11 Wild Reasons Why #RealNiggaHours Is The Greatest Meme Of All Time.
A couple weeks ago my buddy Peter Berkman, of the band Anamanaguchi, introduced me to a meme involving extremely poorly compressed/filtered pop culture type images with text applied asking/demanding, “WHO UP? HIT LIKE”
When Pete first showed me the meme I had no idea what it was called, so it was difficult to track down. I tried searching the hashtag #whouphitlike, which yielded very little. Eventually my business partner at OKFocus, Jules LaPlace, figured out it was being posted as “Real Nigga Hours,” discovered through this YouTube video posted on September 12th by Vsouce5,
This video samples a track put up on March 14th by KiddFinesse.
For the past couple weeks, I have become completely obsessed with this meme. It is important to note that when I become interested in a subject, its often extreme and obsessive — I find myself initially transfixed by things out of a primal impulse. The obsession grows and is then sustained through the desire to understand, articulate and make sense of this initial impulse — a vicious cycle which either ends in frustration or in harmonious peace. In an attempt to find serenity I have decided to try to articulate my obsession and write an analysis of the #RealNiggaHours meme in listicle form — a form apropos to modern literary trends online — one I wish was explored more by today’s great media theorists and philosophers.
Before we go full listicle on this shit, I want to provide you with a short description of the #RealNiggaHours meme, so we’re on the same page as to the thing we’re discussing. #RealNiggaHours is a meme which I believe to be in its infancy, as it doesn't yet have a KnowYourMeme page or can be tracked via Google Trends. The meme involves pantomiming/replicating a “shitpic,” a term outlined in a great essay by Brian Feldman, defined as the following –
“Shitpics happen when an image is put through some diabolical combination of uploading, screencapping, filtering, cropping, and reuploading. They are particularly popular on Instagram.”
Text demanding that if the reader is awake, they must “like” the post, is incorporated to the image with generated digital artifact.
As I see it, the static, core elements of this meme are the “shitpic” replication featuring recognizable pop culture imagery/ideas paired with text demanding the viewer “like” the post if they are awake during the time the image is posted.. Besides those elements, the meme is very open to reinterpretation. From what I can tell through research, the following is the first example of the meme, appearing early 2014 —
Without further adieu — here’s my listicle proving why #RealNiggaHours is the greatest meme of all time —
1. #RealNiggaHours is the quintessence of memes.
I’ll begin with the most important bullet — #RealNiggaHours cuts like a katana through the hot butter that represents the very genealogical makeup of what it is to be an internet meme. #RealNiggaHours is a meme thats intended to be posted only during late night, between 1am and 5am, which are the “real nigga hours.” Most fundamental, is that the joke is rooted in the ultimate shared experience, time. There is no unifier more essential than life itself.
Modern day memes are predicated on the fact that we are both alive on the internet at the same time. Often featuring relatable text reaffirming a simple/universal shared experience coupled with a funny image, like the following example —
Once shared experience is established and coupled with a funny/stupid image, the next fundamental qualifiers of memes found on social media is the metric by which they are judged, “likes.” Asking someone to “like” a post because they are also awake at a certain hour is beyond fundamental — it’s the deduction of everything we’ve been doing online since the inception of the social feed — rhetorically it’s like this — “hi person on the internet, here’s some media, I am putting out in the world, to tell you that I am alive right now at this moment, please engage with it so I can know you are also alive in the same time as me. Through this interaction we will connect through a symbiotic relationship. I will feel better about myself and you will be given the joy of knowing that your interactions reaffirm life itself.”
#RealNiggaHours is hyperaware of this, it is a meta meme, addressing the current state of memes through the satire of their own deduced message — we are in the same moment online.
2. It’s ambiguously offensive.
The anarchy of the internet has always been a fundamental aspect to me. Behind the shock value of offensive content is a deeper purpose of inspiring the imagination and pushing the boundaries. By the age of 13 I was checking out rotten.com and setting Goatse as the desktop backgrounds of my middle school computers through a trojan horse/admin tool called Sub7.
Goatse, along with Hamster Dance, were the first memes I saw. Goatse was the more interesting of the two. Yes, it’s gross, also “provocative,” a word I associate positive connotations to. It’s an image that provokes curiosity. Many questions arise, why was it created? Who is the person in the image? What are the ethical implications of such a thing? Such questions challenge the core values of society, in a good way. This process is similar to how the American justice system challenges the establishment in the pursuit of freedom and equality, otherwise known as “checks and balances.” We must constantly provoke in order to reaffirm and establish the social freedoms set forth by our great nation. We must challenge societies conception of the grotesque as a means to neutralize it. There was once a time when Elvis shook his hips and everyone freaked out, today nobody would flinch at such an act. Personally, I see this as progress, as it allows for more social freedom and more importantly equalizes an act/sound which once stratified people creating hate. Even though Fats Domino should have been recognized more as “The King” of Rock and Roll, American society was too racist for that to happen, Elvis helped paved the way for the expression of freedom for everyone.
#RealNiggaHours can be interpreted as offensive, especially when its purveyors are white. It can be interpreted as making fun of meme formats that are prevalent within the black community. But I don’t see it as such. I see it as appreciation. I see it as illuminating truths about shared internet experience, and not a thing about race. I see it as something that has the potential to create dialog and bring people together in deep ways through humor.
I believe all good memes on the internet, and art for that matter, have a tinge of potential offense. The reason I see this as a prerequisite of a meme is because the internet is really the only place where such things can be shared, similarly, art is the only form reserved for such freedom. Publishing media on the internet has been, and hopefully will remain, a place corporations and governments can’t control. This is the people’s place and the more challenging we make it for the powers that be, the more power we have. Whether or not you believe white people should be able to use the word “nigga” online can only be addressed when provoked, so take to the comment section of this post and bicker it out. I have been hashtagging my posts on Instagram with #whouphitlike in addition to #RealNiggaHours because I think it’s a less polarizing title for the meme.
3. It’s abstract.
When i make my own versions of the meme, such as the above, I have devised a process by which I can replicate the digital artifacts that are achieved through sharing and filtering an image over and over again. The quality at which this is replicated, is one of the criteria by which the image is judged . For instance, the following image I find very effective —
This image authentically appears as if to be been screencapped, filtered and reinterpreted hundreds of times over — pantomiming a common image macro form on Instagram. The abstract nature of this meme is unique, as most memes are rooted in a shared linguistic language, as opposed to a visual one. Abstraction appears on this listicle as a key aspect of what makes #RealNiggaHours cool because its more creative than other meme qualifiers. It shares qualifiers similar to that of modern/abstract art, allowing for a similar type of freedom and multifaceted engagement to be accomplished between the image and viewer. Modern abstraction also provides a critical lens by which to view society which realism cant always achieve. Heres a 1911 futurist painting by Umberto Boccioni which attempts to show the many dimensions of industrialist modernity–
4. It has historical precedent.
5. It can be infinitely iterated upon, its multilayered.
The Doge meme for instance is static af — a photo of a shiba inu with some “wow amaze many like” text on top. #RealNiggaHours is far more abstract, therefore far more adaptable.
6. Its poetic.
“Who up, Hit Like” — if you are like me, you LOVE the Tao Te Ching. This shit is as good as anything written in that.
7. Like all great art, it’s a reflection of present day.
As impressionism was reactionary to photography — it reflected the societal and technological shifts of its time. Modern forms proceeding iterated upon impressionism, pushing forth the potential of painting, abstraction and conceptual art to articulate beyond realism. Similarly, #RealNiggaHours reflects meme forms of the past — satirizing both meme formats (text memes, adding pop-culture imagery, watermarking) as well as the degraded image quality, “shitpic,” achieved through the process of screencapping, filtering and reuploading the same image over and over again. As a parodied version of the present, it is all about reflection and representation, similar to pop art, taking news stories and exploiting their raw print medium for aesthetic purposes — like this Warhol image of Jackie Kennedy — a screen print taken from enlarged newsprint.
8. It’s coded in its own language, and within the language of the internet.
Coded in shitloads of internet references, its really FUBU. Its not a meme people who aren’t HEAVY internet users will understand. This is how true culture is carved out, through coded language. Like wearing an obscure band t-shirt, its for others within the culture to recognize and for the rest of the world to ignore/not understand.
9. It’s stupid.
10. It represents pure freedom.
Do what you want, be free make #RealNiggaHours yours.
11. It will never catch on and be “ruined” like lol cats, doge or deal with it, its the internets’.
This meme is wayyyyy to abstract and edgy for normies to get. #RealNiggaHours is truly for real ones only, you WILL NOT FIND this meme in Urban Outfitters campaigns.
I’ll conclude with a screenshot of the about section taken from the subreddit namespace for the meme that a user is squatting on –