There was a point in time, not so long ago, when Hip-Hop first began to embrace non-music related technology.
This was an era when I was a mere guppie in the music industry game. At this fruit-bearing time, there was one device that effectively connected a wide-array of people and put them under an umbrella of cool no matter what their bank statement said. We were members of a powerful clique, bound by our love of the almighty Motorola 2way Pager.
The Timeport, specifically, came to prominence and dominance in the late 90s and early 2000s and swept the music industry like no other device since the SkyPager, which got a nod from A Tribe Called Quest. Competion was none and everybody had the Timeport: Russell, Diddy, Xibit, Jam Master Jay, Jay-Z, all the DJs and every B, C, and D-level person in the game. This thing was clearly next level.
First of all, it had a distinct clam shape and flipped up it was opening its mouth. Upon opening, you would see the screen on the top and the keyboard, which resembled a tiny computer screen on the bottom. When I first applied my thumbs to the cushy keypad, I knew it was on!
We were bestowed with the ability to send each other messages in ways never imagined. Might sound antiquated and dated now, but at that time it was like Star Trek. Money was flowing in the music industry and the Timeport levelled the playing field. My crew and I would go to these haughty music industry parties and flip up the top of the pager, watching the green screen glow.
Having a Motorola pager meant you were somebody (even if you were nobody) and the amount of times you checked your messages was a good indication of your importance. If you were nobody like me, you were actually allowed to interact with big dogs. They saw the pager and clearly werent sure if you were somebody they should know. So, they would typically give you some time, but it was up to you to make it work.
The connection between pager owners was made by beaming. BEAMING. This is a feature that modern wireless devices dont utilize very much. On the back of the Motorola pager, there was a small, rectangular piece of red plastic. I and everybody else would align their red rectangles and beam their personal information to each other with the push of a button. The first Sidekick cruelly had that feature cosmetically, but it never, ever worked. (You can now email contact info through a v-card with most wireless devices.)
Hip-Hop adopted the Timeport instantly. In Give It To Me, Jay-Z infamously stated, Motorola 2way pager and likely got paid for the plug. The Three 6 Mafia, well before their Oscar success, crafted a minor hit with 2Way Freak. When Brandy sought to make an edgier come back, she hurled a pager across the video screen in anger.
Also, the Motorola was the first manifestation of the eventual billion dollar ringtone game. It was so Hip-Hop then. A number of Black businesses sprouted out of this need for downloadable ringtones. Sites like My2way.com, 2wayx.com and other sites were extremely revolutionary in giving people these crude , ringtones that never quite sounded like the song. But they came close! When Fabolous wanted younguns to holla back he expected to hear the 2way alert. Others were able to create their own using the internal system of the pager and sharing them.
Other businesses evolved out of the clamshell-looking pager. Females would bling them out with faux diamonds and colored gems. Men would house their pagers inside of these extravagant cases that were leather or Gucci or fur. It got wild and excessive, but it was Hip-Hop! I had two 2-way pagers, a cell phone and a Blackberry device that sent instant messages though America Online. Bruce Wayne had nothing on me. I was like an urban Batman with a utility belt of communication devices.
AllHipHop also sparked off something that is now commonplace in Hip-Hop. We began sending news and information to people that had these Motorola pagers. The AllHipHop alerts began as a small list of 2way pager owners, but the service was so invaluable, the number of people quickly grew into the thousands and thousands and keeps spreading like a very welcomed plague. The Motorola pager combined with our own ingenuity, and we impacted the streets in a way never seen before. People in the hood were now in touch without having to buy a computer.
Like all good things it came to an abrupt end. Motorola suddenly discontinued the pager beloved by the Hip-Hop industry. Sales of the Timeport and some of the other products like the TalkAbout were low. Combine that with a scandal at MCI and Motorola just stopped making them.
The truth is, we probably wont soon see such an impact in the wireless world for a long time – if ever. The iPhone is probably the closest item in recent history. However in the late 90s and early 2000s there was an elite brotherhood and sisterhood that we were apart of. It wasnt marketed to the masses the way most devices are so we were elitists in our own lil ambitious way. The clubhouse is closed, but well always remember the Timeport.
Three Six Mafia “2 Way Freak”
Jay-Z – Just Wanna Love You (Give It to Me)
Fabolous – “Holla Back Young’un