History of Twerk
While the dance style known as twerking has been traced back to the Cote d’Ivoire, Twerk music came from the fast paced 100 BPM Bounce sound of New Orleans. Bounce, part of the sound also known as Triggerman or Brown Beat aptly named after the songs that were sampled to created the music, uses elements like rapid percussion and call-and-response.
“Drag Rap” by The Showboys (the Triggerman Beat)
“Brown Beat” by Cameron Paul,
“Rock The Beat” by Derek B
One of the earlier popular songs using the term “twerk” is 1992’s “Jubilee All” by DJ Jubilee.
Next up was Cheeky Blakk’s “Twerk Something.” While less radio friendly than DJ Jubilee, Cheeky Blakk’s anthem was popular among locals and established her as one of the originators of the twerk sound. In fact, “Twerk Something” was the first song to have “twerk” in the title. Other female New Orleans artists of Bounce and Twerk include the late Magnolia Shorty and 3D Na’Tee.
“Twerk Something” by Cheeky Blakk
“Hit Me With A…” by Magnolia Shorty
“The Return” by 3D Na’Tee
Throughout the 90’s, twerk gained a steady movement. One of the more popular breakout hits of the late ‘90’s/early 2000’s was “Back that Azz Up” by Juvenile. What starts with slow classical strings, leaps into a mix of 100 bpm and staccato rhymes. While group member Lil Wayne, became known more for his slowed down rhymes in his solo career, this and other Juvenile songs brought the twerk sound to a national Top 40 audience.
Back That Ass Up by Juvenile
Sound isn’t stagnant, so the steady swift percussion of twerk and bounce migrated over to other styles of bass heavy dance music in places like Miami, Atlanta, and Houston. Atlanta Producer/DJ, Mr. Collipark and The Ying Yang Twins brought the twerk sound to Georgia in their raunchy but rhythmic “Whistle While You Twurk” and follow-up “Say A Yi Yi.”
In 2013, Fuse channel added “Big Freedia” to its lineup. Big Freedia, the gender-fluid NOLA icon of Bounce music, is credited with helping advance the popularity of twerk and NOLA bounce into the 2000’s. Big Freedia’s songs have been sampled by artists like Lil Wayne and Beyoncé. Big Freedia is also sought after for his opinions on the genre, both in its history and what the growing popularity means in terms of appropriation, the evolution of twerk, and keeping the beat true to its roots.
(Make It Jingle, which I added because my little brother’s best friend made this video
Whether sped up or slowed down, the distinct style of twerk has made it a mainstay of club playlists.