Once upon a time, a pre-teen became a Disney Channel star. As the pre-teen became a real teen, she needed to show the world that she was no longer pure as the driven snow; she was now a sex object, and he was going to make sure you knew it. She performed on MTV's 2013 VMAs, stuck her tongue out way too many times, rubbed her vajajay with a foam finger, danced in a suggestive manner and mostly just annoyed the audience — all in the name of "twerking." She may have gotten her point across, but there's one point a lot of people are missing: Miley Cyrus was not even twerking.
I guess it's the fact that Miley (presumably) believes that she's twerking that has everyone confused. Oh, and that "Twerk It" intro song that kicked off her VMA performance. The fact that she's been spitting rhymes with rapper French Montana and sporting an edgier look (complete with grill) certainly adds fuel to the fire. From her Twitter hashtags (#twerkmileytwerk) to that viral video of her working her tiny frame inside a unicorn suit, Miley has led a nation of people to misunderstand what twerking is. For those of you who care, here's the breakdown.
Like most dances that are popularized in hip hop culture, some historians can trace the roots back to Africa. I'm not one such historian. But I can trace twerking back to the '80s and '90s New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta music and strip club scenes. Specifically, it was Cheeky Blakk's "Twerk Something" and DJ Jubilee, who shouted out "Twerk it" in his song "Get Ready, Get Ready," that perhaps immortalized the word "twerk" on wax before anyone else. But it was Miami's 2 Live Crew that showed what twerking really is in their video for "Pop That P*ssy" — and most of their other videos, too. On a national level, Atlanta's Ying Yang Twins get the most credit for bringing twerking to the mainstream with the chart-topping "Whistle While You Twurk."
The movements of many of the women in those old (and newer) videos showed twerking at a level that Miley Cyrus didn't approach with her VMA performance, in which she bent all the way over and swung her little butt from side to side. As Urban Dictionary puts it, twerking is "the rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience." Twerking is a combination of twisting your hips and bouncing your butt at work. Who twists their hips and bounces their butts at work? Strippers, of course.
Visit a strip club in Atlanta, Miami, or New Orleans and you'll see twerking — real twerking. You'll see women who gyrate to match the money that comes their way. You'll witness lap dances that are twerking for a one-person audience. Rappers have been obsessed with strippers and big booty b*tches since the dawn of hip hop. There are too many odes to strippers to name them all but "Shake It Like A Salt Shaker," by the Ying Yang Twins, "Ass & Titties" by DJ Assault and even my personal favorite, T. Pain's "I'm In Love With A Stripper" show the influence that strippers have had on hip hop culture. And now many of us know the influence that strippers have on Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus, that talented young woman, did not twerk at the VMAs. She danced, rubbed a big foam finger at her private parts, bent over, acted provocative, shocked Robin Thicke and bored Rihanna; but twerk she did not.
In fairness, maybe Miley thought didn't think she really twerked at the VMAs. It's my belief that she just wanted to prove to the world that she was no longer Hannah "The Virgin" Montana. Period. She wanted to be raunchy. She wanted to touch herself. She wanted to be controversial. She wanted to cause a stir. She wanted people to look at her and stare. And stare — with dumfounded expressions — they did.
If it was, in fact, Miley's intention to act like a stripper on stage, I have a suggestion to make it more authentic. The next time the world is watching, leave that foam finger at home, get a stripper pole and recruit the Ying Yang Twins to stuff money in your g-string. After all, what does Robin Thicke know about twerking?
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