Gangsta Walkin’. Buckin’. Jookin’. Choppin’.
If you’re unfamiliar with any of those terms, don’t worry, I’m going to try to explain it to you. But really, it’s hard to break down. You just have to see it for yourself. Before I moved to Memphis, we, as in the kids in my Mississippi hometown, were doing a dance that we thought was the Gangsta Walk. At our parties, it was mandatory to Gangsta Walk to Too Short’s ‘Short But Funky’. It wasn’t until I actually got here in ’91 and went to a party at the Mid South Fairgrounds that it occurred to me that we were doing a little bop with the same staleness as the Polka. In a wide eyed amazement, I saw both young men and women flailing their arms as if they were all in one massive fistfight. If you didn’t know what to do or couldn’t keep up, your best bet was to watch from the sidelines, which I did often. I mean, what else could I do when nearly everyone on the dancefloor is chanting a command laced with an expletive about getting out of the way?
Also, there was the signature ‘Get Buck’ chant that MC Hammer dubbed over in his ‘Too Legit To Quit’ video. You know, I remember the episode of the Arsenio Hall Show when Hammer was asked about the dance. He correctly answered that he got it from Memphis, but incorrectly stated that it was called the Get Buck.
From what I’ve gathered, the dance originated somewhere in the ‘80s, and this is my guess only, the riotous version of the Gangsta Walk probably caused so many fights that it had to be executed differently. After attending parties where a rowdy round of getting buck went down, it wasn’t unusual to see flying chairs, bloody noses, and the arrival of Memphis’ Finest to take a few of the partygoers to 201*.
*Note: This is the abbreviated address for the local jail which is 201 Poplar. Memphis is the only city that I know of that refers to the jail by the address.
During the ’90s, dancers started incorporating some footwork along with the loose arm movements, making it more structured and choreographed. This video of the 1990s’ Memphis rap group, G-Style, demonstrates much of the original dance along with the additional steps that have now become signature.
I’m not sure when the terms for the dance began changing from Gangsta Walkin to Buckin, Jookin, and Choppin. But I do know that it has completely evolved into a complicated series of pop-locking moves and footwork that requires the dancer to execute seemingly impossible glides across any surface, effortlessly. Here’s where it really gets fascinating for me. These kids can slide across concrete as if it’s slick as ice and contort their bodies all at the same time. When I watch them dance, I’m actually torn between being proud of them for doing something so creative and upset because they’re jacking up those sneakers that their parents bought. What’s even cooler is that there are now dance studios locally that actually teach kids how to do this dance AND some of these local dancers have went on to perform across the country.
Yep, that’s Eccentrik Memphis. In the next installment, learn all about the Delta Quadrant.