The relative complexity of Pop /Rap Dances over time, with math

The first time I discovered the “JuJu on that Beat” song was while perusing the “Discover” section of my instagram news feed. The particular JuJu video in my feed a few weeks ago was a 46 second clip of two dudes dressed in full clown outfits (this was, notably, before the internet made up that clowns were coming to kill us). As it turns out the video I saw was made by the detroit based dance collective “Fresh The Clowns” which claims that they are the creators of the now famous JuJu on the beat dance and not murderers.

The video took me back to a strange place; my days on the San Francisco Bar Mitzvah party circuit, where almost every Saturday night I went to one of my classmates Bar Mitzvahs, each at a different hotel or community center or something. Even as the themes or the location or the finger food changed, what stayed constant were three things: Slide shows, glowsticks and Soulja Boy. Crank Dat Soulja boy was Bar Mitzvah ubiquitous. It was the perfect Bar Mitzvah dance. It was just simple enough to learn and just complicated enough for even the most uncomfortable pre-teen to feel like he or she was, in fact, dancing, rather than doing their best imitation of a pre-teen dancing.

I wonder what Soulja Boy’s career would have been like if Instagram was what it was today, would his follow up, significantly more forced coordinated Dance/Rap projects like Birdwalk and Get Silly, had more success? Or would the SOulja boy movement gotten swallowed up by the content chasm of Instagram (When’s the last time you Hit the Quan?).

Regardless, these coordinated dance rap songs occupy a special space in the rap world, one that usually ends up between electrifying and cringe worthy, and always end up playing well at Bar Mitzvahs.

So here is my tribute to these coordinated dance rap jams. I picked my favorite 24 songs and developed a Relative Complexity Index (RCI) to rank them all between 0 and 10 based on how complicated the dances were. I took into account number of moves, duration of dance and complexity of move. I’ve then broken them into 3 tiers for further analysis. Enjoy.

Tier 1: “The Humpty’s”

The Humpty’s is named after Digital Underground’s famous 1990 hit “The Humpty Dance.” The Humpty Dance was comically simple. Literally it was just pressing one’s hands against an invisible wall and moving them in semi circles. Every song in the Humpty category scored between a 0 and a 3. These songs generally invited extremely simple dance moves, often simple enough to be confused with inadvertent limb movement or a slight loss of balance. These songs are not to be underestimated though, a well timed “Lean back” can be as exciting to watch as an episode of America’s best dance crew. Shout out Mario Lopez.

Lean Back- Terror Squad: .5

Wop- J. Dash ft Flo Rida: 1

Its Going Down- Yung Joc: 1

Harlem Shake- Baaur: 2

Pop Lock It Drop It- Huey: 2

Lean Like a Cholo- Down AKA Kilo: 2

2 Step- DJ Unk: 2.5

Gangnam Style- Psy: 2.5

Tier 2: “The Macarena”

The Macarena. It’s a classic. These songs scored between 3.5 and 6. They generally have multiple simple moves, or a few, slightly more complicated moves. These dances are easy to do, but hard to do well. In general they are great party songs (or Bar Mitzvah songs) because when they come on, even the walliest of wall flowers can hop on the dance floor and know that, likely, someone will be dancing worse than them. 2006–2009 was the peak of these songs, so my Bar Mitzvah anecdote checks out (I was Bar Mitzvahed on January 5, 2008).

Walk it Out- DJ Unk: 3.5

Nasty Freestyle- T-Wayne: 3.5

You’re a Jerk- New Boyz: 4

Lean Wit It- Dem Franchize boyz: 4

Birdwalk- Soulja Boy: 4.5

Whip/Nae Nae- Silento: 5

Stanky Leg- GS Boys: 5

Tell me When to Go- E-40: 6

Crank Dat- Soulja Boy: 6

Tier 3: The Foxtrot

I don’t actually know if the Foxtrot is a difficult ballroom dance, all I know is that I know I wouldn’t be able to do a good Foxtrot. The same can be said for the dances in this tier. These songs all scored above a 6.5. These songs have wiggles, and dabs, and running in place pantomiming and infinite room for improvisation. In 2016, videos of these dances bounce across instagram accounts and pick up enough steam to turn a B- song with at least twelve seconds of explicit or implicit dance instructions, into an A+ viral hit.

Cat Daddy- The Rej3ctz: 7

My Boo (Running Man)- Ghost Town Dj’s: 7 (Note: My Boo was released in 1996 but the running man dance did not become a viral sensation until 2016. Go figure.)

Teach me How to Dougie- Cali Swag District: 7.5

Thizzle Dance- Mac Dre:8

JuJu on That Beat- Zayion McCall, Zay Hilfigerrr: 9.5

Hit the Quan- iHeartMemphis: 9