Dance and music have always been two of the most defining aspects of black culture.
As renowned poet laureate Andre Benjamin once said, “All the fresh styles always start off as a good little hood thing” – you know, before they hit Hollywood and get oversaturated to death.
It’s cool though, we know where they started. With us.
But before the viral fame and celebrities dancing offbeat on daytime talk shows, all dance crazes begin with two things – a super catchy song and entertaining moves.
Let’s look back at 17 songs that launched 17 dances that took over black culture – some briefly, others, eternally.
And before y’all throw tantrums in the comments, remember: To qualify for this list, the dances MUST have a specific song associated with it. So no goofy Flossin’ dancing here.
Honorable mention: Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache (Jump on It)”
17. Da Butt
The dance: Butts n’ black folk! Obviously, we’re gonna be here for this one. This classic from the School Daze film has lived on in butt-shaking infamy. This dance was SCANDALOUS back in 1988. Then Miley Cyrus went and invented twerking in 2013 and we just couldn’t keep up.
Level of difficulty: Can you bend over? Can you roll your booty in PG-13 fashion? Then you can do this dance.
The song that started it all: E.U., “Da Butt”
16. Hit the Quan
The dance: Y’all thought Rich Homie Quan’s biggest contribution to hip-hop was his actual music? Playa please. A random dance he did in his video caught fire, iLoveMemphis made a song about it and here we are.
Level of difficulty: This is an easy one. Squat down like you’re potty training, wave your arms around like a kid pretending to be an airplane, and there you go.
The song that started it all: iLove Memphis, “Hit the Quan”
15. Walk It Out
The dance: If you weren’t around in 2006, it’s kinda hard to understand how big this song was. Unk even dragged Andre 3000 out of his underground bunker for the remix! That’s a modern miracle. The dance itself doesn’t have much to it – as long as you can bounce around like you’re stepping on hot coals, you’re gucci.
Level of difficulty: Not too bad. If you can walk on your tiptoes you can do this.
The song that started it all: DJ Unk, “Walk It Out”
14. JuJu on that Beat
The dance: You know you’re old when you start asking little kids to dance for your enjoyment. The song is ridiculous (“You ugly! You your daddy’s son!”) and the dance looks like a synchronized seizure but laughing at children is the best part of being an adult. It beats paying bills.
Level of difficulty: Other than the Running Man part, I have no idea what’s going on here. So I’d say it’s pretty difficult.
The song that started it all: Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall, “JuJu on That Beat”
13. Stanky Legg
The dance: Remember in the 00s when grown men wore oversized T-shirts that hung down to their knees? Imagine getting tangled up in those bedsheets and fighting your way out. Boom, hit dance. Thanks, GS Boyz.
Level of difficulty: Easy. Pretend one leg has a mind of its own and you just freestyle up top.
The song that started it all: GS Boyz, “Stanky Legg”
12. The Nae Nae
The dance: Silentó’s song caught fire in 2015 – you know you’ve got something when Ellen is doing the dance on her talk show. That also means it got SUPER OLD SUPER QUICK. But hey, at least it was something to keep your nieces and nephews entertained at the cookouts for a summer or two.
Level of difficulty: Not too bad. It’s like a simpler version of The Quan. Look, if *I* can do it, with my knees sounding like Rice Krispie Treats the entire time, it’s got to be easy.
The song that started it all: Silentó, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”
11. Tootsie Roll
The dance: COTTON CANDY SWEET N LOW LEMME SEE THAT TOOTSIE ROLLLLL
You KNOW you just said that in your head. The 69 Boyz had us tearing up the school dances with this one, which more or less was just a knockoff version of the Butterfly.
Level of difficulty: Move your knees in and out and suddenly that tootsie is rollin’. We kept things simple in the 90s.
The song that started it all: The 69 Boyz, “Toostie Roll”
10. Da Dip
The dance: Listen, this dance is absolutely stupid. Look at that gif – it’s like an ad for back pain medication. But the song is SO INCREDIBLY ADDICTIVE that it disguises how goofy the dance is. Freak Nasty, you are truly a musical genius.
Level of difficulty: Put your hand up on my hip. When I dip, you dip, we dip. What else you need to know?
The song that started it all: Freak Nasty, “Da Dip”
9. Swag Surfin
The dance: Like Da Dip, this is more about Fast Life Yungstaz’s song than the actual dance, which is just a bunch of people rocking back and forth. But there’s something so oddly inspiring about it. You know how we used to lock arms at church when singing “We Shall Overcome?” This is hip-hop’s version of that.
Level of difficulty: The easiest dance in the history of dances. Rock side to side on beat and you’re clean like dish detergent.
The song that started it all: Fast Life Yungstaz, “Swag Surfin'”
8. Teach Me How to Dougie
The dance: My generation knows Doug E. Fresh as the Human Beat Box. But for this current generation, he’s the Dougie guy. As long as the checks keep clearing I’m sure Doug E. doesn’t care. The dance is actually pretty dope too.
Level of difficulty: It’s not as hard as it looks! It’s basically a two-step with unnecessary arm movements. In fact, video exists of me doing this dance paiiiinfully sloooooowly. But if you think I’m sharing it here, you crazy. I’m sure it will resurface during my 2020 presidential campaign when y’all look to derail my White House run. Haters.
The song that started it all: Cali Swag District, “Teach Me How to Dougie”
7. Cupid Shuffle
The dance: If you’ve EVER been to a black function in your life, you know this one. The second the beat drops, GET OUT OF THE WAY because the stampede of aunties in kitten heels might end your life. And there’s always one person who has to get extra cute on the “walk it by yourself” part. Stop overachieving!
Level of difficulty: A piece of cupid cake. Just listen to the instructions. He’s literally telling you how to move! Mess that up and it’s your own fault.
The song that started it all: Cupid, “Cupid Shuffle”
6. Humpty Dance
The dance: The Humpty Dance was THE dance of my childhood but I could never figure it out for myself because I wasn’t sure what they were doing and there were no YouTube instructional videos back then. YEAH I’M OLD. But seriously, look at the dance – it’s like they’re trying not to get blown over by a gust of wind.
Level of difficulty: I’m gonna say SUPREME DIFFICULTY cuz it’s 2019 and I’m still not sure what Humpty n’ dem are doing. The code has not been cracked.
The song that started it all: Digital Underground, “Humpty Dance”
5. Crank Dat
The dance: Ugh, Soulja Boy. The godfather of all the garbage Internet rappers and patient zero for today’s mumble rap menace. He’s even out here selling knockoff Nintendos! His reign of terror started with this dance, which birthed 1,000 clones. Wasn’t there even a Crank Dat Lion King at one point? If Simba and Nala start cranking that in the new movie I’m writing a strongly worded email to Disney Pictures.
Level of difficulty: Can’t front, this dance is a lot harder than it looks and the steps aren’t that intuitive. Props for pulling off all those moves in jeans that baggy.
The song that started it all: Soulja Boy, “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)”
The dance: The tale of “Wobble” is so weird. I remember when VIC dropped the song circa 2008 or so and no one batted an eye. Y’all were too busy listening to Tha Carter III or something. But three or four years later, it suddenly became the premier black wedding line dance song. This “new” dance was older than the ring bearer!
Level of difficulty: Jump back and forth, wave your arms like you’re checking your armpits to see if you need deodorant. Step back and forth, wave your arms like you’re checking your armpits to see if you need deodorant. Easy. Unless you need deodorant.
The song that started it all: VIC, “Wobble”
3. The Percolator
The dance: If you aren’t familiar with the House dance scene, you probably have no idea what this is. What a poor, deprived childhood you had then. You missed out on flailing around like a maniac to the sounds of a bubbling coffee pot. No wonder our knees are so bad today.
Level of difficulty: I swear most of the songs on this list are just versions of the Butterfly. This is no different. But instead of the Butterfly, this is the drunkest, sweatiest moth you’ve ever seen.
The song that started it all: Cajmere, “Coffee Pot (It’s Time For The Percolator)”
2. Cha Cha Slide
The dance: The Ghetto Hokey Pokey!
Put your left foot in, take your left foot out. Put your right foot in, take your right foot out.
CHA CHA REAL SMOOVE
Level of difficulty: Like several of the dances on the list, the song is instructional. If you can’t get this one down, you’re just not paying attention. If you don’t know what to do when he says EVERY BODY CLAP YO HANDS, there is no hope for you.
The song that started it all: Mr. C The Slide Man, “Cha-Cha Slide”
1. Electric Slide
The dance: If you have an ounce of melanin in your pores you know this had to be No. 1. Outdated? Maybe. Needlessly complicated? I think so. Are the lyrics sneakily describing a sex toy? Lord, I hope not.
But is this song a black institution? DEFINITELY.
If your family function doesn’t have at least one round of the Electric Slide, your potato salad is probably loaded with raisins and your mac and cheese came out of a box and not the oven. ABORT.
Level of difficulty: Not gonna lie to y’all, I never figured out how to pull this off correctly. True story – at my wedding, the entire group (from the wedding party to the guests) participated in a mass Electric Slide. More than 100 people sliding in sync – truly a thing of beauty.
Except for me. I was sliding in the opposite direction. Pray for me.
The song that started it all: Marcia Griffiths, “Electric Boogie”
What are your favorite songs that spawned insanely popular dances? Let us know below.