Seems like everywhere you turn these days, somebody is twerking. The term has been around for darn near 20 years, but thanks to some recent high profile stories regarding the still scandalous form of booty-shaking, twerking has officially entered the zeitgeist. Miley Cyrus is twerking, Nicki Minaj is twerking, tens of thousands of people on Vine are twerking — heck, your grandma might even be twerking!
So, what is twerking and where did it come from? Well, we compiled the following 20-part History Of Twerking to answer that very question. Before we get into it, a quick warning: While there’s no nudity in the following story, depending on where you work, you might want to make sure your boss isn’t creepin’ over your shoulder while you check this out. Now that we’ve got the warning out of the way…
A COMPLETE HISTORY OF TWERKING (1993-2013)
1. DJ JUBILEE STARTS THE TWERKING CRAZE WITH “DO THE JUBILEE ALL”
Although no one is entirely certain who invented the term “twerking,” we do know this: The term eminated from the New Orleans bounce scene, and DJ Jubilee is the first person to command his audience to “twerk” on a popular record. “Shake baby, shake baby, shake shake shake baby, shake shake shake / Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk twerk twerk baby, twerk twerk twerk,” he rapped on this popular track. And, well, the rest is…
2. CHEEKY BLAKK DROPS “TWERK SOMETHING”
DJ Jubilee might have been the first bounce artist to utter the word “twerk” on wax, but New Orleans bounce legend Cheeky Blakk was the first to put the word into the title of a song. (Warning: The song above contains some strong language.)
[Photo: Getty Images]
3. THE YING YANG TWINS PUT A DECIDEDLY DIRTY TWIST ON SNOW WHITE
Poor Snow White! When she first sang “Whistle while you work,” she just wanted the little creatures of the forest to help her tidy up before the Seven Dwarves got home. Well, there are five less people in the Ying Yang Twins than in Snow White’s posse, but two people was all it took to radically alter the meaning of the song by changing it to “Whistle While You Twurk.” (Side Note: You’ll see multiple spelling variations of “twerk” throughout this post, but rest assured, they all mean the same thing.)
4. MASTER P IS DONE MAKING ’EM SAY “UHHHHH,” SO HE DECIDES IT’S TIME TO TWERK
Master P’s reign with his No Limit family was nearing the end of its run when he dropped his Ghetto Postage album in 2000. At the time, he was definitely the most popular recording artist to add “twerk” to his lexicon, but this album is most memorable because it reminds us of a time when postage only costed 33 cents!
5. BUBBA SPARXXX: THE FIRST WHITE GUY TO SAY “TWERK”?
After Eminem burst on the scene in ’98, the race was on to find the Next White Rapper. After a few years of failed attempts at replicating his success, the Timbaland protégé Bubba Sparxxx made a major dent on the charts with his 2002 LP Dark Days, Bright Nights. Tim and Bubba teamed up on the deep cut “Twerk A Little,” which was never released as a single, but featured one of the more underrated beats of Timbaland’s storied career.
6. FROM THE WINDOWS TO THE WALLS, LIL JON GETS BOOTIES POPPING EVERYWHERE WITH “GET LOW”
WHEN: February 2003
Twerking may have originated in New Orleans, but by 2003, it had expanded to the West (Houston) and the East (Atlanta) one strip club at a time. Lil Jon repped the ATL, and for this 2003 superduper smash hit —it reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains one of the most popular songs of the 2000s— he recruited twerking pioneeers the Yin Yang Twins for this glorious ode to the ladies who work the pole. At the time, it received more negative attention for introducing the word “skeet” to the ears of white suburban teenagers than for its inclusion of the word twerking, but at the time, it was the highest charting song that mentioned the popular dance craze. And it maybe, just maybe, might have been twerking’s first appearance on TRL!
7. DESTINY’S CHILD NEARLY LAUNCHES TWERKING CRAZE INTO OVERDRIVE, BUT CHANGES THEIR MIND
When Destiny’s Child went into the studio to record their fourth and final LP, Destiny Fulfilled, they cut a track with (then) superproducer Scott Storch called “Twirk.” The song didn’t ultimately make the final LP, but it did surface years later—as these things tend to do— and you know what? The track is pretty hot, especially Bey’s seductive lead verse where H-Town’s prodigal daughter implores her man to “Watch me twirk, daddy!”
Even though this song didn’t surface until 2010ish, King Bey wouldn’t wait that long to work that word into her repertoire…
[Photo: Getty Images]
8. “GOOD GIRLS GOTTA GET DOWN WITH THEIR GANGSTAS”
WHEN: December 2005
Who woulda thunk that the Pink Panther would be responsible for getting Beyoncé to twerk? Teaming up with Slim Thug and Bun B, King Bey brought twerking to the mainstream with her song, “Check On It.” The track features one of Swizz Beatz’ finest turns behind the boards, and was originally supposed to appear on the soundtrack of the 2006 film that Bey starred in alongside Steve Martin, but for reasons that remain unclear to this day, didn’t make the final album. Still, Beyonce’s command to “Dip it, pop it, twerk it, stop it, check on me tonight” turned the then-Southern dance craze into something that girls were doing coast-to-coast.
9. PUTTING THE “BACK” IN SEXYBACK
WHEN: July 2006
Never let it be said that Timbaland is anything other than a twerking proponent! Earlier, we featured a bit on his 2001 collaboration with Bubba Sparxxx on “Twerk A Little,” and on Justin Timberlake’s (still!) ubiquitous smash “Sexyback,” Mr. Mosley commands Ladies Everywhere to “Let me see what you’re twerkin’ with.” GO AHEAD BE GONE WITH IT! (Also, for what it’s worth, “Sexyback” was the first song that mentioned “twerking” to top Billboard’s Hot 100 charts.)
[Photo: Getty Images]
10. THERE’S NO “I” IN “TWERK TEAM”
WHEN: June 2009
On June 5, 2009, a then-anonymous collective called the Twerk Team —credited as “Betty Butt,Lady L,Mizz.twerksum,&LiN”— posted their first video to YouTube. Although the camera work is even shakier than The Blair Witch Project, this kicked off one of the most successful YouTube channels there is. As of this writing in August of 2013, Mizz Twerk.Sum and Lady Luscious (the two primary members of the Twerk Team) have racked up over 376,000 subscribers and 90MM views on their YouTube channel and earned legendary status in hip-hop circles.
11. THE MOST POPULAR TWERKING VIDEO IN YOUTUBE HISTORY
WHEN: March 2011
If you search YouTube for “twerking,” the number one result is this video for a song called “Booty Me Down” by Kstylis. Somewhat ironically, it doesn’t feature a single girl —or boy!— twerking. Still, that didn’t stop this video from racking up over 16.3MM views since it was first posted, (presumably) making YouTube user Dellbear816 a rich man.
12. TWERKING BECOMES A HEALTH CRAZE! (SORTA)
WHEN: April 2012
In the era of 5 Minute Abs, rare is the dance craze —no matter how sexual—that doesn’t get turned into an exercise. It happened with poledancing, and it happened with Twerking, too. This 2012 magazine article “Could Twerking Possibly Be A New Way To Stay Fit?” profiled the Twerk Team, invoked Zumba, and contains the quote “For what I see this can be very good cardio, and the fact that you work your legs, hips, and waist can help in the toning of muscles in this area too.” We’re not sure if we’re buying it, but more power to whomever twerks to burn calories!
13. FRENCH MONTANA POPS THAT
WHEN: June 2012
French might be a bit of a marblemouth when it comes to the way he spits rhymes, but there’s no confusing matters when he says the word “Twerk.” In fact, he says it so many times in this 2012 Song Of The Summer candidate that we lost count.
14. BANDZ A MAKE HER DANCE (AND TWERK)
WHEN: September 2012
Those cheeks are clappin’, and they ain’t using hands. Oscar winner Juicy J (don’t you just love saying that?) of Three Six Mafia (and Famous Food alum) scored the stripper anthem of the new millenium with “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” an ode to our nation’s pole dancing twerk enthusiasts.
WHEN: December 2012
The Howcast is a very popular YouTube channel with 1.1 million subscribers and nearly a billion views, thanks largely to its ability to teach people how to do everything from bathing while camping to making a neopolitan thin crust pizza. Well, in December of 2012, the site enlisted the help of a ditzy choreographer named TweetBoogie to teach people how to twerk. Not surprisingly, we suppose, over 10 million people have watched the 3 minute and 38 second video so far. Take that, public school system!
16. INTERVENTION: TWERKING
WHEN: May 2013
The second season of VH1’s Stevie TV just wrapped up, and far and away the most successful clip of the show was this parody of the (dearly departed) program Intervention. In it, Stevie gets addicted to twerking after taking some hip-hop dance classes and, um, you’ll just have to watch the clip above to see where it goes from there.
17. BANDZ A MAKE MILEY CYRUS DANCE
WHEN: June 9, 2013
This moment is pretty much the Big Bang moment for twerking, at least as it relates to mainstream media coverage of the phenomenon. It all started harmlessly enough, as none other than Miss Hannah Montana herself, Miley Cyrus, decided to attend a Juicy J concert. Perhaps a bit tipsy, or perhaps just driven to make that booty clap by Juicy J’s infectious twerking anthem “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” Milers stopped, dropped and popped that booty on stage, enlisting an innocent Marshall Stack to help her balance. Some enterprising person backstage just happened to be shooting video of the incident and, well, the rest is viral video history.
18. BUSTA RHYMES TAKES TWERKING TO THE DANCEHALL
WHEN: June 2013
Busta turned dutty for his latest track, “Twerk It.” The video, co-directed by Busta and Director X, is a paean to slo-mo twerking, and features more jiggling than a Jell-O commercial. The chorus is simple, yet effective: “Twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it, twerk it.” Oh, and what would a twerking video in 2013 be without Nicki Minaj? Luckily, we are not forced to answer that question.
19. WE CAN’T STOP MILEY FROM TWERKING
WHEN: June 2013
As if the furor from Miley’s adventure with Juicy J wasn’t enough, ole Milers turned it up a notch or twelve with her video for “We Can’t Stop.” Somehow, the explicit references to both ecstasy and cocaine seemed to draw less attention than the sight of Miley shaking what little her momma gave her in a pair of skintight, white spandex pants. Guess she’s really bout that life, huh?
20. SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA…
WHEN: July 2013
The midpoint of Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail is a track called “Somewhereinamerica,” a song that doesn’t have much substance but does have one of the most memorable one-liners of the year: “Feds still lurkin’, I’m still puttin’ work in / Somewhereinamerica, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’.” Miley didn’t seem too fazed by the hypercritical slam, which uses humor to code its subtext: Namely, that White America is constantly misappropriating elements of black culture in a way that is both corny and bordering on disrepect.
Well, considering we’ve come to the end of this piece, it only makes sense that we leave you with this…