The Twerk Heard Round the World: A Look at “Back That Azz Up”
In the grand tapestry of hip-hop, few threads are as vibrant, enduring, and ironically romantic as Juvenile’s 1998 hit, “Back That Azz Up” (also known as “Back That Thang Up”). This track, featuring fellow rappers Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne, was the unlikely spark that ignited the global twerking craze.
Explore the track further in our feature on Juvenile’s classic album 400 Degreez.
Picture the scene: it’s June 11, 1999, and the airwaves are about to be hit with the second single from Juvenile’s album, 400 Degreez. The track “Back That Azz Up” is a provocative blend of raw lyrics and infectious beats that would become Juvenile’s biggest hit until 2004’s chart-topping “Slow Motion.”
Check out Juvenile’s Tiny Desk performance, where you’ll see a blistering performance of the song.
“Girl You Look Good Won’t You…”
But the dance moves it inspired truly set “Back That Azz Up” apart. Twerking, characterized by rapid, rhythmic gyrations of the lower body, was about to be thrust into the limelight. The song, in all its grimy, unapologetic glory, became a staple at college house parties, drunken day gatherings, and strip clubs, where it was practically written into the constitution.
Watch the video below:
“Back That Azz Up” Lyrics
The song’s lyrics are unabashedly direct, with Juvenile repeatedly commanding, “Girl, you looks good, won’t you back that azz up.” This line, repeated like a mantra throughout the song, encapsulates the primary theme: a man’s admiration for a woman’s physical attributes and his desire for her to display them through dance. The song’s title itself is a clear directive, leaving no room for misinterpretation. The lyrics also delve into the dynamics of wealth and power.
Juvenile’s character in the song is a man of means, as he proclaims,
“Make a n*gga spend his cash, yeah, his last, yeah.”
This line suggests that the allure of the woman he’s addressing is so potent that he’s willing to exhaust his financial resources for her attention. The song thus explores the transactional nature of attraction within the context of the club scene, where money often translates into attention and power.
Finally, the song touches on the theme of competition and envy. Juvenile notes,
“Hoes frown when you pass, yeah, they mad, yeah,”
indicating that the woman’s allure incites jealousy among others in the same environment. This line underscores the competitive nature of the club scene, where physical attractiveness can be a form of social currency.
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Q: What is “Back That Azz Up”?
A: “Back That Azz Up” is a hip-hop track by Juvenile, released in 1998. It’s often credited as the song that popularized twerking.
Q: How did “Back That Azz Up” start the twerking craze?
A: The song’s provocative lyrics and accompanying dance moves introduced many to twerking. Its popularity helped spread the dance style, eventually becoming a global phenomenon.
Q: What is twerking?
A: Twerking is a dance style characterized by rapid, rhythmic gyrations of the lower body, often in a low squatting stance.
The Enduring Influence of “Back That Azz Up”
In a twist of irony, “Back That Azz Up,” a track from the late 90s, became the catalyst for a dance craze that continues to resonate today. It’s a testament to the power of music and its ability to shape and influence culture in unexpected ways. So, the next time you see someone twerking, remember to tip your hat to Juvenile and his groundbreaking track, “Back That Azz Up.”
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