The average person knew nothing about the Internet when The Groove Spot test launched in late 1997. Heck, Web Dream and I didn’t know much about it either. We were a couple of young guys eager to share our views on hip-hop music and the culture it’s a soundtrack for. Our chances of landing jobs with The Source or any other prominent print publication were non-existent. Web Dream created our opportunity using a source of “new media” the press didn’t understand or respect. Despite frosted shoulders we were able to recreate the feel of a print magazine yet be more personable, less newsstand-arrogant. Readers respected us.
Officially launched in 1998, our writing/production staff consisted of me, Dream, Mr. Rockwell, Jamal STEELE, The Unabomber, Joe K. The Pirate (True to his name, he was looting programs and file sharing way before Napster), and DJ Notyme (he and Dream had a streaming mixshow…in ’98). With a for-the-love-of-it budget, and so ahead of our time, our rebellious and revolutionary crew still had no clue how influential and groundbreaking we were. Chilla Pertilla, Markus Gramm, Killa Cam and Mike Hop joined us in 1999 just as our hit count grew from a few thousand to “Holy, $#!+; is this really happening?”.
After being nominated for Best Online Magazine by SOHH, also being their longest reigning hot site, the record labels started reaching out to us. Before long CD and concerts were free, we were hanging out with Slum Village and The Roots, sharing laughs with Bahamadia, doing giveaways for Major Figgaz and Sauce Money, being asked advice by staff members of Farmclub.com among others, we even had Destiny’s Child sing a “Happy Anniversary” jingle for us! We were having unbelievable, this-is-all-a-dream fun! Print pubs wanted in on it. The difference between us and them, besides the creativity, honesty, and quality of writing, was they had marketing and advertising budgets along with paid staff who updated their sites several times daily. All of us except Pertilla had day jobs. The Groove Spot said goodbye in January 2003.
Our departure wasn’t entirely for financial and promotional reasons. As hip-hop became more commercialized it began to immature. We were all growing up. While beats and rhymes still held a very special place in our hearts, life was happening behind the music. We became parents, husbands, promoted to positions of greater responsibility. Hip-hop had acquired a great deal of material possessions. We had mortgages and car payments, school lunches to pack and mandatory staff meetings to attend. After 9/11, we noticed our articles were more about social issues, less about music. The wrong bass was knocking our systems, so we turned off our speakers and put our headphones on.
That’s when we started getting tapped on the shoulder.
Eventually our headphones came off. With matured ears we heard hip-hop everywhere, but so much of its tradition was buried beneath rubble. Muffled. Web Dream and I knew it was time for The Groove Spot to come back. The people who read us grew up too, and they’re just as affected by the world as we are.
More importantly, no matter when and where they work, their relationship status, or what bills they have due, there remains a special place in their heart for beats, rhymes and life. Most of us know way more about the Internet now too. | TheGrooveSpot
Written and produced by Jiddoe S’Phatt
Edited by Mr. Joe Walker and Mr. Rockwell
Mixed and mastered by Web Dream
In loving memory of Joseph Lee Kelley aka Joe K. The Pirate. Rest In Peace.Close
YouTube is not Rap City. We can imagine it is.
It’s not uncommon for me to log on to the video website to watch something by A Tribe Called Quest. I have a few go-to clips, one of which is “Award Tour”; it’s their first single from their 3rd album, 1993’s ‘Midnight Marauders’. I don’t actually need to hear or see it to recite its verses, but the sing-a-long prospect hasn’t lost its appeal in 23 years.
My first “Tour” happened while watching Rap City’s weekend Top 10 video countdown. Every Saturday before #1 was announced they’d offer the “Hip-Hop Pick” – a new video sure to be a hit. I’d always have a VHS tape cued up in my VCR (video cassette recorder), with my finger at the ready on the record button.
I was so excited when it was Tribe. At that time I’d never been so anxious for an album release, and I so desperately wanted a sample. “Award Tour” was just what I needed and more. After recording the video I watched it repeatedly. With each listen I heard its point about recognition clearer than the last.
The song spoke to me in way that was radically personal. With hundreds of listens under my belt I found Phife’s verse resonated with me the most, especially when he says “I never let a statute tell me how nice I am”.
It was my senior year of high school. My future was looming, though I knew as little about it as I did myself. I was nothing more than a congestion of ideas, each one coughed and sneezed into a notebook that rarely left my hand. Its pages were filled with humorous, fantastic tales inspired by my desire to be more than the bald kid who carried a Mead Poly everywhere, wore sweater vests, a purple backpack nicknamed “Grimace”, and designer hiking boots unfamiliar to my inner city classmates.
I cracked jokes in crowds even though I embarrassed easily. I accepted roles in plays and competed in talent shows even though I had terrible stage fright. All I wanted was to be recognized, to be acknowledged for having some semblance of talent.
As a professional writer of nearly 20 years I’ve been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. My career started with The Groove Spot Online Hip-Hop Magazine in 1998. Teamed with my closest friends we helped pioneer a movement, introducing internet readers to a number of firsts – downloadable LPs, live streaming mix shows, unfiltered opinion pieces that became the common criteria for blogs.
Years later I moved on to an accolade I never imagined, which was becoming a senior writer for the official website of Soul Train. While there I was responsible for more than 500 articles, reviews and celebrity interviews.
Yet, I have no physical awards from my time with Soul Train. None of us have trophies to legitimize what we accomplished with The Groove Spot. And sometimes that worries me. Occasionally I’ll ponder with heavy concern if we’ll ever get recognized, if we’ll ever be acknowledged. I keep record of these thoughts in a Mead Composition that rarely leaves my side.
I also head to YouTube to watch “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest. I’m reminded its verses are radically personal, especially Phife’s. It speaks to that preppy inner city high schooler whose notebook grew into magazines, newspapers, and web pages. That hasn’t lost its appeal.
Our lives and careers have been a tour of blessings, and a statue can never tell us how nice we are. We can imagine it has. | Thank you A Tribe Called Quest, RIP Phife Dawg.
I've always loved music. My mother played the organ at church and my brother was a drummer. Learning an instrument just did not work for me but I loved lyrics. I'm still a lyrics-first listener. Watching Yo! MTV Raps it was always the words that I paid attention to. My brother CJ was listening to NWA and he wouldn't let me listen to it. He was right, I hadn't hit puberty yet, and there wasn't a song on their album I should have been listening to. It did not stop me from trying to ingest the music. When he was gone, I went to make a copy of the cassette tape. My mom found out what I was up to. Let’s just say she wasn’t happy about the content.
Rap was dope, or at least that’s what they said on Yo! MTV Raps. Hip-hop was growing and developing but it still had a bad rep. It came from the street, those pushed to the periphery of society. The marginalized had a voice and often the content was often an unattractive reflection of the poverty. Although I was prepubescent I still wanted good music and lyrics I could play without Moms bugging out.
CJ was introduced to a group called A Tribe Called Quest. We saw their videos before but when we started listening to ‘The Low End Theory’… It literally changed my life. The first song I ever learned was “Butter”. It was something about Phife’s lyrics, flow and cadence over Gary Bartz's horns, Weather Report’s bass line and Chuck Jackson drums that intrigued me when I first heard it. I learned every word and thought I understood what Phife was talking about.
CJ started producing music, he was influenced by Tribe’s ‘Midnight Marauders’. I wanted to start rapping, mainly because of Nasty Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”, but I had to rhyme “Butter”. CJ sampled it for me to rap over. It was a simple loop but it meant that I rhymed to a Tribe record. I signed up to do a talent show with a friend from New Orleans. We were little kids who went by Dem 2, and we used the track my brother made. I remember a lot of lyrics, but I have forgotten those words. My homeboy started us offbeat. I’ll forgive him some time before I die.
Some years ago I was privileged enough to perform some covers of jazz influenced hip-hop songs. The focus of that night was “The Low End Theory’. One of the songs I covered was “Butter”. Phife Dawg was in attendance! That night I was able to personally tell him how much Tribe meant to me personally.
I’m able to relate a lot of moments in my adolescence to A Tribe Called Quest. The first concert I went to was De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. It was at a night club and I should not have been able to get it. I was at least five years too young. Not only did the bouncer not turn me away but they also gave me a ticket to get in. It is also the night that CJ and his friend locked me out of the car until I got a girl’s number at the club.
There’s plenty of other stories I could tell. Tribe has had a positive effect on my life. It’s just appropriate to express that gratitude. Thank you for the music, the lessons, the memories, the emotions, the influence, the artists, J Dilla, D’ Angelo, Lucy Pearl and Slum Village.
First, I’d like to say Happy Birthday Phife Dawg. You will always be celebrated.
A Tribe Called Quest weren’t killers or drug dealers, they were actually guys that I could relate to better than the other groups I listened to. They were my introduction into the Native Tongues group, seeing similar minds collaborating and how respected they were. I can remember having a conversation with a friend of mine who told me they weren’t real enough because they hadn’t talked drug deals or prison time. Basically, they weren’t hard enough to listen to. I took it as he was calling them soft, as if the only way to be “real” was to talk about a harsh life. What I came to find out was that from all realms of hip-hop not just rap respected and listened to them. Later on I saw this cat nodding to “Check the Rhyme”.
I remember one of their album covers that had people in hip-hop across it from Busta Rhymes to Redman - very young, fresh faces. It showed me what kind of connections, following and respect they had among their peers. One didn’t need to be a thug to get respect, I didn’t have to pretend to be something I’m not just to be enjoyed and respected. I matured right along with them.
For some reason my dude Curt and I thought to start rapping these songs out just like Chris Rock did in his movie CB4. Now we didn’t have any gear to go with it but we had the flow. Curt was always Q-Tip and I was the 5 footer Phife Dawg. It was always “Check the Rhyme” and “Electric Relaxation”. Man those were some fun times.
Those times will never be the same again, and they’re not meant to be. Those were just for me and my friends. Sometimes I feel my age when I get to talking, but mostly listening to the younger generation of hip-hop listeners and I think they don’t know what they are doing. And then I smile and think neither did we.
“Now you caught me heart for the evening / Kissed my cheek, moved in, you confuse things / Should I just sit out or come harder? / Help me find my way”
I’m a champion of the underdog. I always have been because, in my life, I felt myself to be one. I was too short to play basketball or too nerdy to be a great singer, or not cool enough to be a prolific emcee. I proved my doubters wrong 2 out of those 3 instances. I’ll just watch basketball on the couch.
Studying the culture, I’ve always been able to acknowledge the underdog emcee in every group, crew or clique, and show why they were more of a standout than the one that was considered the standout in the team.
Until “ATLiens” Andre was the one that would sneak up on you in OutKast because Big Boi wore the fresh Kangol’s and was all about pimpin’ and mackin’ - to the untrained ear, anyway. When Inspectah Deck had his standout moment on the classic Wu anthem “Triumph”, it only reiterated what I had been saying since his sleeper verse on “C.R.E.A.M.”; Deck was the one not to snooze on within that family. While DJ Run was the clearly the star of the group, DMC made his presence known on every track and in fashion as well because everyone wanted Gazelle glasses because of that man.
But for me, the ultimate underdog emcee, the one that consistently proved his worth to his group every time he grabbed a mic and uttered a syllable, was Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.
I admired that he never allowed size, his style or his ailment – diabetes - to deter him from being the center of attention when he got his turn on any joint he graced his presence with. For me, the moment that Phife caught my attention was in ’92. I was watching Rap City and Tribe’s “Jazz (We Got)/Buggin’ Out” video came on.
When Phife came through with the “Competition, they never come side way / but competition they must come straight way” line, I was drawn in. But when the beat changed and these iconic first 4 bars came from his mouth - “Yo, Microphone check 1, 2 / what is this / the 5 ft. assassin with the ruff neck business; I float like gravity / never had a cavity / got more rhymes than The Winans got family” - I wanted to know who the lil’ dude in the group was.
As a PK, “preacher’s kid” for the church illiterate, I knew who The Winans were. Their family was huge and had mad talent in it. For an emcee that wouldn’t be deemed “Christian” to mention such a dynamic family in his line, I was hooked.
Phife personified the underdog that I always felt I was. Many other emcees in the culture have stated that he was a huge influence on their style because of his underdog status, such as J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar (who shares a song with his influence on ‘We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service’), Capital STEEZ, and others.
For us, Phife let us know that we would never be counted out of this culture. His transparency on “Oh My God” with asking us when’s the last time we heard a “funky diabetic” caused some within the culture to check their juvenile diabetes status. We started to truly focus on our diets and taking care of our temples.
Phife and I also shared a passion for wanting to be sports analysts. He was one of the only emcees who I took seriously on his take on sports and who he thought would win championships, and who was the best player of a particular era. I wish at times we would’ve met and just sat to discuss sports because that would’ve been a conversation to remember.
Phife Dawg was the personification of what the 90’s was as far as hip-hop culture goes. The culture was trying to get respected at that time as one that could provide for our families utilizing the art that we created in the streets of The Bronx. As time went on we were able to be global phenoms. Phife represented the fight that the culture was in with our “big brothers” - jazz, funk and soul, as he was having internal battles with Q-Tip while we watched their growth as artists and men. For them to be able to drop this new LP as men that now can not only just co-exist but enjoy their very presence, is the greatest analogy of how hip-hop can now enjoy being in the room with those other expressions of art and thrive in its success.
I just wish that Phife would’ve been in the room to enjoy their #1 album and success of this incredible LP. The underdog finally gets his just due and he, as well as the culture, reigns supreme.
I've said this a million times and I'll say it a million more. In 1993 A Tribe Called Quest released "Midnight Marauders" and it literally changed my life. Why? Because I listened to that album over and over and it gave me a passion to do something I had never done before. Make music. I could not believe the music I was hearing and all I wanted to know is... how did they do that... and how could I do it. #ThankYouATCQ... I would not be the Musician, Producer or Web Developer I am if not for you.
For your listening pleasure: Marti Gras At Midnight (feat. Rah Digga) | That Sh*t (feat. Jay Dee)