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The Photographer's Domain

The Harlem Shake & Why All of Your Black Friends are Confused

Recently, one of my friends told me about this new viral video called “The Harlem Shake” that’s been making the waves across the internet. When I heard about this. I was pretty surprised. I couldn’t believe the old 90s era P.Diddy Dance had made a comeback. 

Oh, how wrong I was. 

I went to the internet expecting this. 


And left the internet with this…


This is the ORIGINAL that started it all. 

I’m all down for the fun. Personally, I think it’s hilarious. What I wasn’t expecting was the huge amount of people who were unaware of where the Harlem Shake originated from, or at least the 90s era Harlem Shake. 

Wikipedia has pretty good summation of The Harlem Shake. 

The Harlem shake, originally called the albee in Harlem, is a dance that started in 1981. The dance became mainstream in 2001 when G. Dep featured the Harlem shake in his music video “Let’s Get It”. It has its history from a type of dance exercised in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, called “Eskista" and was allegedly started in Harlem by a man named Al B.

The current harlem shake depicts one individual dancing by himself (usually with some kind of helmet or hat on) until the beat of Baauer’s Harlem Shake comes on. Then we see a jump cut to a three or more people or even thousands doing the most inane and insane things on camera. It’s pretty awesome. 

The Harlem Shake, for me, and many other African Americans, became popular around the time Lil Bow Wow/P.Diddy/Jermaine Dupri were still very prevalent in the rap game during the 90s. 

So I definitely wasn’t expecting this…



Over what I traditionally associated with The Harlem Shake. 


I find it pretty interesting how many of our culture references get recycled and re-used. I do think individuals who are from Harlem had a VERY hilarious reaction to seeing their cultural dance in its new form


In this instance I can understand the indifference stemming from the black community. For some, it comes off as a disrespect to a piece of our historical dance culture, but at the same time no one really meant any harm by this. The DJ (Baauer) who made the song wasn’t expecting this and neither were the guys who made the original Harlem Shake Viral Video. 


For those who still may not understand why your black friends weren’t feeling it…take it like this. Imagine you have an urn with your great-grandmother’s ashes in it that’s been passed down in your family. A random stranger pops into your house, shoves his manhood into it, declares it a new work of art, and their is absolutely nothing you can do about it because everyone loves it. 

That is the new harlem shake to the black community.

Once again, it’s not as deep as some are making it. It’s not an affront to black people. No one was intentionally being disrespectful, and honestly it’s not disrespectful. This is how the internet works. 

I just hope a few of you understand why some of your black friends were a little confused when you showed this to them. 

- Xay B. is a graduate student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts studying Directing and Cinematography. To view more of his work go to Que The Lights or follow @XLNB.

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    Unrelated to science or to everything I post on here, but something urges me to post this. I honestly think the harlem...
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