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Is the Chicken Noodle Soup dance racist?

The short answer: gawwwwd, we hope not. For one thing, every decent dance craze in recent memory has been a southern phenomenon: you'd have to go back to the Rockaway for a Noo Yawk/East Coast club phenomenon, and even then, that was a dance craze marketed precisely to people who can't dance. That being the case, though, outsiders seem to be having two very strong reactions to the Chicken Noodle Soup dance: there's the people who say it's "gay." Then there's the people who note its resemblance to received stereotypes of minstrelsy.

Before we get any further, let's back up and clarify -- for those of you who don't frequent XXL's website, rap message boards, or the streets of Harlem -- exactly what the Chicken Noodle Soup Dance is. We won't get into poultry-and-the-egg speculation, but suffice it to say that since June there has developed a rap song and a dance which go hand in hand. The dance is generally acknowledged to be a descendent of two previous outbreaks called the Harlem Shake and the Toe Wop. The Chicken Noodle Soup rap song was recorded by a 19-year-old Harlem kid (supposedly this one) called  DJ Webstar (the perfect name for the kid behind an internet phenomenon) with a very young girl MC called Young B (perhaps this one). The song tells you how to do the dance, then it tells you how to eat: "Let it rain, then clear it out; let it rain, then clear it out . . . Chicken noodle soup with a soda on the side."

DOWNLOAD: DJ Webstar and Young B, "Chicken Noodle Soup" (mp3 via TJ's DJ's)

In the old days, dance crazes migrated slowly -- block by block, dancefloor by dancefloor, eventually city by city, like a disease, until a song or a movie came along to spread the instructions to the masses. Most of the good dances like the Fila, the Whop, and the Pee-Wee Herman were dead before music videos began speeding up the cycle -- thanks to which we got the Macarena, the electric slide, and the cabbage patch. But now we've got YouTube, thanks to which you don't need to wait for someone to discover "Chicken Noodle Soup," press the song onto vinyl, sell it to a major label, and have Hype Williams produce the video. Now you can see 14-year-olds doing the Chicken Noodle Soup before the song is even on the radio outside of NYC:


WATCH: 80 zillion more people doing the Chicken Noodle Soup dance at YouTube

(AN ASIDE: Speaking of "in the old days" -- by which we mean not an actual time frame but, like, that nostalgic fantasy world that exists in our brains where 1985 used to reside -- in the old days, some kid would've recorded recorded an answer track in his bedroom every week and it'd be out on 12-inch singles you'd get at the local record bodega. These days, the "official Queens remix" is some dude rapping over the instrumental in his bedroom . . . on YouTube.)

Harlem kids hungry for their own Lean Wit It Rock Wit It have taken this thing up like the plague. Kids are posting Chicken Noodle Soup vids in the weirdest places.  BET noticed the flurry of YouTube vids and is now asking kids to send in homemade videos for use in some sort of web/tv special. White sorority girls are doing it in their dorm rooms.All of which has heated up the rivalry between NYC and ATL, with southerners clowning on Chicken Noodle -- at least in part as revenge for Northerners who clowned on "Laffy Taffy" and the snap-music dance crazes.

The rap is about as complicated as the eensy-weensy spider, and the recording is so low-budget you can hear the hypeman's Nextel chirp. The dance is a different story. "It's the background music for Coon Shuffle 2006," wrote one listener from Montgomery, Alabama in a message-board thread. Similar observations appear almost anywhere you see the videos: the dance's jazzhanded "let-it-rain" and shuffling footwork are giving viewers the wrong kind of goosebumps: a foreboding echo of the cakewalk. Some feets make it more aw-shucks than others -- for instance, like, these Cassie fans:

So yeah: it's a dance guaranteed to give lots of well-meaning people the creeps, and to convince earnest young hip-hop fans that rap is deteriorating into a cartoonish joke aimed at 14-year-olds. To which OTD says: hey, we loved rap music when it was pop music for 14-year-olds that spawned goofy dance crazes every six weeks! Those were the good old days! (We only stopped paying attention when the hippies took over.) But is Chicken Noodle's shuck-and-jive a grassroots, post-racial coincidence or the conscious embrace of a stereotype by tweens who know it'll bum out elders on both sides of the black/white divide? Beats us. Then again, we're writing this as we watch Anderson Cooper do his best G-Unit impersonation, all dolled up in gratuitous bulletproof vest and peppering his interviews with the sound of random gunfire. We bet you that not even an Iranian ground attack on Uptown could get that dude to do the Chicken Noodle Soup. If you're really brave, you could try telling someone that's progress.

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