I remember pulling up YouTube nine years ago, looking for new dances to kick off the summer of 2007, eventually settling on Soulja Boy's "Crank That." I cleared out the bar stools in the kitchen, set my laptop on the counter, and painstakingly went through each step. I crossed my legs and took a slight leap, like Kris Kross in "Jump," and then leaned to the left and snapped my fingers, nearly always off-beat. The best part of the dance was the signature "Superman" pose where I would push my legs out and extend my arms as far as they could go.
It took hours to learn. I leaned to the right instead of the left. I snapped on the wrong beat. But I refused to leave the kitchen that day because you couldn't go to the neighborhood parties, the bowling alley or the skating rink without hearing "Crank That" in rotation.
"Crank That," which came out 9 years ago this week, helped popularize the "snap" sub-genre and was one in a line of mid-2000's hip-hop dance crazes. It was a snappy, catchy song with a simple but hypnotic beat that incorporated steel drums, finger snaps and bass drums. It took over clubs, house parties and barbecues. The video featured hip-hop superstars Omarion and then not-so-Lil' Bow Wow. The "Crank That" dance was a featured on MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew" and Beyoncé incorporated it into one of her shows.
Soulja Boy — real name DeAndre Way — was 17 years old when the song came out. He became well known on social media sites, while it was still called "social networking," relying heavily on his web presence in an era when physical mixtapes were still circulating in bodegas and barber shops. Now, Soulja Boy has more than 600 million video views on YouTube, with over 200 million from "Crank That" alone. He has nearly 5 million Twitter followers and 196 million Vine loops. He released an album in 2015 and is a part of the cast of the VH1 reality show "Love & Hip-Hop: Hollywood."
While Soulja Boy was from Batesville, Miss., many of the other mid-2000's hip-hop dance crazes were birthed from Atlanta's Bankhead neighborhood. Hits included "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It," where dancers would lean from left to right, bend their knees and snap their fingers, to "It's Goin' Down," which became an instant hit with its signature "motorcycle" dance.
The quick rise of Southern rap songs such as these felt like an affront to people who described themselves as "hip-hop purists." Queens rapper Nas proclaimed, "hip-hop is dead" (which became the name of his eighth studio album) and Ice T called "Crank Dat" garbage. A main reason for snap music's instant popularity — and its backlash — was that it was quick, it was fun and it was easy to mass produce.
"Crank That" spawned multiple remixes, from "Crank Dat Yank" to "Crank Dat Batman." But nearly a decade later, while the craze dance has faded and many have forgotten the moves to "Crank That," it's clear that Soulja Boy was ahead of his time.