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A Short Compilation of Appropriation: Harlem Shake Included

Do the Harlem Shake has finally gotten to black people who now also "do the Harlem Shake" by not actually doing the damn "Harlem Shake" at all.Paul Mooney famously once said, "Everybody wants be a nigga but nobody wants to be a nigga," which is about the most true statement in the history of African American culture. People LOVE black culture, but hate the folks who make it. If only there was a way to enjoy all this good black stuff without the pesky black people. And hence, appropriation was born. But it's not always Pat Boone taking the funk out of Motown or Elvis making "hip thrusts" white people friendly. Today, appropriation is more of a comedy art form practiced by hip hop loving white people who want the thrill of saying the "N-word" but not that pesky backlash afterwards. 

Here is a brief compilation of white appropriations in black culture (particularly hip hop and "ratchetness"), and what these appropriations mean.

* * *

Who? Baauer and lots of confused white people

What was appropriated? The Harlem Shake

Is it funny? Not to these super serious folks in Harlem. HOW DARE YOU, CONFUSED WHITE PEOPLE! The devil is in your appropriation of this shake!

Is it funny with me though or funny at the expense of me? This is probably the most annoying kind of appropriation in that this cat Baauer basically took some rapper saying "Do the Harlem Shake" and mixed it into his dub step apropos of NOTHING RELATED TO NEGROES AT ALL. Hence, it only confused people like me who was like "Why is this called the Harlem Shake? That's not the Harlem Shake! SOMEONE CALL MA$E RIGHT NOW!" So, like those offended Harlemites, initially I was offended, then I realized it had nothing to do with black people AND THEN I was offended all over again for different reasons, like how this isn't even a true appropriation, more like an appropriation drive-by where Negro-ness is incidental. So disappointing ...

Verdict? Eh. It's an Internet meme, so I'll let it slide. It's already being replaced with goats and sheep who scream like humans being murdered. Also, it gave us this look into the rabbit hole when black people started doing the Harlem Shake but aren't actually doing the Harlem Shake. IT'S LIKE HARLEM SHAKE INCEPTION!

* * *

Who? Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

What was appropriated? Riskay's ratchet YouTube anthem "Smell Yo Dick" that is currently at over 3 million views

Is it funny? Yes. It is funny.

Is it funny with me though or funny at the expense of me? I dunno. Are you ratchet? Do you like ratchet anthems? Do you even use the word ratchet which is really just a way of saying "ghetto" without the stereotype that all gauche behavior comes from "ghetto" people when in reality "ghetto" behavior has almost nothing to do with the "ghetto" but a conflation of people of certain tastes, backgrounds or incomes coming together in ignorance regardless of location?

Verdict? Don't care. Riskay's song was silly from the jump and that was always part of the appeal. I only care when people take something that was cool and take all the stank off it and make it "Pat Boone accessible." There's no way to make Riskay "Pat Boone accessible." This song is even too ratchet for ratchet people and ratchet people purchased illegally downloaded Chris Brown's "Wet the Bed" unironically.

* * *

Who? Ben Folds (and later, some random white chicks)

What was appropriated? Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's already highly offensive towards women and Eazy-E anthem "Bitches Ain't Shit"

Is it funny? I laughed.

Is it funny with me though or funny at the expense of me? This is tricky because I hated the original song because it was at the expense of women. Ben Folds' version is still offensive, but in a different, more confusing way. Less confusing is the video of the white girls in preppy outfits. Hearing women singing it inverts the meaning a bit, but is it just cool because, as Dave Chappelle once said, everything sounds better if you get some pretty white girl to sing it? Because I hate sexism so much, I tend to prefer the prep school girls version over Ben Folds even though Ben Folds version is artistically "better" (good lord that's awkward to say about "Bitches Ain't Shit").

Verdict? I hate the original song so much I DON'T CARE.

* * *

Who? Justin Timberlake

What was appropriated? Michael Jackson

Is it funny? Maybe unintentionally. Timberlake was really serious about his Jackson "swagger jacking."

Is it funny with me MJ though or funny at the expense of me MJ? I would say since he left MJ's sister Janet's titty out there in the breeze after that thing at the Super Bowl, yeah, Ghost of MJ, that shit was at your expense even though you co-signed on it.

Verdict? Is it just me or is "Suit & Tie" a really boring song and that will always be the greater sin? Bring "sexyback," not some R. Kelly two-steppin' B-side!

* * *

Who? Nightmare fuel terror YouTube pop sensations, Karmin

What was appropriated? Chris Brown's "Look At Me Know" featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes

Is it funny? Yes. No, wait. I think they're serious. So yes, unintentionally, it is funny.

Is it funny with me though or funny at the expense of me? LOL Wut? 

Verdict? It's a Chris Brown song. He came out, like, five minutes ago. On the scale of appropriations he's obviously bigger than Riskay (obviously) but I don't think he's created anything as seminal as the entire career of Michael Jackson or the album "The Chronic."

* * *

Who? Framing Hanley

What was appropriated? Lil Wayne's gross, dick-sucking anthem "Lollipop"

Is it funny? YES! But again, only because even though they're trying so hard to be funny, Framing Hanley secretly wants you to think this is cool and awesome. So, UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY!

Is it funny with me though or funny at the expense of me? It's an anthem to dick-sucking. By singing it in a rock song considering the history of misogyny in heavy metal and rock music, somehow it's MORE PROFANE THAN BEFORE. That has to be some kind of art form to make a gross song even more gross. It's like the original stripper beat sterilized it, but adding guitars made it raunchy as hell.

Verdict? Much like how I didn't care about Chris Brown being appropriated because he's too new, I feel the same way about Wayne. Don't care. Your song still retained its gross integrity. 

* * *


Who? The Lonely Island

What was appropriated? All of hip hop, even its silliest parts

Is it funny? Do you like Saturday Night Live or Andy Samberg? Then hell yeah, the shit is pretty funny. My personal favorite is "No Homo," an ode to hip hop's most ridiculous phrase, pushing it to logical absurdity after absurdity until Lonely Island is rapping, "No Homo, but today I'm coming out the closet." 

Is it funny with me though or funny at the expense of me? Obviously, I like Lonely Island and Andy Samberg. But I will agree, sometimes the shit isn't funny when people act like "On A Boat" is the greatest hip hop track since "The Message" because white people born after 1992 have no institutional memory of hip hop and don't know how ridiculous they sound when they act like Macklemore (who I like bundles, marry me) is Jesus, when all he sounds like to me is what rap used to sound like before the corporations got to it. Us 30+ people had all of the 80s and 90s and you guys got Macklemore. I think even Macklemore would say y'all got robbed. HIP HOP USED TO BE REALLY GOOD, KIDS! STAY IN SCHOOL!

Verdict? If comedy rap sounds better than some commercial rap what does that say about the state of commercial rap? 

Anyway, cleanse your palette with this "cold ass honkey" (he said it, not me).

Then refresh yourself with something you missed out on if you were born after 1992 ... A black woman rapping with her natural born ass/hair/nose, fully-clothed and people thought it was hot, danced to it and the video got played on BET. MAGICAL TIME, FOLKS! WISH YOU COULD HAVE BEEN THERE!

-- XOXO, The late 80s-to-mid-90s.

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Reader Comments (2)

Yaaaay! Snob is back!

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Whose idea was it to bring back the damn Harlem Shake?! Strike em! This new version should have gotten a new name entirely. Bad enough the old one was outworn like a washed out pair of jeans and now this catastrophe?! smh

March 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGD

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