Dueling Rappers

updated 08/16/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/16/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Whoomp! Whoot!

ARSENIO HALL LOOKED BEWILDERED. "Where's my damn spot?" he deadpanned as he walked onstage and pretended to scan the floor for his mark. This was the cue. "WHOOME there it is!" shouted part of the audience. "WHOOT, there it is!" screamed the rest.

Say that again? Suddenly, this exuberant double-edged street phrase, which began as an Atlanta dance-floor chant and caught fire nationwide after Chicago Bulls fans shouted it during the NBA playoffs, has become a pop-culture phenomenon. Chanted on street corners, in clubs and at concerts, it has spawned not one but two hit singles. Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" and 95 South's "Whoot, There It Is" have sold nearly 2 million copies combined and propelled the two unknown rap groups toward the top of Billboard's pop charts.

And into the spotlight on Arsenio, where the wily Hall pitted the two groups in a battle of the bands on July 26, inviting viewers to vote by phone (at 95 cents per call) for the tune they preferred. In the end, 95 South's "Whoot" won, and voters helped Hall raise some $14,000 for Midwest flood relief.

Even the combatants shared the "no losers" theme. "We were thinking, 'More power to them,' " says Tag Team's Cecil "DC" Glenn, 27, an ex-Atlanta deejay who claims to have coined the phrase. "People have been saying 'There it is' forever," says Glenn, who added the "Whoomp" while spinning records at Atlanta's Magic City club. "That's where it started. Arsenio had the 'Wooof' chant that everyone in his audience used to do. We put that together with the 'There it is' chant we were hearing at the club."

Next, recalls Glenn's partner, Steve "Roll'n" Gibson, 27, "DC said, 'Oh, man, we need to do a song called 'Whoomp, there it is.' All I said was, 'How do you spell it?' "

Jacksonville rapper Jay McGowan, 26, of 95 South, spelled it w-h-o-o-t when he and his partners recorded their hit after hearing the party chant during a visit to Atlanta last fall. "It went over huge," says McGowan of 95 South's version, which he reckons, like the title phrase, however you spell it, got hot because "it's so positive. It's the ultimate."

"This is about more than making money," says Glenn. "Being black American males, we're always trying to make things better for our culture and for everybody. We're all in this together.

"So, whoomp," Glenn adds, satisfied that he's made his point, "there it is.

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