Viral 'Harlem Shake' Videos Get No Love on 125th Street

By Jeff Mays on February 20, 2013 7:37am 

HARLEM — What do Harlem residents think of the viral Harlem Shake videos sweeping the Internet?

According to a video interviewing people on 125th Street near the Apollo Theater, they hate it.

"That's weird," said one woman when shown a video of people dancing to the "Harlem Shake," a song by DJ and producer Baauer that has gone viral. "I know the Harlem Shake, but that's not the Harlem Shake," said another man.

Many of those interviewed by Chris McGuire, a 33-year-old Internet commercial producer from Asbury Park, N.J., said they disliked the videos because it misrepresents the original Harlem Shake, which became popular in the early 2000s after appearing in a video by rapper G-Dep titled "Let's Get It."

Many estimate the dance has been around since the 1980s.

Baauer released "Harlem Shake" in May, but it wasn't until earlier this month that a video of people dancing to the song went viral. The videos start with one person dancing, then cut to others dancing crazily when the beat drops.

Some estimates say that 12,000 videos with a total of 44 million views had been uploaded in the last few weeks.

"Most of them had never seen any of the videos of the new Harlem Shake but they all knew the existing Harlem Shake quite well and they were like, 'What's up with this video?'" said McGuire, whose video has more than 406,000 hits.

McGuire said he decided to make the video after doing some research to create his own Harlem Shake video. Then he discovered the original Harlem Shake.

"It looked like another thing being appropriated from the existing culture and being stripped of anything that has to do with its original meaning," he said. "But I'm not an expert and I don't have any authority, so I thought: What's better than going to the people of Harlem?"

That's when he grabbed his camera and headed to 125th Street.

"They are basically taking our dances... and making a joke out of it," said one man.

 Many of those interviewed on 125th Street by Chris McGuire, a 33-year-old internet commercial producer from Asbury Park, N.J., said they disliked the videos because it misrepresents the original Harlem Shake.
Many of those interviewed on 125th Street by Chris McGuire, a 33-year-old internet commercial producer from Asbury Park, N.J., said they disliked the videos because it misrepresents the original Harlem Shake.
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Chris McGuire

"They are dry-humping air," said another woman.

And still another woman said the new Harlem Shake videos looked like "zombies going crazy."

McGuire says he realizes that the several people who agreed to talk to him don't represent all of Harlem. But others not interviewed by McGuire have similarly strong opinions.

On Twitter, for example, @Elbarriotours wrote: "Even the Harlem Shake is being gentrified," before linking to a video of the original dance.

McGuire even got a few participants to launch into the shoulder-shimmying, back-bending original Harlem Shake.

"There's a diverse set of characters, they have strong opinions and I appreciated the humor," said McGuire, adding that he didn't think there was any malicious intent behind the new Harlem Shake videos.

Some of those interviewed didn't feel the same way.

"They disrespecting Harlem swag because number one, Harlem wouldn't be dressing like this," said one man.

Now McGuire thinks the world has had enough of the Harlem Shake videos — even his.

"It's getting played out," he acknowledged.

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