It began as simple fun: four college friends squeezed into barely livable quarters, wearing jumbo-sized Halloween costumes while humping the air feverishly to a looped beat. After fifteen seconds the beat drops and hell breaks loose, well not exactly they just start having seizure like symptoms that very few may interpret as dancing. Thus began the greatest meme of 2013: The Harlem Shake.
The genesis of the movement began last year when Brooklyn-based DJ Baauer got his track released under Diplo’s Mad Decent label. The initial critical reception was warm with the-ALMIGHTY-Pitchfork labeling the song as one of their “Best New Tracks”, but even with this slight acclaim there wasn’t much commercial success. That is until YouTube was hit with an onslaught of videos that ranged from corporate employees flopping on the ground like fish kidnapped out of water, oversized chickens running amuck across Times Square and pale teenage boys with pink briefs doing things that pale teenage boys with pink briefs do whilst accompanied by DJ Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” track. In a matter of two weeks, hundreds of videos have been uploaded to YouTube with folks putting their own spin to the wildly contagious meme.
With every fairy tale though there comes drama. And in this fairy tale drama’s maiden name is Banks. Miss Azealia Banks, a born and raised Harlemite, took it upon herself to create a remix of the song and posting it on Soundcloud. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, right? WRONG! After a few hours it was pulled from the music-streaming site and Azealia Banks tweeted to Baauer, “Why you cockblockin tho??? Lmaooooo”. Baauer then responded with “cause its not ur song”. Clearly both artists don’t care much for the proper use of the English vocabulary, but that’s beside the point. Thus began Harlem Shake-Gate. Both artists have waged war on each other, slinging insults back and forth via Twitter. With Baauer saying that he didn’t approve of Azealia’s remix because it was sub par and Azealia retaliating by calling him every single name under the sun.
As the dust has cleared, it seems that both artists have come on top. Azealia has put up a video of her remix to Baauer’s song and it has yet to be pulled from Vimeo and due to Billboard Magazine now including YouTube plays to calculate it’s Billboard Hot 100; Baauer now has the number one song in the country. A lot can happen in a couple of weeks.
Here’s Azealia Banks rendition of the “Harlem Shake”: