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Twerking (//) is a type of dancing in which an individual, usually a female, dances to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance. Though the term seems to be of uncertain origin with common assumptions suggesting it is a contraction of "footwork" and a portmanteau of the words "twist" and "jerk", there is evidence from ethnographic interviews in New Orleans that the term began as street language in New Orleans with the rise of the local hip-hop music known as Bounce. Since the late 1990s, twerking was associated with Bounce music of the Dirty South and was disseminated via mainstream hip hop videos and popular video-sharing sites since the mid 2000s.
Comparisons have been made with traditional African dances, for instance the Mapouka from West Africa which was banned from Ivory Coast's television due to its suggestive nature. Twerking can carry both gendered and racialized connotations. In the United States, twerking was introduced into hip-hop culture by way of the New Orleans bounce music scene. In 1982 the twerk was first performed on live television in the Top of the Pops show by the group Haysi Fantayzee while performing their song John Wayne Is Big Leggy. In 1993, DJ Jubilee recorded the dance tune "Do The Jubilee All" in which he chanted, "Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk." The video for the song increased the popularity of twerking. In 1995 New Orleans-based rapper Cheeky Blakk recorded the song "Twerk Something!" a call-and-response dance song dedicated to twerking. In 1997 DJ Jubilee recorded "Get Ready, Ready" in which he encouraged listeners to "Twerk it!".
Twerking first received national recognition in the United States in the early 2000s, when the song "Whistle While You Twurk" (2000) by the hip hop duo Ying Yang Twins peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs component chart. It was later referenced in their later track "Say I Yi Yi" (2002), in which the lyrics "she got her hands up on her knees and her elbows on her thighs / she like to twerk and that's for certain I can tell that she fly" are heard. In her track "Check on It" (2005), recording artist Beyoncé Knowles sings "Dip it, pop it, twerk it, stop it, check on me tonight."
In 2006, the song "Pop, Lock & Drop It" by rapper Huey reached number six on the US Billboard Hot 100. Also in 2006, the hit single "Sexy Back", by Justin Timberlake, featuring Timbaland, from the former's second studio album Futuresex/Lovesounds, featured Timbaland rapping the lyrics "Let me see what you're twerking with / Go ahead, be gone with it, Look at those hips". In 2011, a group of female dancers who call themselves the Twerk Team and have posted many videos of themselves twerking on YouTube, were mentioned during the song "Round of Applause" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Drake, in the line "Bounce that ass, shake that ass like the Twerk Team".
The 2012 single "Bandz A Make Her Dance" by Juicy J contains the lyric "Start twerking when she hear her song", while French Montana questions the ability of a girl to twerk by asking "What you twerkin' with," in his respective 2012 single "Pop That", featuring fellow rappers Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. The aforementioned songs, along with "Express Yourself" by Nicky Da B and Diplo, "Made twerking the most popular dance move since the Dougie".
In April 2013, rapper Danny Brown released the song "Express Yourself", inspired by music producer Diplo's song of the same name. The song, produced by Trampy, features a fast-paced electronic beat and is a composition about the popular dance craze twerking. Brown dedicated the song "to all the ladies that like to turn up and have fun," in which he raps "Toes on the wall and her ass in the air / And she twerk that thing like she ain't have a care".
In June 2013, rapper Busta Rhymes released a Jamaican dancehall-inspired single "Twerk It" featuring Nicki Minaj, who has been featured on several other "twerking songs", including "Shakin' It 4 Daddy" by Robin Thicke, "Dance (A$$)" by Big Sean and "Clappers" by Wale. Minaj can be seen twerking in all four of the aforementioned songs' music videos. In August 2013, the song "Twerk", by Lil Twist, featuring Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, was leaked online.
In August 2013, Juicy J has announced via Twitter, that he would give out a $50,000 scholarship for the girl who can twerk the best. The competition is inspired by the track "Scholarship" on his third album Stay Trippy, which contains the lyric "Keep twerking baby, might earn you a scholarship." Also in September, "Twerk" from the MTV VMA show was named the Top Television Word of the Year (Teleword) of the 2012-1013 TV season by the Global Language Monitor." In 2013, twerk was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online. The dictionary said the word had been around for 20 years. The word was a runner-up in the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013.
In 2013, 33 students from Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, were suspended for using school equipment to make a twerking video on school grounds that was later uploaded to YouTube. In August 2013, recording artist Miley Cyrus generated controversy following a sexually-provocative performance during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, in which Cyrus twerked during a medley of her track "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" and "Give It 2 U" by Robin Thicke.