August 28, 2013


A Brief History of Twerking

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for MTV
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for MTV

Update (9/25): Big Freedia set a Guinness World Record for Most People Twerking Simultaneously. Check out the recap and watch video of the event.

It started in the 1990s, got name-checked by Beyonce and Justin Timberlake over the years and then exploded into the stratosphere this week when Miley Cyrus did it all over Robin Thicke's crotch at the 2013 VMAs. Yep, we're talking about twerking.

Thanks to Ms. Cyrus, that particular dance move—squatting down, sticking your ass out and shaking it up and down—has officially super-saturated our culture. But while twerking might be new to many, it's actually been around since 1993 and has a storied history. So from its birth in New Orleans (as a combination of the words "twist," "twitch," "work" and "jerk") to its recent inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary, here's the Definitive History of Twerking.

1993: Twerking was born out of New Orleans' bounce music scene, a hip hop sub-genre centered around call-and-response vocals and the endlessly sampled Triggaman beat. The first reference to twerking in a song is DJ Jubilee's "Do the Jubilee All" in 1993, which features him telling the crowd to, "Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk." Much like twerking, the bounce music scene has been getting more national attention over the last few years. No small thanks due to bounce music's Queen Diva Big Freedia, whose reality show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce debuts October 2 on Fuse.

1995: New Orleans femcee Cheeky Blakk dropped the track "Twerk Something," another bounce music track centered around the Triggaman beat.

1997: DJ Jubilee returns to the world of twerking with "Get Ready, Ready," which finds him commanding the listener to "twerk it!"

2000: Atlanta rap duo Ying Yang Twins' debut single "Whistle While You Twurk" described the act of twerking in (far too much) detail in its NSFW chorus: "Whistle while you twurk / Go head and start and make that p—sy fart / And whistle while you twurk."

2001: Bubba Sparxxx's debut album features a Timbaland collabo called "Twerk a Little."

2003: The first definition of twerking is submitted to Urban Dictionary: "To work one's body, as in dancing, especially the rear end."

2005: Beyonce's No. 1 hit "Check On It" features the line "Dip it, pop it, twerk it, stop it, check on me tonight" in the chorus.

2006: Justin Timberlake's No. 1 hit "SexyBack" features the line, "Let me see what ya twerkin' with."

2009: The Twerk Team—three teenage girls from Atlanta—upload a video of themselves twerking to Soulja Boy's "Donk." It receives over a million views in one week.

2010: Miley Cyrus goes to New Orleans to film the direct-to-video movie So Undercover and learns how to twerk.

2011: Waka Flocka Flame and Drake's "Round of Applause" references YouTube stars the Twerk Team: "Bounce that ass, shake that ass like the Twerk Team."

March 2012: Diplo & Nicky Da B's "Express Yourself" video helps the dance continue its ascent to ubiquity by featuring a seemingly endless parade of dancers twerking, including people facing a wall and twerking upside down.

June 2012: French Montana's "Pop That" with Lil Wayne, Drake and Rick Ross features the hook, "What you twerkin' with / Work, work, work, work, bounce."

September 2012: Juicy J's "Bandz A Make Her Dance" features the line, "Start twerking when she hear her song / Stripper pole her income."

March 2013: Video of Miley Cyrus twerking in a unicorn onesie to J. Dash & Flo Rida's "Wop" goes viral.

May 2013: 33 San Diego high school students are suspended for filming themselves twerking with school camcorders.

June 2013: Miley Cyrus twerks at Juicy J's L.A. concert. Video of her first public twerk session goes viral.

July 2013: Jay Z's Magna Carta…Holy Grail track "Somewhereinamerica" features the line, "Feds still lurking / They see I'm still putting work in / Cause somewhere in America / Miley Cyrus is still twerkin.'"

August 2013: Miley Cyrus twerks at the VMAs during her duet with Robin Thicke. It's the most talked about moment of the night, although many decry it as an appropriation of black culture and/or morally offensive. 

- The Oxford English Dictionary adds twerking to its vocabulary. 

- Lil Twist teases his Miley/Justin Bieber collabo, "Twerk."

- Diplo announces his intention to set the "world record of having the most people twerking at the same time." The DJ will line up a human wall of twerkers (i.e., the Great Wall of 'Gina) at New York's Electric Zoo fest over Labor Day Weekend.

And that brings us up to present day. If you're sick to death of twerking, Fuse News' Elaine Moran hears you and has crafted the perfect anti-twerk anthem. And to see what legitimate twerking looks like from a dancer who knows what they're doing, read our Miley-slamming interview with the Queen of Bounce Big Freedia and watch her upcoming reality show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, when it debuts October 2 at 11/10c on Fuse.