… & somewhur in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’
On his latest hit CD, Magna Carter Holy Grail, artist Jay Z name drops and speaks on what some would see as socially taboo content like “Don’t be good my nigga, be great. After the government cheese, we eating steak… America tried to emasculate the greats. Murdered Malcolm, gave Cassius the shakes,” in FUTW, or “They tried to slander your man on CNN and Fox. My Miranda’s don’t stand a chance with cops,” in Picasso. Of the many tunes and punch lines throughout the CD, the one that stood out to me the most was on the track, “Somewhereinamerica.” As the song comes to an end, and the chorus fades with it, you can hear Jay Z say “… and somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’. Twerk Miley Miley, Twerk Miley Miley,” and as I listened to this tune I thought to myself, how did Miley Cyrus become the face of twerking and create this phenomenon around the culture that began long before Miley Cyrus was even thought about in the entertainment spotlight, and how has she allowed opened the doors for yet another segment of Black culture to become infiltrated by White society?
Firstly, there is no real definition of twerking. Even typing it on a computer, it gets that red squiggly line because it is not a recognized word or term. The Oxford Online Dictionary tries to define twerking as, “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance” and the example they use to describe the words use in a sentence is, “just wait till they catch their daughters’ twerking to this song.” Not really the most positive example, which makes the uninformed reader automatically acknowledge its negative connotation.
Twerking is not a new concept or dance style that just began with Miley Cyrus. Twerking became a thing that started in New Orleans as Southern rap bore the sound of “bounce” music, a call and response type of music that came 20 years pre-Miley. The first actual reference to the word ‘twerk’ and the dance dates back to 1993 by DJ Jubilee, a New Orleans born and raised DJ in his song entitled “Do the Jubilee All” where he says to the crowd, “twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk twerk twerk.” Although that may be a reference that you may/may not be familiar with, one that will strike your memory of the genre and twerking is the infamous song “Back That Azz Up” performed by Juvenile. As a kid I remember watching the video and emulating the women that I saw dancing and wanting to be like them. Understandably now that I am older I understand how problematic that was then to be a kid and trying to learn to “back that ass up,” but in the moment I could not understand why this song was so taboo. This song along with so many to follow like “Whistle While You Twerk” by the Ying Yang Twins, Too Short “Shake that Monkey, and Kstylis “Twerk Something,” were (and are still) being ripped to shreds by people everywhere talking about how demeaning the style was/is to Black women and how nasty they looked dancing so suggestively. Twerking has been around for years and has always been looked at as an oversexualized style of dance that does not get Black women respect out here in the world. To see the stigma placed on twerking all these years ago when it first became world wide in Black communities everywhere, come crashing down singlehandedly by Miley Cyrus is disturbing and I feel as if all Black women should be disturbed. For so many years it was unacceptable until the culture was infiltrated and put on a larger platform and displayed worldwide, now White girls and women are producing twerk videos all over Youtube. Since Miley Cyrus has introduced the world to twerking it has been added to the Oxford dictionary and it has become what it is today, mainstream culture. Do you see the problem? Why has Miley Cyrus become the face of a culture that began long before her as if she were the creator, and why is it acceptable for White girls and women now, when Black women were looked down upon for it for so long? Check out the links below used in conjunction with this post.