A little late on scene, I’ll admit. Still, I had to throw some hate out to let these Youtube superstars know the damage they’re doing. I was going to hold back the venom; then, I saw that my Alma Mater, Syracuse had put out a video, as they always do when a popular viral fad catches hold (real original).
I come from a small but passionate camp and we feel like these Harlem Shake memes need to be deaded—pronto.
A few other well-articulated voices out there on the world wide web have also expressed their annoyance and intolerance regarding the new viral sewage. Made popular by some obscure “Youtube personality”(?), Filthy Frank, the electronic, pulsating, rave song produced by Mad Decent’s Baauer has taken new life, as thousands Youtubers make their own versions of “The Harlem Shake”. The Problem is, there’s already a well established, much iller, crispier, cleaner and much more soulful version of the current “Harlem Shake”.
Grab your No.2 Ticonderoga’s, make sure your pocket protector is securely fastened because I’m taking you on a Magic School Bus ride.
When the real Harlem Shake hit the streets, we saw it in a G. Dep video. Jada and Eve also featured the Harlem dance in they’re own videos. But before those videos brought the hood to Hollywood, everybody in Harlem new about the shake, which was started by a local Harlem personality, Al B. This guy would perform during breaks at the Rucker park, displaying an arm shaking, Torso-strengthening, highly rhythmic jitter that straight up looks like some pop and lock craziness that only ’80s NYC could produce.
What Al B started, messing around on the court, evolved into a cultural staple. What was once representative of the burning life and energy of an urban community, bursting at the seems with talent, has been distorted and morphed overnight into a chaotic, structureless mass of body-convulsions.
I also know that unlike the meme version, the old Harlem Shake is hard as hell to do. Believe me, I’ve tried to do it and succeeded only at looking like a beetle flipped on its back. Luckily I was in my backyard in Cambridge and not Harlem. Needless to say, the meme version involves a few seconds of one donkey doing a humping, flailing motion and then shortly after the drop occurs (or whatever they call that loud shit) the whole frame is filled with more youtube actors, seeming to be infused with even more crazy energy.
You know how I feel about the fad; the original music was better and the original dance was better. Unlike musical genre, no one can argue that the new meme requires the same amount of skill as the old dance. In fact, the meme requires no skill. I’m glad you had fun while it lasted, which sadly has been far too long, but now its over, so turn it into a borrowing or a quick-strange homage. Bottom line: just stop.
Call it recontextualizon, cultural appropriation, I call it a straight up jack-move and just like Stella’s rigid ass, Harlem needs its groove back, or more appropriately, Shake.