A new kind of populist electronic music called "trap" has been skirting the mainstream for a few months now, but hasn't yet broken through. Could a bunch of silly viral videos make the genre a household name?
Considering the randomness of the "Harlem Shake" meme, it's perhaps optimal to approach these videos with as little context as possible. So before we spoil it by explaining trap music and its trajectory, just look at this thing people are doing:
Any questions? Videos like this have been accruing hundreds of thousands of views in the last few days. And — mark our words — by the week's end, they'll pick up a few million more and launch a slew of copycat videos. Plans to storm Times Square with a Harlem Shake flashmob have been laid. And for heaven's sake, the Buzzfeed staff already made their own version. The steps to creating your own "Harlem shake" seem simple enough:
1. Put on a goofy mask.
2. Get everyone in some room to pretend like you don't exist.
3. Play Baauer's massive trap hit "Harlem Shake."
4. Do this little shimmy move that's been around forever. Do it as poorly as possible.
5. When the beat drops, everybody acts like a bunch of high schoolers on spring break in Miami.
Voila. We don't really "get" these videos either, but a blogger at the illustrious Know Your Meme offers this helpful description of what's going on:
These videos tend to initially show a lone masked individual dancing while others around him show indifference to the act, before cutting quickly to a scene of everyone doing assorted viral dance crazes once the song’s chorus starts. These typically include dances such as the Bernie, twerking, krumping, and several other forms of stereotypical urban dance.
The most intriguing part of this whole meme, as far as emerging music genres go, is the song uniting all the videos. "Harlem Shake" is a track by a young Brooklyn beatmaker known as Baauer, one of the leading lights in a nascent electronic genre called trap. This brash new outgrowth of EDM (electronic dance music) ranked high on the "realness" scale in our roundup of new genres from 2012, and its popularity is cresting amongst the youngsters who attend mega-raves like Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival. You'll recognize a trap song by it's skittering hi-hats and marching band snare rolls. Also by its heavy bass drops and Southern rap samples. If Skrillex is the superstar of dubstep, then trap's starting lineup includes artists like Flosstradamus, TNGHT, RL GRIME, and UZ alongside Baauer.
Trap is currently doing well with EDM junkies, but so far the genre hasn't crossed over into dubstep-level mainstream ubiquity. Something needs to carry it over that wall separating neo-rave culture from the listening public at large. Could this insanely popular meme be that catalyst? Already, plenty of dance music trainspotters are predicting that it is:
Calling it now: this Harlem Shake meme is going to go viral & trap music will be completely mainstream in 6 months youtube.com/watch?v=0IJoKu…— JD Scott (@LeeHazlewood) February 7, 2013
Oh dear. It seems the "Harlem Shake" meme is going global. Brace yourself for white people dancing stupidly to Trap music.— Simon de la Rouviere (@simondlr) February 7, 2013
Lol, ok, I'm seeing harlem shake videos pop up in all sorts of places now. Is this how trap finally becomes a thing? Because Im ok with that— TWERKmoyed (@Dr_Nikolai) February 7, 2013
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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