Harlem Reacts To The Imposter Harlem Shake

by Clutch


Though this is not the first case of mainstream culture appropriating a popular hip hop dance, it is certainly one of the more laughable occurrences. In case you’re in the dark when it comes to viral videos, the Harlem Shake dance craze is causing a frenzy on the internet with athletes and even supermodels rushing to record home videos and join in on the fun. The only problem? No one is actually doing the Harlem Shake.

The Harlem Shake is a dance where you rhythmically move your shoulders up and down while shaking your forearms on beat. In these popular videos, people are just thrusting their pelvises into the air in a move that couldn’t be more different than the original.

DJ ?uestlove recently shared a Youtube video uploaded by Schlepp Films that features street interviews with Harlemites about the imposter Harlem Shake. The result is brilliant:

Reactions vary from utter disbelief to claims that the thrusting move is disrespectful. Now that Harlem has spoken out against the fraudulent dance, can we agree to end the craze altogether, or atleast give it a new name?

  • J.S.

    I am quick to ride with my brown/brown brethren when it comes to misappropriation of our culture by others but I cannot follow with this one. Harlem is getting heated about this silly, Gangnam style-type parody of the Harlem Shake? Seriously? What, was the original Harlem Shake some sort of praise-dance to the greats of the Harlem Renaissance or something?
    This video leads me to one of two conclusions: Harlemites take themselves way too seriously or they’ve got too much free time on their hands.

  • Dee

    I feel the same way. I can get that people don’t want white people capitalising off of their creations, but honestly I cannot remember anyone seriously doing the Harlem Shake.

    It was a fad, not a revolution, and it fizzled out (years ago) as fads happen to do. Now it’s re-emerged not as the dance we all knew but as this spastic silly dance, but this is also a fad and will die out as well.

  • WinterQueen

    Obviously J.S. you find it okay to make a mockery of people’s culture. That is their right to be offended especially if these people are not even from their community. It’s disrespectful.

  • WinterQueen

    The Harlem Shake is not a fad, it’s been around for thirty years in Harlem. It’s part of their culture. What are you talking about? You sound very ignorant Dee. Next time do some research.

  • Eao

    Just because you don’t understand the important of this particular dance to the Harlemites featured in this video (seeing as the dance was commodified on a national scale) doesn’t mean that is doesn’t and/or didn’t have a cultural significance for these people before during and after the “fad.”

    Have some respect.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com Tonton Michel

    Never mind that the dance lacks creativity and imagination, you couldn’t even come up with an original name and instead stole one. One from a community with a distinctive history, and catch feelings when people push back on it? This is an example of appropriation and a lack of respect for people’s culture and history. Seriously, you couldn’t come up with your own name for this?

  • Amber

    Like any viral craze on the Internet, it will pass. Making it out to be controversial is giving it more air-time than is necessary. All we have to do it wait this one out. Yes the dance is kinda silly. But people are having fun AND the original harlem shake really hasn’t been tarnished. ALSO, the beat “Harlem Shake” by Bauuer, which is in the background of the videos is great. If the dance videos don’t suit you, check out Azealia Banks’ remix video. It has nothing to do with the dance, and she’s actually from Harlem.

  • Sondana

    After hearing the H. S. had gone viral, I searched the internet for history. The only sites I found were people (who did not appear to be indigenous to Harlem) shaking themselves all over to some song where the words sound spanish. I then concluded association with spanish harlem. Help me out here.

  • Amber

    Watch old Diddy/Bad Boy/Mase videos lol

  • Deb

    I get it’s supposed to be fun and silly but the whole dance is really, really creepy to me. It’s like watching a portrayal of the breakdown of society and sanity but it’s scary because it seems to be something that is actually slowly happening. Like others said though, it’s an internet fad and it will pass. They really could have picked a different name just because the harlem shake is already taken and it could be confusing.

  • Amber

    The title of the videos is less about the dance and more about the beat playing in the background which is called “Harlem Shake” and was not originally associated with the so-called dance. The beat/song/whatever you want to call it is a recent release and is quite good when separated from this foolishness lol

  • Jaslene

    It aint that serious you are talking about a dance where it seemed as people had body spasms and spinal issues.

  • http://aarickawashington.wordpress.com Aaricka Washington

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree. My main question is: WHY ARE THEY CALLING IT THE HARLEM SHAKE? Why is this new dance becoming so popular that it’s become a cultural meme. Everyone is doing it now. But why the heck is it called the Harlem Shake when there was already a dance that originated in Harlem, a predominately black neighborhood? I think it is appropriating to a small sense, because the people that are actually doing the dance for 1. Don’t know about the original dance and 2. Would NEVER go to Harlem.

  • stef

    Too late to end the craze it gone viral and its gone international

  • stef

    special delivery by G-dep /black rob and diddy, great video of the original Harlem shake

  • Yb

    That’s too much for some people (and surprisingly some black people) to understand and respect.

    If white people and their pets deem something as ” just a joke”, “light fun”, and “a not that serious” then I guess all others must comply.

  • http://gravatar.com/sblazer227 sblazer227

    um the song is called the harlem shake. if this is what harlem is mad about, then they need to go sit down. the original dance was as stupid as this one.

  • JN

    The Harlem Shake was actually “inspired” (or appropriated) from the Ethiopian dance Eskista. I am surprised that

  • JN

    that no one mentioned that yet.

  • LB

    As a young person from Harlem, I can understand why other people from Harlem view this new dance as disrespectful. In a way it makes a mockery of a dance that originated in a place that was surrounded with violence, gangs and drugs… The origanal dance allowed kids to express themselves through dance and overall have fun. Finally kids were able to gain recognition among their neighborhood without doing anything bad… When DIddy, Fab and other artist displayed the dance in their music videos people from Harlem felt a sense of pride knowing that the world got a chance to see what they created….Yea its not that serious to many… But to people from Harlem it’s like something is being taken away from them…

  • ?!

    How could you? :(

  • Blue

    Well I’m a native New Yorker & we don’t like it when someone disrespects a borough of origin. And yes you can say we do take our street dancing, rap style & any other art form of expression seriously. As any REAL artist would. How would you feel if someone took something with your name on it & turned it into something silly?

    And the only ones that seem have “too much time on their hands” are the ones that keep making those Harlem Shake vidoes hoping they go viral.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    omfg i’m sorry but everybody getting offended is stupid as hell. the SONG is called “harlem shake” by a dj named baauer! they’re not trying to DO the actual harlem shake, that’s just the name of the song. sheesh!

    people act like these are music videos for the song. NO! it was just a random song that somebody used when they were doing silly random stuff for youtube and it caught on.nobody is saying that it’s the harlem shake. unfortunately people will associate this video trend as being the harlem shake, the but harlem shake was simply the name of the song used.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    it’s called the harlem shake because that’s the name of the damn song that’s being used in the video. a dj made a song called harlem shake and somebody took this random song that nobody has heard of and did something silly on youtube with it. that’s ALL. it has nothing to do with harlem or the harlem shake DANCE.

  • Kami-D

    When I first heard it, I said the same thing…”Where’s the Harlem Shake?” (didn’t particularly say it like that but for interpretation purposes it’ll stay so)

    I’m not from Harlem, but I understand these ppl. And I definitely don’t find it silly that they are upset. What I see in the future is that this dance being defined as a Harlem Shake and the original one which I am sure has significant cultural meaning being forgotten.

    If you go to someone today and tell them do the Harlem Shake, I’m sure w/o a doubt it’ll be the ‘Harlem Shake’ that is going around in these videos.

    God forbid some new kid on the block brings an opera song (no offense to opera) and says it’s R&B, and ppl start refering that to R&B, i’m sure ppl will be a little more understanding.

    (far-fetched example I know, but this is not a parody, it’s not a modification or an extension or an improvement of the original, that’s kinda my point )

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