1, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You.” No. 2 “Whoomp! (There It Is).” No. 3 “Weak” by SWV, Sisters With Voices, R&B classic, fantastic song. No. 4 “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” by the Proclaimers. “I’m Gonna Be” parenthesis “500 Miles” close parenthesis. My first garage band right outta high school—we ended our first show ever by doing a cover of the Down by Law punk-rock cover of “500 Miles,” we were playing a Battle of the Bands in Brunswick, Ohio, and did not win. And finally at no. 5, Onyx, “Slam.” Oh, and “Knockin’ Da Boots” by H-Town at no. 9. Luke Records recording artists H-Town, who hailed from Houston, naturally, but they were signed to a label deal and thusly catapulted to fame by none other than your friend Luke Campbell out in Miami.
Right, Miami. Given how long it took us to get to the actual song this week, I will confine my remarks on Miami bass to three songs. That OK? Real quick. Bass-heavy, electro-leaning, fundamentally uncouth rap music from Miami and surrounding environs, with a foundation often provided by the Roland 808 drum machine. A comprehensive survey of Miami Bass in just three songs. OK. This’ll be fine. Song no. 1.
You heard her. This is a young lady by the name of Anquette, she is backed here by the “Throw the P” girls. 2 Live Crew had a big song called “Throw the D,” and these ladies recorded an answer record called “Throw the P.” Do you need me to explain—no you don’t. Anquette is Luke Campbell’s cousin. Her debut album, released by Luke Records in 1988, is called Respect. This song is called “Janet Reno.” We try to avoid hyperbole around here, but this is the funkiest song about a Florida state attorney ever recorded.
Janet Reno did, indeed, serve as a state attorney in Florida from 1978 to 1993, and she did, indeed, garner praise for her focus on child support, her aggressive pursuit of deadbeat dads. And then, in 1993, Janet Reno retired, and lived out the rest of her days in peaceful seclusion, with no public controversies whatsoever. I’m almost positive about that.
Song no. 2: “Bad Influence,” by the Miami duo Poison Clan, from their 1990 debut album 2 Low Life Muthas, released by Luke Records and produced by the 2 Live Crew’s own Mr. Mixx. The album cover actually bills Poison Clan—then consisting of the rappers Debonaire and JT Money—they’re billed as “The Baby 2 Live Crew.” This song was not a single—“Dance All Nite” and, later, “Shake Whatcha Mama Gave Ya” are better-known Poison Clan songs—but I love “Bad Influence” unreservedly. Per that intro, the concept of this song is that the Poison Clan have disrupted some sort of school anti-drug lecture, and they proceed to spend four minutes and change encouraging kids to do drugs.
“What the hell is a natural high” makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it. I am somehow never quite prepared for when the words “What the hell is a natural high” come out of JT Money’s mouth. He sounds so indignant. Amazing. The song continues.
I love this song profoundly. OK. Song no. 3 is called “Whoot, There It Is.”
“Whoot, There It Is.” Whoot with a T. W-H-Double-O-T Whoot. “Whoot” comma “There It is.” No parentheses. By the Jacksonville group 95 South. 95 South, like the interstate. This song was first. Let’s make that clear. The release of this song precedes the release of Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by a few months, if only by a few months. The timelines vary, depending on what you read, but the L.A. Times wrote about “Whoomp” vs. “Whoot” in August 1993, while both songs were still hot, and the L.A. Times interviewed both groups, so let’s adopt their timeline. “Whoot, There It is,” according to 95 South, is recorded in November 1992, and is released in February 1993. “Whoomp! (There It Is),” according to Tag Team, is recorded in October 1992 (that’s earlier), and is released in May 1993 (that’s later).
As you might imagine, the existence of two hit songs with very similar titles and hooks is quite irksome to 95 South. Johnny McGowan, a.k.a. Jay Ski, identified by the L.A. Times as the leader of 95 South, explains the genesis of “Whoot, There It Is” this way: “I got the idea for the single from the clubs in Atlanta. I heard people saying, ‘Whoot, there it is,’ and I thought it was a good idea for a single. We recorded it last November.” He also casts some doubt on Tag Team’s timeline, saying, “In February, I took the single to Cecil Glenn (of Tag Team), who was the DJ at a club in Atlanta. Maybe he heard our record and said: ‘I can do one like that too.’” Finally, Jay Ski says, “We know of plenty cases where people have gone in to buy our record and wound up buying their record instead.”
“Whoot, There It Is” peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The 95 South song is, by a substantial margin, the less commercially successful of the two songs. It is the rawer, rougher, less wedding-friendly of the two songs. On streaming services, the most popular version of the song is now the “Whoot, There It Is (Ultimix),” which begins like this.
That is not Jim Carrey, just FYI, but the line still works great as a hook anyway.
This is a strip-club song. And you can take my word for it. How do you know I’ve never been to Magic City, anyway? Maybe I have. Maybe I go there all the time. Maybe I’m recording this from a strip club right now. You ever think of that?
I am not. That’s not true. None of that is remotely plausible. You got me. But nonetheless this is a strip-club song that has escaped, that has transcended the strip club, that now aspires to turn the whole wide world into a strip club. A worthy aspiration, quite frankly.
On streaming services now there are two versions of “Whoot, There It Is” on the debut album from 95 South, released in 1993 and called Quad City Knock. This music we’re discussing today, generally, you wouldn’t call this an album-oriented genre, per se. I don’t mean that ugly, but full-length records in this realm, they got one or two ginormous hits, and then they got a whole buncha vibes.
But there’s a guy on YouTube named Heit the Great, who did a rad video a couple years back on Whoomp! vs. Whoot!, and he makes a few important points. First of all, neither of these songs is the first song to make use of this particular phrase. Here now, courtesy of the Miami label Joey Boy Records, here we have the rapper Sexy C, featuring both Disco Rick and the Puppies, on a 1991 song called “Get It Girl.”
And there very well might be others. So this phrase, —————— There It Is, is on the record, it’s in the air, it’s in the air in the clubs that I’m not in. This is an especially convoluted You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song situation, and now with 95 South and Tag Team we got two hot songs hitting almost simultaneously. Almost.
To hear the full episode click here, and be sure to follow on Spotify and check back every Wednesday for new episodes on the most important songs of the decade. This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and length.