March Madness helps hip-hop dances go mainstream

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In urban culture, we have been known to express ourselves through the art of dance.

Whether it’s for religious and spiritual reasons or a means to celebrate happiness, dance has been a vehicle for exuberance for centuries, dating far back to our ancestors. With the times changing, and technology and social media taking over, the dances that we know, love, and hold dear have not only adapted with the times, but are now reaching audiences in the farthest corners of the globe.

When Soulja Boy, one of the first acts to gain his following and later a record deal strictly from his YouTube videos, released his song and accompanying dance, “Crank That Soulja Boy,” the “Internet dance” craze was born and cemented with the over 20 million views to date that the video has obtained.

Many a song and dance combination has since followed since 2007 when “Crank Dat” first was released, from “The Dougie” to “The Chicken Noodle Soup,” from “The South Dallas Swag” to “The Heisman” — 808-drum-enthused beats with infectious dances to match.

Now one of the reasons this dance and other dances that followed were so popular, was because of its authenticity; you had to be considered “cool” to know about it and to do it with flawless precision. And it was perceived that once these dances and their underground beginnings went mainstream, that the desired “coolness” was gone.

After their upset win over Duke in the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Kevin Canevari, a white backup point guard for the Mercer Bears, became an Internet sensation when he did the newly popularized “Nae-Nae” dance on the court celebrating the Bears’ win. In a sense, the dance became as memorable as the victory itself, as reports of the celebration landed everywhere from the New York Times and Sports Illustrated.

The seeming downside to all of the media coverage was that the origins of the song were lost in translation on many different publications and sites, and that’s the common problem: a group of small-time artists create a movement that gets swept along in the fame of one person’s moment.

The “Nae-Nae,” created by the Atlanta rap group We Are Toonz, has been surging in popularity in remakes done by fans and posted on the 6-second video social media site Vine. And while Canevari is innocent in this (all he did was revel in the moment of his team’s victory) it begs the question: In what other cases have our less-rhythmic counterparts brought internet dances to the mainstream? We take a look.

Tom Cruise does “Young Joc”

In their press run for Mission: Impossible 2, Tom Cruise went on BET’s 106 & Park and proceeded to do a dance famously known from the video for Atlanta rapper Young Joc’s single “It’s Goin Down.” When later referred to the dance, it was noted as the “Air Motorcycle.” The dance never officially had a name, but we know that it wasn’t that.

White People do “Crank That Soldier Boy”

If there was a polar opposite to the size 5x t-shirts, capri pants and airbrushed sunglasses in the original “Crank That Soulja Boy” video, it would be three white boys in fitted Abercrombie & Fitch polo shirts and cargo shorts with boat shoes. I think it was safe to say the rhythm was lost with the wardrobe swap.

White man does “South Dallas Swag” in gas station

I’m not sure if it’s his stiff demeanor, or if it’s that he looks as if he left a Harvard final club meeting, but this young man doing the “South Dallas Swag” to Young Dolph’s “Get This Money” is awkwardly cool.

 Justin Bieber teaches Ellen Degeneres how to Dougie

To be fair, Ellen DeGeneres does have her hood pass, thanks to Lil’ B, but for Justin Bieber, aka Biebz, aka Biebervelli The Gawd, to be teaching her the “Dougie” (which was originally popularized by NBA guard John Wall in his college career at the University of Kentucky), it was a day that forever lived in infamy.

Cory Townes is a Digital Content Producer born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, and has had his work has been featured in The Grio,,,, and other media publications. For more of his work, visit and follow him on Twitter at @CoryTownes.