The Internet again blew up with mentions of Moore this weekend, but it wasn’t because the Berkeley, Calif., native and father of nine created the next viral meme.
Several news outlets reported that Moore had died Sunday at age 31. In a Facebook post, Moore’s mother, Valerie Cooper, confirmed his death, writing, “My only child….My faith will not falter!!!! Lord be my peace.”
According to People, Moore died suddenly in his sleep Sunday morning and a cause of death hasn’t been determined. Cooper told People an autopsy has not yet been done. The Washington Post couldn’t reach Cooper for comment.
“Busco lived, and the world knows he lived,” Cooper said. “He left something for everybody. His Instagram, pictures, and stories and skits and raps, all of that is there forever. He left something for all of us, and I’m proud.”
It all began three years ago when Moore uploaded a shaky cellphone camera video to his Instagram page in June 2015.
The short clip is focused on a slightly disgruntled-looking police officer as a woman appears to be getting arrested in the background. The officer is in the middle of talking when Moore, who is behind the camera, interrupts him.
“Officer, I got one question for you,” Moore said. The video then suddenly tilts skyward before dramatically zooming in on the police officer’s clunky black boots.
“What are thooooose?” Moore bellowed, referencing the officer’s choice of utilitarian footwear. “What are those?”
On Instagram, Moore’s video amassed thousands of likes, but it really took off when another person uploaded the clip to Vine, a now-defunct video-hosting platform, less than a week after it was first shared. As of early Wednesday, the six-second Vine, captioned “Not even the Police are safe,” has been played close to 38 million times.
As is the case with most viral memes, countless parodies and remixes of Moore’s video were instantly created and widely shared alongside the original. The mocking question became so commonly hurled at unsuspecting footwear offenders that one BuzzFeed article noted, “It almost makes you want to go out without shoes.”
In a June 2015 interview with Complex, just weeks after “What are those?” took over the Internet, Moore said he originally didn’t even plan on sharing the video.
“I did not expect for that video to be that big,” he said. “I have tons of funny videos on my page that I think are way funnier than that one, but I guess the fact that I did that to a police officer made it epic.”
Moore’s Instagram page boasts more than 50,000 followers and features videos of the comedian cracking jokes, his family and, of course, memes.
Moore told Complex that he had been invoking the now-famous words since he was a child, using the phrase to talk about his friends' shoes.
“I’ve been doing ‘what are those?’ forever,” he said.
Saying it to the police officer was “a spur-of-the-moment-type thing,” Moore said. He added, “To be honest, I thought he was going to slap me with his nightstick."
But less than a month later, it appeared that Moore wasn’t entirely happy with the wild success of his video.
In a July 2015 tweet, Moore wrote, “It’s official, I’m ready to let #whatarethose burn in hell, it’s old now.”
He continued: “Bout to come up with some new s--- and let yall wear that out.”
Unfortunately for Moore, “What are those?” swiftly became a staple of Internet culture. It was even featured in Marvel’s 2018 record-breaking hit film “Black Panther.” Largely considered one of the movie’s funniest moments, Chadwick Boseman’s character T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) dares to wear a pair of black sandals that earns him an instant “What are thoooose?” rebuke from his younger sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright.
Though the “Black Panther” bit brought joy to many, Moore wasn’t one of them.
“When I saw [the scene], my girl was trying to record it,” he told HuffPost in an expletive-laden interview in March. “I slapped the phone out of her hand, because I was like, ‘I don’t want to … be a part of this.’ ”
Every time he saw the meme, he got “depressed,” he said. The source of Moore’s negative feelings toward what should be one of his proudest moments? A lack of recognition.
“I didn’t handle my business when I was supposed to, when it first took off,” Moore said. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to do when everybody getting paid off this s---, and I’m not.”
Aside from “Black Panther,” “What are those?” was used by Burger King on Twitter and referenced in an episode of “Family Guy.”
Beyond Moore not fully understanding the business of viral fame, Vice reported in 2015 that he was also arrested on a narcotics charge and a probation violation and sent to jail two weeks after posting the video, affecting his ability to capitalize on its success.
Moore did get a contract with Best Vines, a popular YouTube channel that creates Vine compilations, according to Vice. The comedian told HuffPost in March that he was getting money from the YouTube deal, but he regretted not putting a watermark on the video, showing his face in it or getting a copyright.
In the digital era, the issue of copyrighting and trademarking popular memes, and ensuring creators get the proper credit, has come up repeatedly.
Getty Images famously went after a number of blogs and people who shared the “Socially Awkward Penguin” meme, which featured a picture of an Adelie penguin taken by photojournalist George Mobley for National Geographic, The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey reported in September 2015.
Kayla Newman, who popularized the phrase “on fleek” in 2014, told Teen Vogue last year that she was also trying to get a trademark. Newman, who goes by Peaches Monroee, said she was disappointed when brands, including Forever 21, IHOP and Taco Bell, started using “on fleek” in advertisements.
Moore told HuffPost that being responsible for the viral video left him with “mixed feelings.”
“I feel good I created something that’ll be with the world forever, but then I feel bad because I didn’t handle my business part correctly,” he said. “I don’t know nothing about no … trademarking."
While Moore may have felt as though he did not get the credit he deserved, countless social media tributes following the news of his death celebrated him as the creator of what one Twitter user called a “legendary meme.” An Instagram post shared to Moore’s page Tuesday announced that a candlelight vigil is scheduled for later this week.
Some even joked that the next person getting “what are those’d” was Jesus.