Thursday, September 3, 2015

Former Philadelphian is the voice behind the "Harlem Shake"

Jayson Musson is why people are Harlem Shaking.

Former Philadelphian is the voice behind the "Harlem Shake"

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Call it the intonation that set off a million memes.

Artist Jayson Musson, a UArts and Penn grad who spent a large chunk of his career in Philly before recently moving to Brooklyn, is sampled prominently in viral hit "Harlem Shake." How prominently? He's the guy who actually says Harlem Shake.

"Harlem Shake," from NYC-based producer Baauer, is viral hit, reaching number one on iTunes. YouTube reported that 4,000 "Harlem Shake" videos are uploaded daily. The videos, generally about 30 seconds in length, feature people dancing awkwardly to the Baauer song and than launching into the Harlem Shake when Musson's voice comes in, bellowing the name of the song.

Musson's voice is sampled from "Miller Time" (the sample Baauer take is at 3:54), a 2001 song by his hip hop outfit Plastic Little. Musson talked to Fader about the origin of the Harlem Shake line. The full line is "And if you bring a 40 bottle to battle me/ I’ll just punch you in the face/ then do the Harlem Shake," stemming from a fight Musson got himself in to while living in Philly that ended with him doing the Harlem Shake at his opponent. Musson told Fader, who gives an excellent history of the meme, that he just found out he was the Harlem Shake voice. Baauer didn't ask permission, but Musson's cool with it.

I recently profiled Musson, who came to art world prominence making YouTube videos as Hennessy Youngman, and has been blowing up the New York art scene with his Coogi sweater collages.

Inquirer Staff Writer
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Molly Eichel Inquirer Staff Writer
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