Harlem Shake






“Harlem Shake”, not to be confused with the hip hop dance style, is the title of a 2012 heavy bass instrumental track produced by Baauer. In February 2013, the song spawned a series of dance videos that begin with a masked individual dancing alone in a group before suddenly cutting to a wild dance party featuring the entire group. Despite what the name suggests, the videos present a wide range of hip hop dances, including the Bernie,Twerking as well as improvisations.


“Harlem Shake” by Baauer[8], the stage name of American music producer Harry Rodrigues, was uploaded to YouTube on August 23rd, 2012. The lyric “do the Harlem Shake” is a sample from the 2001 track “Miller Time” by Philadelphia party rap crew, Plastic Little. The lyric was taken from an incident in member Jayson Musson’s life where he got into a fight and finished by getting up and doing the dance. Bauuer’s song was met with positive reception from electronica & trap music blogs, as well as other artists including Diplo, Brodinski, and Flosstradamus. On January 30th, 2013, video blogger Filthy_Frank uploaded an episode that opens with four people dressed in latex suits dancing to Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” (shown below, right).

The Dance

The Harlem Shake is a style of dance that involves pivoting the shoulder out while popping the other shoulder out at the same time. Introduced in 1981 by a Harlem, New York City resident named “Al Bm,” the dance was initially referred to as “albee” after his name, but later became known as the Harlem Shake as its prominence grew beyond the neighborhood. The popularity of the dance reached its peak around 2001, when it was featured or referenced in songs by several New York-based hip hop artists such as Jadakiss, Cam’ron and P. Diddy.


The dance itself is defined by Urban Dictionary as ‘An eccentric upper body dance move that involves the shaking of the upper torso and shoulders.’ On February 2nd, 2013, several parodies of DizastaMusic’s video were uploaded by YouTubers TheSunnyCoastSkate and PHL_On_NAN, the latter of which would go viral on February 5th, amassing 300,000 views within 24 hours and prompting further parodies from other YouTubers shortly after.

On February 7th, YouTuber hiimrawn uploaded a version titled “Harlem Shake v3 (office edition)” (shown below) featuring the staff of online video production company Maker Studios. The video instantly went viral, amassing more than 7.4 million views in the first week, as well as inspiring a notable subset of contributions from well-known Internet companies, including BuzzFeed, CollegeHumor, Vimeo and Facebook among many others.


The majority of early Harlem Shake videos adhered to the title format denoting its numeric version (ex: “The Harlem Shake v2”), but the practice soon became redundant and phased out as the volume of uploads continued to grow on YouTube.

Notable Examples

Throughout the second week of February 2013, more than 4,000 “Harlem Shake” videos were uploaded to YouTube each day, according to YouTube’s official trend report. By February 13th, approximately 12,000 “Harlem Shake” videos had been posted, gaining more than 44 million views.

14 March 2013

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This entry was published on March 14, 2013 at 2:52 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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