The Evolution of Dance in Hip-Hop

The Evolution of Dance in Hip-Hop

One day, browsing around YouTube, my girl and I start looking up old dance songs and begin boasting about who can do what dance better.  Not much of a debate there: me, of course. But in looking for these songs, I got the urge to make a list or timeline of sorts. Something you can go through and say "oh shit, I remember that" or "word, that's when that came out?". So I did. Now being that most states, regions, and cities have their own popular dance, I decided to focus on the ones that were the most popular in the country. 

Before continuing, I wanted to give a quick honorable mention to dances like The Whop, The Cabbage Patch, Kid-N-Play's Funky Charleston, The Tootsie Roll, the original Running Man and the many other dances either before my time, or ones the generation I grew up in didn't have any influence in making popular.

I chose to start at a dance that I personally remember heating up the city and couldn't help but learn and show off every chance I got when I was growing up.


The Harlem Shake - New York (2001)

In the time that New York Hip-Hop was in its prime, it was only right that the city added to its huge influence with dance. Bad Boy artist G. Dep's music video "Let's Get It" started the dance craze by playing in all top countdowns: 106 & Park, TRL, you name it. Other artists like Eve and Lil Bow Wow also gave the dance a cameo in their own videos at the time. Whether it was dusting off your shoulder, pausing, and getting back to shaking or grabbing your shirt to give an added effect, as long as it looked dope, you probably got praise for your moves.

The Chicken Head - St. Louis (2003) 

The Chicken Head dance hit mainstream popularity by being featured in videos for hit songs "Right Thurr" by Chingy and J-Kwon's "Tipsy". Both St. Louis natives had guys and girls hitting the funky variation of a 2-step at all parties.


Lean Wit it Rock Wit it - Atlanta (2004) 

Coming in a time when the Hip-Hop game starts to change sounds, we get introduced to these slower, southern snap songs and with it a new dance. Songs like "Laffy Taffy" by D4L and "Lean Wit It Rock Wit" by Dem Franchise Boyz had groups of kids all in a circle swaying side to side as they snapped their fingers, threw it up in the air, and slowed it down to hit a hard snap to continue the groove. These songs and dance would lead us into a new era of Hip-Hop music for years to come.


Krumping - Los Angeles (2005)

While the sound in Hip-Hop was changing, there were a few places like New York and Los Angeles still moving to the beat of their own drum. Krumping sneaks in to make an impression in a time where most dances were coming from the South. The documentary Rize, directed by David LaChapelle helps put Krumping on the map. A super expressive and energetic dance, Krumping becomes one of Chris Brown's go to dance moves at the time, along with being featured in Missy Elliot's "I'm Really Hot" video. You can also see Krumping in the movie Stomp the Yard starring Columbus Short a few years later.


Walk It Out - Atlanta (2006)

Snap and crunk music are running the Hip-Hop sound during this time, so it comes as no surprise that another dance song from the south is released and becomes extremely popular. DJ Unk's "Walk It Out" single came with its own exclusive dance. With features from New York's Jim Jones and Rap legend Andre 3 Stacks on the Remix, this song and dance hit the nation hard. Popular in all aspects.


Chicken Noodle Soup - New York (2007)

New York checks in after some years with another jig. The Chicken Noodle Soup, being the product of another dance called "Getting Lite" up in the Empire State, gets its own 15 minutes of fame. Young B hit us with an uptempo beat alongside the foot shuffle that is the Chicken Noodle Soup.


Superman/Youu - Atlanta (2007)

We move now into the YouTube era, where with enough innovation, drive and a little luck, you can make yourself a star. That's exactly what Soulja Boy Tell'em did with his hit single "Crank That"; a Southern beat with a catchy hook and dance for all to enjoy. Reaching well over a million views at its release, the video goes viral and becomes everyone's favorite dance song. Soulja Boy would open the route for other young innovators to come.


Stanky Legg - Arlington (2009)

The Hip-Hop landscape is slowly shifting at this time, looking for its next sound. But before that happens, Texas-based group, GS Boyz drop the track "Stanky Legg". Another southern based beat with catchy hook and dance.


Jerkin' - Los Angeles (2009)

CatDaddy - Los Angeles (2010)

The Dougie - Los Angeles (2011) 

We move out West now with the sound and style of Hip-Hop music ever changing. Bringing in fitted jeans, retro sneakers, and snapbacks, Jerkin' starts the modern Cali reign in dance crazes. With the song "You're a Jerk" by Rap duo New Boyz pushing the dance, you couldn't help but get involved. With YouTube now being another source for finding music and dance, typing Jerkin' in the search bar opened up a whole world of videos. One of the reasons why the Catdaddy became so popular after the initial introduction to Jerkin' is because it was a follow-up move; a dance added along side Jerkin'. The combination of Jerkin' and the Catdaddy led to its own popularity with the single by the same name from LA Rap group The Rej3cts. Singer Chris Brown gives his stamp of approval by Jerkin' and Catdaddy-ing in his own video "Beautiful People". Now the Dougie was originally invented in Texas, but didn't reach its viral popularity until LA Rap group Cali Swag District dropped a song for the dance called "Teach Me How To Dougie". A sort of combined effort in introducing a new dance to all regions of the nation in a faster manner. This was all capable with the power of social media and the start of a new era.


Gangnam Style - Gangnam, South Korea (2012) 

Hailing from way out east came a dance just about everyone wasn't expecting: "Gangnam Style" by Korean Pop artist Psy. Now whether you joined in and danced or couldn't stand hearing it anymore you couldn't deny the amount of popularity the song got as it amounted more than 2.6 billion views on YouTube. Besides the wacky video and dance moves, you couldn't help but sing along the catchy dance tune now and again.


  Nae Nae/Whip - Atlanta (2013-2015) 

In the rise of social media, it's easy to click, record, upload music and start dancing in order to begin to reach the masses a lot faster. Atlanta Rap group We Are Toonz set Vine and Instagram ablaze with their dance song "Nae Nae". Fans of the dance were hash tagging and uploading themselves all over social media, kicking the popularity of the song into high gear. Artists and professional athletes alike were among the many who participated in showing off their Nae Nae skills. Soon after, members of the Rap group decided to follow up with another dance, and thus, the Whip is conceived. Basically following the same formula of the former, the Whip becomes a household name in dance. Now while both dances were originally released not too far from each other in 2013 and 2014, the peak of both dances' fame was reached with the 2015 release of the song "Watch Me" by Atlanta artist Silento. The song goes mainstream to complete the nationwide takeover of both dances.


Shmurda Dance - New York (2014)

Now while most of the nation was occupied learning how to Whip and Nae Nae, New York artist Bobby Shmurda and his GS9 crew drop the track "Hot Nigga". With social media outlets like WorldStar, Instagram and Vine pushing the track, the video goes viral along with its dance. The Shmurda Dance, looking like a swagged version of your grandfathers two step, is received with open arms. The song's popularity and the group's criminal controversy keep the song and dance in the limelight. Besides being catchy, it's just a hard track overall and the dance is just an added touch.

Free Bobby!


Dabbin'/Hittin' Dem Folks - Atlanta (2015) 

Milly Rock - New York (2015)

Living well into the era of trap based music, dances are now done to just about any track if the tempo is right. Dabbin' hits social media like wildfire. Just about everyone was bending their elbows up to their faces. Now originally made by Atlanta's Migos, Dabbin' moves on from the group's "Look At My Dab" track and becomes its own entity. All over social media, celebrities like Cam Newton are seen Dabbin'. Hittin Dem Folks is also created at the time. Really beginning to gain popularity by the song "Jumpman", performed by Toronto native Drake and ATL's own Future, the move is basically just what the song says: a Jumpman. Somewhere in the mix of being performed by dancers from all over the country, the name of the move was now dubbed as "Hittin Dem Folks". Russell Westbrook is one of many seen performing the move as a pregame ritual throughout the season. Both Dabbin' and Hittin Dem Folks are performed to just about any trap based song making them instant favorites to do at all times. The same effect took place with the Milly Rock. Originally made by NY artist 2 Milly, the dance performed in the "Milly Rock" video takes on its form and becomes another move performed alongside Dabbin' and Hittin' Dem Folks. The trend of combining the dances of the time continue to evolve coming into our current year and era in music and dance.


Running Man Challenge - Hillside (2016)

As social media is still one of the most direct ways to see what's trending and popular, we hit a place of no real rules. A group of young teens go viral after performing what's now known as the Running Man. As this isn't your parent's Running Man come back, but a new almost awkward Hip-Hop dance, all of social media gets involved with the meme. Almost as confusing as the name of the dance, the teens from New Jersey manage to bring back the popularity of 90s Hip-Hop song "My Boo" by Atlanta's Ghost Town DJ's. Becoming a challenge, everyone is invited to try the dance and post it everywhere, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Facebook, you name it. This shows that the meme era is in full effect as the most recent and newest dance craze is upon us.  

Ju Ju On That Beat - Detroit (2016)

Ju Ju On That Beat, created by Detroit teen Zayion McCall, is the manifestation of all eras combined. The name of the dance to start, is a phrase. McCall makes a song using Crime Mobs "Knuck If You Buck" instrumental and decides to mix a series of past dances together, Nae Nae, the Whip, running man (new), and hittin dem folks. Along with the do your dance part of the song where you're encouraged to add any dance you feel like showcasing, it basically means every dance is included. This is setting off the new trend and challenge for all to try now. Seeing who can do the series' of dances and then uploading into the social media universe for all to see.

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