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Talkin' Trap: producer Baauer and the origins of the ‘Harlem Shake’

You heard of the ‘Harlem Shake’ meme yet? No? In case you haven't, it is a video clip of some guys wearing costumes dancing to a trap song called ‘Harlem Shake’ in a bedroom, originating in February of this year.

Like any good question, this raises further questions. Why would nearly 40 million people would watch this on YouTube? What is trap? What is ‘Harlem Shake’ and who is it by?

Trap is a new buzz genre, filling the void now that dubstep has lost popularity. It's known for its heavy sub-bass, crisp snares, and use of samples or rap, which typically glorify slum life and hedonistic lifestyle.

But, trap is nothing new. It's a decade old, at least. It takes its influence from Southern (USA) rap and crunk, with such rappers like Three 6 Mafia delivering drawling raps about life hustling in the “traps”, which is slang referring to their dangerous ghetto environment.

In 2003, trap as a style of crunk became an item, with rappers T.I and Young Jeezy getting platinum for record sales. Trap then continued with specialists like Waka Flocka Flame releasing free mixtapes and releasing music underground.

In 2010, Waka Flocka released his debut album Flockaveli, which debuted at number six on the Billboard charts and received much positive criticism. This led the way for other producers and rappers to follow up on this success, and trap continued gaining popularity with electronic music fans on the internet.

This popularity in turn influenced other electronic producers outside of the original trap movement to start dabbling in the form. Notable producers influenced include Diplo, Flostradamus, and the ‘Harlem Shake’ producer, Baauer.

Baauer released 'Harlem Shake' in June 2012, which sampled hip-hop group Plastic Littles 2001 song 'Miller Time'. ‘Harlem Shake’ then referred to a now-dated dance during that time. The song then went on to be featured in the viral video, which has been parodied over 3000 times and resulted in the song reaching number one in the UK, US and Australia.

Plastic Little member Jayson Musson found the 'Harlem Shake' reference “peculiar” because Harlem Shake is rather dated as far as contemporary trends are concerned, and local Melbourne producer Aoi recently quoted it was “...another case of white music industry taking a roots-based music form and mangling it beyond repair.”

Aoi would have been referring to how styles hip-hop, dubstep and trap have been transformed into more accessible forms for a general audience over the years. It could be argued that this transformation has been at the expense of the original forms authenticity, in exchange for worldwide popularity and financial well-being.

Baauer's authenticity and talent as a producer/DJ can be accessed by Melbourne when he performs for the first time in our city at nightclub Rats on May 4. Tickets can be purchased for $34.70 at tickets.oztic.com.au, and are expected to sell out.

We’d advise punters to not request to Baauer to play ‘Harlem Shake’, and furthermore assume he's a legitimate enough producer to be sick to death of this question, and may take pride representing modern trap better then a 30-second clip could. Judge for yourself.

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By Kristian Hatton   |  

Baauer details

Colonial Hotel
585 Lonsdale St, Melbourne 3000

Telephone 03 9670 8599

Nearby Stations: Flagstaff

Price $34.70

Date Sat 04 May 2013

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