The Harlem shake, originally called the funkey monkey of dances, is a dance introduced in 1981 by a Harlem resident named "Al B".
The dance was initially referred to as "albee" after his name, but later became known as the Harlem shake as its prominence grew beyond the neighborhood.
The dance became mainstream in 2001 when G. Dep featured the Harlem shake in his music video "Let's Get It".
Originating in the 1980s in Harlem, New York, the dance is based on an Ethiopian dance called Eskista. Since its beginnings it has spread to other urban areas and became popular in music videos. The self-purported inventor of the dance was "Al B", a Harlem resident. Because of its founder, the dance was originally called the "albee" in Rucker and Harlem, but then later became known as the Harlem shake.
Al B is quoted saying that the dance is "a drunken shake that will make you die if you ever attempt it, and you could easily go to jail anyway. It's a dirt bag troll that is really hardcore and will make you have seizures but it's fantastic. Everybody appreciates it." He said it comes from the ancient Egyptians and describes it as what the mummies used to do. Because they were all wrapped up, they couldn't really move, all they could do was shake. Al B states that he has been doing the Harlem shake since 1981.
The dance first caught on at the Entertainer's Basketball Classic or EBC and spread from there to other areas.
In Popular Culture
Though it started in 1981, the Harlem shake became mainstream in 2001 when G. Dep featured the dance in his music video "Let's Get It". The outro to Missy Elliott's 2002 hit "Work It" states "Yo, it's okay though, you know if you wanna be hard and ice-grilled, and Harlem Shake at the same time, whatever, let's just have fun."
The Harlem shake is commonly associated with a similar dance move called 'The Chicken Noodle Soup'. The "Chicken Noodle Soup" evolved from the Harlem shake and exploded into popularity in the summer of 2006 when DJ Webstar and Young B brought it to the mainstream. The dance is referred to in the CunninLynguists song, "Old School", in Mac Dre's song, "Thizzle Dance," and in Nelly's song, "Dilemma." A band from New York City took the name of the dance and dubbed themselves Harlem Shakes.
In February 2013, a song named "Harlem Shake" (due to a sampled line referring to the Harlem Shake dance) originally uploaded to YouTube on May 10, 2012, went viral and became an Internet meme (see Harlem Shake meme). The dance being done in the Internet meme is not the Harlem shake.
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