“And if you bring a forty bottle to battle me/ I’ll just punch you in the face/then do the Harlem Shake.”
That’s artist (and curator) Jayson Musson rapping, you guys. He’s also “Hennessy Youngman,” the internet’s best art critic whose acclaimed series Art Thoughtz is one of the best things that ever happened to the internet. And art. And art on the internet. Here’s his famous take-down of Damien Hirst, ohhhhhhhh….
But before this, Jayson was a Philly art student. Fader reports that the Harlem Shake meme that you’re all still doing — from Times Square to porn sets — is based on Brooklyn’s Baauer-produced track… which samples Philadelphia party rap crew Plastic Little, specifically Jayson’s line. The backstory is amazing and actually, very violent:
The lyric came about as a result of getting into a fist fight over graffiti back in 2001, the same year that “Miller Time” was made. A friend of mine told me this kid was crossing me out, so logically I began crossing him out. Then one night after a [Plastic Little] show, I heard that the writer I had issue with was waiting to see me outside the venue. So I head outside with Kurt [Hunte], who is also in Plastic Little, to I guess talk with this guy. As I walk outside, I hear someone call me by my graffiti name so I turn to see who it is, only to be greeted by a 40 bottle to the face. Despite sneaking his opponent with a bottle, this kid got his ass beat (he was really bad at fighting). After several minutes, I got pretty bored with throwing punches so I grabbed him by his collar and tried to put his head through the passenger side window of a parked car. It didn’t go through luckily, but it created a lull in the fight where the two of us just stared at each other covered in blood. This was my first fight and I didn’t know how to properly “end” a fight, so I just smiled at him and did the Harlem shake, blood gushing from glass cuts on my face. The other kid, I guess not wanting to fight anymore, or maybe not wanting to fight someone who just danced at him, got on his skateboard and took off without his shoes. That’s why “Miller Time” ends with the line, And if you bring a forty bottle to battle me/ I’ll just punch you in the face/then do the Harlem Shake.
The “Harlem Shake” sample is at 3:54.