The other night, I got invited to a release party for a videogame called The Hip Hop Dance Experience hosted by none other than Angela Yee and Hot 97's Miss Info (see the trailer for the game above). I've never met an open bar dance party I didn't like, so I donned my special-occasion romper and called up my friend Ahmad.
It was no coincidence that I brought Ahmad with me. As one of Big Freedia's backup dancers, I figured he'd have the inside line on whether or not this game was truly an authentic Hip Hop Dance Experience. He was also the friend who texted me back. (If you're an internet troll who posts inflammatory shit on Brooklyn Vegan all day, you may also know him as Fro Hawk.) Here he is dancing in Big Freedia's "Excuse" video:
The event was held in a space called "Gary's Loft," a multi-floor midtown penthouse that pays for its expensive existence via photoshoots, video shoots and parties. Exploring the empty floors for a good drug nook, we found dainty divans, fab fainting couches, resplendent banquet tables, fake fruit and numerous non-working fireplaces. "This room is a place to get fucked or murdered in," Ahmad observed.
Once inside the party, we looked around and noticed the crowd looked like the Afro Punk festival, only lighter on the "punk"-- about 80% young black professionals with cool jobs, each one more impossibly good looking and stylish than the last. After waiting in two long lines to get drinks and food, we noted that the victuals provided consisted of: 1.) BBQ ribs 2.) collard greens 3.) cornbread and 4.) Hennessy. "It feels…racist?" Ahmad said, tentatively gnawing on a rib as if it were made of actual racism. "I can't believe I'm at a party with a bunch of black people drinking Hennessy and eating barbecue! Tomorrow, I'm gonna go to the Kool Aid party with free watermelon and fried chicken."
That said, he sent the following tweet shortly thereafter, so maybe there were some complicated qualifications to his matter-of-fact statement:
Sufficiently lubricated, it was time to try out the game. Basically a swaggier version of Dance Dance Revolution, the Hip Hop Dance Experience invites players to choose a snazzy avatar and level of difficulty (easy, for me), then get down to a bunch of songs ranging from hip hop to R&B, old school to new school, Sir Mix-A-Lot to M.I.A. When players are doing well, the games spits out words like "cool," "hype," "busted," and "the roof is on fire," and M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" contained a vaguely Indian-looking dance move called "The Bollystep."
As Ahmad and I grew more intoxicated, our observations began to make less sense. I, a Jewish rock-and-roll girl with little hip-hop dance experience, could not comprehend how the geniuses playing the game at the party could figure out the next move. Ahmad said it came naturally: "It's like black chess made by Japanese people." Stanky leg? Walk it out? Were there standardized interpretations of these moves that I was supposed to know? "Yes," he said. Eventually, I took my turn in front of the screen to the sweet (and slow, I hoped) strains of Cassie's "Me and You." I wasn't very good at it, but I tried my best, scoring a full 7% and even a few pity cheers by onlookers. I found the following notes Ahmad scribbled in my notebook: "Oh my fucking god this is the best." "Fucking incredible." "Sexy urban kosher." "Jamie can do anything." Cool! But everyone was staring at Ahmad's ass. What was up with that? I know it's like delicious twin Earths spinning perfectly through space, but that's just rude.
The Hip Hop Dance Experience video game is out November 13.