The “Harlem Shake” is not a story. It’s just not. But it still annoys the hell out of me all the same. And by “Harlem Shake”, I mean this trendy meme of 30 second videos where the first 15 seconds involves somebody standing there gyrating by themselves and the last 15 seconds are full of pelvic-thrusting, jumping on sh*t and basically going berserk to the backdrop of some song that I can only assume is called “The Harlem Shake.”
Again, I get it. It’s not a story.
But you know what? That ain’t the Harlem Shake, b. It’s just not. And for that reason I’m irritated.
Let’s nutshell this.
Reason Panama Is Irritated: This is yet another example of people, namely Black folk, creating something that gets jacked by other groups of people, bastardized, and then turned into some viral sensation, while the only people who remember the original are the ones bitching that the new one ain’t legit.
And you know what, this is fair. It’s a small scale thing and in the grand scheme it is nothing like jazz being bastardized and turned into elevator music (see G, Kenny; Coz, Dave, etc) or hip-hop being turned into the minstrel show it is today (yeah, we’ve had this convo…I do blame Black folks for this though…can’t lie), or hip-hop culture. I know, its the circle of life, Simba sh*t (btw, shouts to Mufasa who been dead like 18 years now…RIP my n*gga), once something gets more followers, its bound to get turned into a less pure version of itself. Then you add business and woosah.
But there’s something a bit more seedy at work here. Not just with the “Harlem Shake” thought I’ll get back to that. Let’s just call a spade a spade, other cultures, namely white America – as it were – comes in and makes things more palatable for itself. Jazz got watered down like a motherf*cker to the point where now its not even a truly viable art form. And I know, some of the greatest jazz artists are white. There was a respect for the art that existed that I feel flew out the window in later iterations. The same can be said for current hip-hop and the culture.
It’s like that great hip-hop dance video featuring the soccer mom trying to teach those kids how to be “hip-hop”. Add attitude and certain finger movements and you’ve got it. It’s like “the cool”.
Being cool is something you have or something you don’t. Everybody ain’t supposed to be cool. If everybody was, then nobody would be cool. The point is, you have to let what got you there be what keeps you there. And that’s the crux of why so many folks get irritated by bastardizations of the culture. Any culture. Which is where this “Harlem Shake” sh*t comes in. In the grand scheme of things, does this matter?
Unless you’re from Harlem, where this all started from. I remember driving thru NYC and Harlem specifically by the Taft Houses in like 2000. I laughed so hard when I saw a bunch of dudes on the corner of 112th and 5th doing the Harlem Shake. It was like a scene out of a McDonald’s commercial. It was a stereotype gone live. And I loved it. It was authentic. It was real.
It was Harlem.
This “Harlem Shake” isn’t Harlem. It’s a bunch of folks doing something with a name for something that already exists. Except this is famous in mainstream America. Main Street knows what the “Harlem Shake” is now. To them Harlem is just part of the name of the dance. But that’s not all there is to it.
If I’m from Harlem. I’m annoyed. I’m pissed. They turned what was mine into some Kenny G sh*t. Wack, weak, unfamiliar at all to the original, and baselessly whitewashed. And I don’t care if Black folks are in on it too now. My father owns Kenny G albums and I still get upset about it.
The “Harlem Shake” is not a story. Naw. It’s just more of the same…old song, with a different meaning since you’ve been gone.
First “The Harlem Shake”. Next, Atlanta.
Stay woke, dog.
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka THEY CAN’T BANKHEAD BOUNCE, THO aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3