On Friday, March 21, after Mercer’s surprise victory over Duke in the NCAA tournament, Mercer guard Kevin Canevari hopped in front of the cameras, raised one hand and dropped one hip, and waggled with joy. Triumphantly, he was dancing the Nae Nae, a dance which has, since last December, spread from Atlanta to YouTube and Vine, and ultimately into football end zones and schools and living rooms.
2. What is the Nae Nae?
The Nae Nae is an easily modifiable celebratory dance, invented by Atlanta quintet WeAreToonz. The group, which has been together for four years, also made an official song to promote the dance, called “Drop That #NaeNae.”
3. Where did the dance come from?
WeAreToonz invented the Nae Nae in their basement practice space, while preparing for a show. On Oct. 8, 2013, they released a YouTube video instructing people how do the Nae Nae dance. A couple days later, they released an official streaming video for the dance’s partner song, “Drop That #NaeNae.”
4. Why is it called the Nae Nae?
The dance is loosely inspired by Sheneneh Jenkins, the female character played by Martin Lawrence on his ‘90s sitcom, Martin. “It’s really just based on a ratchet girl in the club dancing kind of funny and the best girl to describe it is Sheneneh from Martin,” WeAreToonz member CalLamar explained in January.
5. How did this dance get so popular?
With a hashtag smartly embedded in its title, the song spread as people posted videos of themselves doing the dance on Vine and Instagram. At first, a lot of these homemade videos were soundtracked by “Stoner,” a song by Atlanta rapper Young Thug.
“‘Stoner’ was like the perfect tempo to do it to. Anyone can do the Nae Nae to that song: It’s slow enough, but it’s fast enough. And it’s catchy. I think that’s the reason ‘Stoner’ blew up. On Young Thug’s YouTube you see the comments — ‘Nae Nae got me here,’” WeAreToonz member Levi told BuzzFeed.
By January 2014, “Drop That #NaeNae” took off on its own, having been added to radio station playlists in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. According to WeAreToonz member CalLamar, for the first couple of weeks, the phenomenon was predominantly localized in the South. “As soon as the new year hit, it started spinning on the radio and we started getting Instagrams and Vines from Washington D.C., South Carolina, Memphis,” he told BuzzFeed.
But at this point, a rep for Twitter tells BuzzFeed that the Nae Nae has generated conversations worldwide, in the U.S., France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, U.K., Thailand, Argentina, Mexico, and the Philippines. The song now sits at No. 41 on Billboard’s R&B/ hip-hop digital songs chart; it’s original YouTube video has been played nearly 7 million times.
6. How much did Vine help the Nae Nae spread?
A lot. “Drop That #NaeNae” was released to iTunes in November, and as of March 24, there have been more than 2.8 million mentions of #dropthatnaenae on Twitter, a rep for Twitter told BuzzFeed. According to Twitter’s data, of those 2.8 million Twitter mentions, 1 million included Vine URLs.
“Teens and little kids, their attention span is real quick, and Vine is just six seconds, real quick,” CalLamar explained. “So it’s easier to promote on Vine than with actual YouTube videos, where you have to type the whole name in and watch the whole two- or five-minute video.”
CalLamar says Vine’s core audience is kids, and credits the kids of celebrities and athletes with bringing the Nae Nae to their famous parents: “The celebrities, they have kids too. So the kids be on Vine, watching videos, and they be showing their parents. And next thing you know, the celebrities be doing the dance and putting up videos,” he said.
7. So, is this Soulja Boy for the Vine era?
Yes. The Nae Nae joins a short history of regional rap songs that have seeped into mainstream consciousness on the wings of an easy-to-learn dance move. When people shout “huuuahh” before raising their arm for a Nae Nae, it sounds a lot like when people yelled “yooouuu” before dancing to Soulja Boy’s 2007 song “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” an early YouTube hit. (It’s racked up 152 million views over time.) More recently, Michelle Obama was seen doing the Dougie, a dance that started with Cali Swag District’s 2010 song “Teach Me How to Dougie,” California’s yiking craze helped Sage The Gemini’s “Red Nose” go gold, and Steve Harvey has tried to learn the Dlow shuffle, a dance first popularized in Chicago by Dlow and Lil Kemo.
8. After Vine people, who did the Nae Nae charm?
Pretty much everyone, but especially athletes. It had an early champion in Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, who posted the above Nae Nae video to Instagram on Jan. 12, then collaborated with WeAreToonz for an official Nae Nae promotional video.
Other sports heroes got in on the craze too. Lance Moore and Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints celebrated January touchdowns and runs with the Nae Nae. In February, during NBA All-Star Weekend, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers did an arm windmill that looked like the Nae Nae in the middle of a game, and John Wall of the Washington Wizards danced the Nae Nae after a great dunk, prompting 113,000 tweets, according to the Twitter rep.
9. Musicians love the Nae Nae too.
TLC dropped their Nae Nae to “Stoner” on Jan. 15. At the Oscars, dancers hit the Nae Nae during Pharrell’s performance of “Happy.” And on March 14, J-Lo hit hers in the video for her new single, “I Luh Ya PaPi.”
10. Schools have rebooted the dance and its song:
11. Babies are doing it:
12. Even your dad can’t stop doing it.
13. So how do you do the Nae Nae? First, master “the rock”:
This side-to-side, leg and body bounce is the real foundation of the Nae Nae.