Monday Video Roundup

By Arturo R. García

In lieu of a regular roundup, something a little different, with all sorts of video goodies.

Rise of The “Harlem Shake”: First off, compare this:

To this:

The one up top, as The Root pointed out last week, is the actual Harlem Shake.

As Tamara Palmer noted, long-time hip-hop fans will remember the dance becoming popular more than 30 years ago:

Al B, a man who used to dance during breaks at the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem beginning in 1981, has gotten much of the Internet credit for inventing the original Harlem Shake, a dance characterized by wild jerking of the arms and upper body. At one point, it was referred to as the “Albee.”

In a barely comprehensible 2003 interview with basketball website, Al B says the dance originated with mummies in Egypt, who shook because they didn’t have freedom to use their limbs. “It was a drunken dance, you know, from the mummies, in the tombs,” he asserted. “That’s what the mummies used to do. They was all wrapped up and taped up. So they couldn’t really move, all they could do was shake.”

There’s also a now-conventional anecdote that the dance is an adaptation of an Ethiopian groove called Eskita. While this lineage may be tough to prove, it, too, has taken on a viral life, inspiring videos of Ethiopians doing their traditional dance to the tune of Baauer’s song.

But it wasn’t until comic Filthy Frank’s take on an electronic track using the same name went viral that you had people like Kyle MacLachlan (above) or Star Wars fans following suit. Which, as Hayes Brown said over at Think Progress, is not without consequences:

There are certainly times when the leaking of black culture into the mainstream produces a synergy that in some ways exceeds the previous product. The introduction of jazz, rock and roll, and rap into the mainstream by white artists eventually helped promote black artists and propel them into the public consciousness in a way that may not have been possible otherwise, resulting in a better product that was able to reach more people.

That clearly is not what’s happening here, though. Jadakiss and Eve weren’t exactly flying below the public’s radar in 2001 when they helped popularize the dance. Instead, the dilution promoted by this meme does nothing to advance the music, the dance, or the culture of the original. I’m highly doubtful that there’s anyone out there who would be willing to look me in the eye and tell me that this is a better piece of performance than this.

Of course, if you really want to see something depressing, venture into the comments section for Brown’s piece. Let’s just say that, through no fault of the site’s staff, it’s always evident when you reach the limits of progressiveness among the TP readership. Yeesh.

Jay Smooth Returns: After taking a post-election sabbatical, Jay Smooth released a new installment of Ill Doctrine dealing with the creative process and the “two little haters” that can get in his way.

“Trying to make good media and have an honest conversation is like doing cardio while you eat a burger,” he explains. “They’re just not a natural fit with each other and, especially when you’re working in web video, it’s hard to do both without compromising either one or the other.”

Oprah and Beyonce: I haven’t gotten a chance to watch the new Beyonce documentary, Life Is But A Dream, but the Twitter chatter surrounding her interview with Oprah Winfrey was interesting to watch. (To say nothing of the pushback Jezebel got when it suggested Beyonce was selling herself short when she gushed about her relationship with husband Jay-Z.)

Beyonce | Next Chapter (FULL EPISODE) by Ashley_Miller_3

From people knocking Winfrey for not bringing more out of Beyonce in the interview to others suggesting Beyonce was intentionally omitting race, the reaction so far seems to be mixed. Your take, Racializens?

Melissa Harris-Perry on Obama’s Chicago speech: Speaking of Twitter, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry invited some criticism of her own when she remarked that President Barack Obama’s mentioning of parenthood during his recent gun violence speech in Chicago put us “smack in the middle of the president’s daddy issues.”

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Bonus: Kai Davis and Safiya Washington take on Hipster Racism

Friend of the blog Rania Khalek shared this on Sunday and it’s well worth checking out: Davis (left) and Washington’s (right) performance from last year’s semifinals at the Brave New Voices festival last year, in which the duo, part of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, break it all the way down on hipster racism. Just sit back and enjoy.


    I saw that Twin Peaks Harlem Sake video and was wondering where the Harlem Shake was, but I thought maybe there was something new I hadn’t seen yet. Good to know there wasn’t.

  • Azizi Powell

    Here’s a link to a post that I edited about the Harlem Shake: Harlem Shake (Origins, Old School Examples, & Internet Meme)

    It’s often written online that the modern day (1980s, 2001) Harlem Shake was inspired by an Ethiopian traditional dance called the Eskista. But while those two dances resemble each other, I think it’s more likely that some people made up that story because they recognized the similarities between the shoulder movements of the Eskista and the shoulder movements of the Harlem Shake (which was first known as “the albee”). Actually, Al B, the alleged originator of the Harlem Shake , circulated two stories about how he made up that dance: 1. This was how alcholics moved. & 2. This was how Egyptian mummies moved when they danced.

    That said, I agree that besides the name of the “dances”, the “new Harlem Shake” has nothing really to do with the old Harlem Shake, or the 2006 Chicken Noodle Soup dance that was based on that early African American originated dance.