At its peak, the video meme that exploded around Baauer’s unexpected No. 1 smash “Harlem Shake” turned into a seemingly ubiquitous sensation, with 4,000 of the viral clips being added to YouTube on a daily basis as of early February.
But as the immensely popular meme continued to grow, a bizarre phenomenon began to emerge.
Where “Harlem Shake” videos were once solely about fun and games, a trend towards serious repercussions (like people getting fired for creating “Harlem Shake” videos on the clock) and even politically-charged versions of the popular dance craze have taken hold.
There was an almost immediate backlash to Baauer’s breakout song, primarily from disgruntled viewers upset that the wild flailing seen in a majority of the clips is not the “real” Harlem Shake, which is credited to Harlem dancer “Al B” in the early ‘80s, and was revived in urban music videos by the likes of Diddy more than 20 years later.
After the meme exploded, a video of Harlem residents discrediting Baauer’s appropriation (below) quickly made the rounds, though Diddy, himself a Harlem native, publicly supported the sensation.
“Any time people are dancing, especially in this day and age when everybody’s trying to be so cool, and people are letting loose, letting off some steam, I agree with it,” Diddy told MTV News, though he did admit that people should “get educated on the real Harlem Shake, it’s something that’s an art form.”
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