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”:
I’ve been in New York for seven months now and it’s true what they say about staying in your Burrough and never venturing off. When I first landed, I was like a fat kid at a bakery; I wanted to touch everything that New York had to offer. Overtime though, I became set in my ways and the thought that these sites and wonders would always be there began to sit in the back of my mind. Currently, there’s a three-mile radius that I spend the majority of my life in. If I do venture off, it is out necessity. I go to Manhattan because my job is there. I visit Queens because my girlfriend lives there. I have no need for a Long Island or for a Bronx. In all seriousness, why would I want to go anywhere but Brooklyn? Yeah, I know. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but it happened today and it was a pleasant surprise.
I had to venture off to Harlem to see my tax lady because it is that season again. Since it was my day off, I decided this was a perfect time to get back to my
tourist taurist-y self. I can say with much assurance that Harlem is the next best place compared to Brooklyn. To all you non-new Yorkers out there, Harlem is not one of the five Burroughs. It is a subsidiary of Manhattan, much like a Soho or a Greenwich, but at a much larger scale. The diversity of the city is breathtaking. Of course you’ve got Spanish Harlem and a high Asian population, but there’s also an elevated level of Africans that call Harlem home. The importance of this last fact correlates with my sudden urge for West African food. I’ve been deprived of any home cooking since I’ve been in New York so the ability to eat white rice with peanut soup was a blessing from the heavens. I raise my hands to the sky with thanksgivings.
I tried to take a few photos of this touched-by-an-angel culinary experience, but sadly my camera didn’t have an SD card, so I was shooting blanks.
I plan on taking more trips to see Harlem. It has a bad rap for being dangerous and I don’t want to be naive and say its not due to one visit, but I’m a fan of culture and Harlem represent the melting pot that that New York so famously represents.