Worth noting, I think, how people in Harlem are reacting to the Harlem Shake meme.  It’s an interesting perspective that shed light on the distance from a phenomenon’s point of origin to viral smash.  Specifically, there’s umbrage at what’s lost in translation because, to Harlemites, the appropriation feels like disregard and disrespect.

Of course, that’s because Harlem–and many hip hop fans–remember the style and flair with which the Harlem Shake of the early aughts was done.  What’s surfacing in the meme is a bunch of white kids being spastic.  Note the dancer in this video (G. Dep’s “Let’s Get It” featuring P. Diddy and Black Rob on his 2001 release Child of the Ghetto).  That’s what the Harlem Shake is supposed to look like.

One lesson to take from this: Homage is acceptable.  Appropriation, especially the kind that erases any connection to the cultural specificity that spawned something, not so much.

Posted by Rob Fields