Bobby Shmurda And Why We Need More Dancing In Hip Hop
There’s a video floating around the Internet of Bobby Shmurda performing in front of a bunch of White executives and not too many people are happy about it.
If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here. Reportedly, this video was shot the day that Shmurda was signed to the record label. But the gist of people’s angst centers around a lone Shmurda, lip syncing and dancing to “Hot N*gga” as well as some other tunes, both on and off tables, in the Epic Records boardroom while the audience of predominately White folks – as well as L.A. Reid, who is CEO of Epic Records – smiles and cheers him on. The description under the video, says that it was the day that Shmurda was signed to a record deal.
As some folks in my network have noted, this particular video, and I guess Schmurda in general, are prime examples of what’s wrong with the music industry today. Especially White executives being at – or near – the helm of selecting what represents HipHop, and by default Black culture. And as a result, we get a kid, whose lyrics border on a real world version of Idiocracy.
Although, most if not all signed artists have to perform their albums or demos in front of the record company executives, I can somewhat understand the sentiment here. Much of what we hear in popular Hip Hop is garbage. And yes, I know: it’s popular Hip Hop. But it was also popular Hip Hop back in the day with lots more diversity.
There was M.C. Hammer and NWA; KRS-One and PM Dawn; Arrested Development and the GraveDiggaz; b-boys like LL Cool J and urban cowboys like Whodini too. Back in the day, you could turn on the radio and find a rapper spitting his own unique and creative brand of the budding art form. There were even lady rappers – plural. But every since the genre of music has become institutionalized, all we get on the radio are a bunch of dudes – and Minaj in the same white or black t-shirt doing that weird auto tune thing.
More specifically, I’m kind of blasé about the song “Hot Nigga.” While I can’t take a step outside a few feet without hearing it blaring from a car stereo or somebody’s “personal” music player, the song has yet to catch me. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics (even though they are pretty elementary and the subject matter stale and as always misogynistic). My generation had The Chronic and most of us as adults have respectable jobs and families. So the younger generation can have Shmurda. But rather, I just don’t think there is anything special about the song. Hell, it doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the trap house or other rap songs on the radio right now. So the mere fact that the song has taken the world by storm, really does perplex me.
However while the song is mysterious, the dance is not. Oh, I totally get the Shmoney dance. What’s not to love about a two-step? Anybody can do a two-step. Plus you always look cool doing it. But more importantly, the Shmoney dance is bringing something back to Hip Hop, that has long been forgotten: and that’s how to have fun.
I don’t know when it started but for some reason, it totally became uncool for a male rapper to dance. And in fact, there was a time not that long ago when you would be hard pressed to find a rapper, busting a move or two. Of course there was MC Hammer and his entire Oakland clique. But we also had Kwame, Kool Moe Dee, Heavy D, Digital Underground (I bet as soon as some of y’all read “Digital Underground,” y’all started doing the Humpty Dance), and a host of emcees who were not scared to blame it on the boogie. Even some of the more serious rappers including Big Daddy Kane and EMPD broke it down a couple of times. Seriously, name a rapper from the heydays of the genre, who did not dance, and I’ll show you a rapper, who likely did not chart.
Okay that’s not entirely true: I do sort of remember when rap turned into a rhyming-on wax version of “Footloose.” It was the sometime in the mid-90s. Puffy, later to be known as Diddy (but forever in my heart as Puffy), was the last of the foot-shuffling, two-stepping Mohicans. He was also the originator of the shiny suit. And during the Bad Boy era, there was not a Puffy-associated artists, who was not required to dance around in a shiny suit.
The suits and the two-step were both fun for a while. But then it became too much. Puffy and his two step and shiny suits were poppin’ up in everybody’s videos. But then male rappers and their audiences alike started to denounce Puffy, his overt materialism and the shiny suit culture as byproducts of what commercialization was doing on the genre. And the genre of music started to get more hyper-masculine. No more suits, no more singing, no smiling and of course, no more fancy with the footwork. Now, it was all about low-sagging jeans, mean-mugging and thug-lovin’. And the most we got in the way of a dance out of these rappers was leaning back and doing Rockaway.
I’m not really down with Shmurda. And quite honestly, as a budding old head I don’t think that I’m his target demographic either. I’m perfectly fine with that. But as a young-old head, I do appreciate both the songs and dance ability to lighten Hip-Hop up again – somewhat. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to the era where rappers will start incorporating more limber movements into their routines like the “Steve Martin” or “The Typewriter” or the “Ed Lover” or even the classic, “The Wop.” But at least the rappers are starting to relax a bit. And not be so hard all the time.
And this is particularly important considering we had almost a generation of young men who was reared under this distorted era of masculinity, which sought to label everything as emasculating (i.e. for girls and gays). For instance, I have a one friend, who recently bought a Philadelphia Sixers throwback-ish beanie and cut the red, white and blue fabric ball off the top because “real n*ggas don’t wear ballies.” That is a true quote. He also thinks the Shmoney dance is gay because, “why aren’t there any women dancing with him in the video?”
It’s hilarious and quite stupid, I know. But for a myriad of reasons, American men are very protective of their identities. Perhaps the Shmurda dance will inspire more rappers to adopt a signature movement – as well as other things that were previous not-gay but somehow gay now. Perhaps a rapper will come along and challenge men to not give a damn about who or what is gay or not. And maybe in a few years, my friend can feel comfortable two-stepping in his beanie with the ballie on top and still feel like a man.