The Strange History of the Harlem Shake

By Jonah Wolf

If you've been to our site recently, or dialed into the World Wide Web in the past few days, you've probably seen reference to something called the Harlem Shake. Maybe you even clicked on a video -- if not the one of the adorable family, maybe the one of the Norwegian soldiers, or the one with the band Matt and Kim. Below is the reputed originator of the meme, which introduced masks into the equation.

The original video lacked the essential narrative arc of its successors: first a masked individual dances solo; at the words "and do the Harlem Shake," the camera cuts to a roomful of people dancing like idiots.

Before there were any of these videos, there was the song by 23-year-old trap producer Baauer, three minutes of synth horns, growls and bass.

</p><p>In 2003, Plastic Little released "Miller Time," on which Jayson Musson (a.k.a. art world trickster <a href="">Hennessy Youngman</a>) <span style="font-size: 1em;">rapped "punch you in the face, then do the Harlem Shake," the line that Baauer later <a href="">copped to sampling</a></span><span style="font-size: 1em;">. By the next year, </span><span style="font-size: 1em;">Cam'Ron was </span><a href="" style="font-size: 1em;">already sick</a><span style="font-size: 1em;"> of the dance, rapping on "Down and Out":</span></p><blockquote style="margin: 0 0 0 40px; border: none; padding: 0px;"><p><i>Harlem shake? Naw, I'm in Harlem shaking awake</i></p><p><i>Shaking to bake, shaking the Jakes</i></p><p><i>Kill you, shoot the funeral up and Harlem Shake at your wake</i></p></blockquote><p>According to <a href="">this 2003 article</a>, the Harlem Shake was invented in 1981 by a man named Al B., alias Sisqo, who described it as "a drunken dance, you know, from the mummies, in the tombs." (The mummies' limited mobility restricted their dancing.) It was popularized by the announcers of the Entertainer's Basketball Classic in Harlem's Rucker Park.</p><p>This is the history Twitter snipers <a href="">complain</a> that white people don't know. At least <a href="">six white guys</a> were hip enough in 2006 to name <a href="">their band</a> after the dance move. In any case, Al B. shouldn't mind: "I'm not jealous of the next guy that's doing it better than me," he told <a href="">Inside Hoops</a>. "Listen, as long as I'm having fun."</p>

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