Whoomp! (There It Was)
Twenty years ago, two guys from North Denver released one of the most popular rap singles of all time. An inside look at the weird, wild ride of DC the Brain Supreme and Steve Rolln, hip-hop’s ultimate one-hit wonders.
Now our trip is almost over. First, though, DC says we’ve got to stop by his parents’ place. Outside, a pine tree towers over the neighborhood, over the manicured grass and the immaculately clean brick on the house. DC unlocks the front door. His parents are waiting on the other side.
Cecil Glenn is 75 and has short, gray hair, smooth hands, and a belly that becomes larger and rounder when he sits in his stuffed chair in front of the white-mantled fireplace in the family room. Today, he has thick socks on his feet and his eyes seem to be in a perpetual squint. His wife, Lucille, sits quietly at a table next to the kitchen; DC is at one end of the room, next to a stand-up piano and a bunch of family photos stacked on some shelves. Steve and I are on a floral-print couch near the picture window overlooking the massive tree.
Among Cecil Glenn’s favorite stories is the one he tells about the time he learned the title of his son’s song. It was at Cure d’Ars Catholic Church, in the summer of ’93. As the story goes, one of his friends stopped him after church. The man said he’d just heard DC and Steve’s song on the radio, and the guy was over the moon. “That’s great,” Cecil told the man. “What’s the name of it?”
For the purposes of this story, it’s important to understand two things: First, Cecil Glenn knows his music. He plays bass, baritone, and trumpet, and he’s been married about 50 years to a woman who, every other Sunday for four decades, has sang in the church choir. Cecil’s favorite singer is Frank Sinatra, and he can name almost every song Ol’ Blue Eyes ever made.
The second thing worth knowing is the fact that Cecil never heard his son’s song before it showed up on the radio. In fact, he wrote a $2,000 check to DC and Steve so they could record “Whoomp!” and didn’t even ask what the song was about.
Anyway, Cecil asked the man at church the name of his son’s song. “You know, like ‘Strangers in the Night,’ ” Cecil says, naming one of his favorite Sinatra tunes. “The guy was like, it’s called ‘Whoomp! (There It Is).’ ” Cecil has a shit-eating grin on his face now, imitating the man who’s delivered the punch line. Cecil puts a hand on his face to feign disbelief and leans back in his chair. Everyone laughs.
Cecil and Lucille rarely talk about the song, mostly because Cecil still hasn’t come to terms with why his son decided to become a rapper. When I ask him about this, his face flattens and his voice turns serious. “How would you feel if your son made that?” I can’t tell if he’s deadpanning or if he’s sincere. In any case, it’s clear he likes to poke fun at the song: He often refers to it as “Whoomps,” almost as if he’s saying “whoops”—as in, “Whoops, my son and his high school buddy made this ridiculous song.”
That’s not to say the Glenns aren’t delighted with DC and Steve’s musical legacy. Lucille saved almost every poster featuring the two, kept almost every magazine in which their names appeared, recorded almost every television show on VHS tapes now stored somewhere in the basement. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for these boys,” Cecil says. “Really, truly, I’m very proud of them and what they’ve accomplished.”
We hang around DC’s parents’ place for an hour, listening to Cecil go on about the neighborhood, how things used to be, how they are now. DC says we’d better get going. He has a plane back to Atlanta he has to catch tonight; Steve has some friends to see.
Cecil wants to tell one more story. Back in Tag Team’s glory days, he says, his son had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Dre, of N.W.A fame, who’d produced a debut solo album in 1992 that featured a young MC named Snoop Doggy Dogg. A few weeks later, DC was on the phone with his dad, telling him about the encounter, talking about Dre’s songs and how foul-mouthed some of the lyrics were. Cecil’s voice softens. “He said, ‘Dad, I don’t think I have that in me,’ ” Cecil remembers.
There’s a moment of silence. Then some laughter. It’s DC, next to the piano. “See!” he says, his voice booming. “My dad doesn’t even know what the song is about!”