Terio excluded, 2013 year wasn’t exactly a resurgent year for rap dance crazes in the vein of “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” or “Walk it Out” or “You’re a Jerk.” But it was a year in which rap fans (including Miley Cyrus) filming themselves dancing to rap music helped push local hits like J. Dash‘s “Wop,” Sage the Gemini‘s “Gas Pedal” and Finnaticz “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun” up the Billboard charts.
But maybe 2014 is the year that a singular dance and newer social media outlets like Instagram and Vine finally converge to bring one song into the national consciousness. That legacy was arguably created by Soulja Boy, who’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” rode YouTube videos to immortality when the site was still considered the Wild West. But as a recent Billboard article highlights, the chart service is starting to take notice of the Nae Nae, a new dance developed by a group of teenagers from Atlanta called We Are Toonz. Says member CalLamar of the dance, “It’s really just based on a ratchet girl in the club dancing kind of funny.” And that dance is beginning to bubble up over the top of places like Twitter and Vine.
The dance gets its namesake from Martin Lawrence‘s demonstrative Martin character Shenehneh—who CalLamar cited as “the best girl to describe” what to emulate to do the Nae Nae. Per Billboard, the hashtag #NaeNae has been mentioned on Twitter 1.1 million times in the last 90 days alone. Perhaps the most visible sign of the Nae Nae’s relevance has come on the football field, where it’s been co-opted as a celebration by the Michigan State Spartans and Lance Moore of the New Orleans Saints.
The video for We Are Toonz’s official single “Drop That #NaeNae” hit YouTube on December 5 and has already crossed the 1 million view mark, while an earlier promo video has over 500,000 views. According to Billboard, “Drop That #NaeNae” reached 1.7 million radio listeners during the week of 1/20-1/26, an 80% rise from the previous week. And as writer David Turner pointed out yesterday, other tracks like TheyCallMeN8‘s “Nae Nae (Hold Up, Sho Nuff)” have sprouted up as well.
Popular rap dances have never gone away, of course. Terio’s dance dominated the NFL this season, and player are still doing the cooking dance in the end zone. Bop has taken over drill as the soundtrack of Chicago. But not since “Teach Me How to Dougie” in 2010 has a single underground rap song mingled with pop music simply because of a dance. The Nae Nae—in which teenage boys, who were only toddlers when Martin went off the air, imitate a drag character—seems poised to change that.