If you've got eyeballs, a twitter account, and a sense of humor, you've probably seen goofy pictures of people squatting, faces reverent, hands together in a prayer position. This is what is colloquially termed a "rap squat." In the past few weeks, the rap squat has slowly gathered momentum to become a full-blown internet phenomenon, both from celebrities (Wiz Khalifa, Action Bronson, Justin Bieber, sort of) to regular-ass joes goofing around and showing off for their friends, content to be part of a weird internet inside joke that was still sort of funny for everyone else.
As rap squats continue to proliferate the internet, there comes a need to police them and make sure nobody fucks them up like they do with every other cool thing. Who to turn to for advice regarding this crucial crusade? Of all the people who put their hands together and butt close to the ground in hop-hop homage in 2013, perhaps no man, woman, or child perfected the timeless art of the rap squat like the shadowy entity known only as Bauce Sauce. So, Bauce—a regular Noisey contributor—took some time out of his Christmas with his wife and two year-old daughter to g-chat with me about the history of Rap Squats, their cultural implications as a meme, and pointed out some of history's greatest rap squatters.
Noisey: So I guess first, we should get into the history of the "Rap Squat," both in terms of "internet stuff" and sort of the greater cultural history of the squat-with-the-prayer-hands pose.
Bauce Sauce: Yeah, well I mean it all stems from the "prison pose."
Which, to clarify, is dudes squatting? In prison?
Indeed, usually just a squat, but gained prominence/popularity as the go-to pose for gang members/prison gangs. That pose definitely makes you look more menacing. It's almost as if it's sending the message of "Yo, I'm kinda casual right now, but I'll still jump at you like a crazed opossum if you say something sideways." A ton of rappers in the 90's/2000's would utilize the prison pose for album art or photoshoots.
Aaaand, if you had to guess, what is the road that it had to take to become a rap internet meme?
As everything that turns into a meme, it first begins as a genuine appreciation of a thing, then it shifts into an ironic appreciation, which at that point the decline begins. So, you have a bunch of legitimate people using this pose because that's something they've picked up from their surroundings, to people who are of the culture seeing this pose and sharing it with those not "in the know." Action Bronson, A$AP Yams, and IamSu! are long time users of the prison pose/rap squat. When and where the prison pose became augmented with prayer hands (two de facto "rap poses") I don't know, but it was definitely usurped by rappers.
Any theories as to why people started emulating the pose?
People want to be included. That's why naming your fans "Monsters" or "Taylor Gang" or whatever nickname you give a following is so popular. They want to be retweeted by Action Bronson. They see Action Bronson posting a couple rap squat photos, then they reply back with them doing it, then it snowballs.
People who have no idea what a prison is, or have ever done a squat in a gym in real life, are going to hop on the bandwagon. Plus, it's a fun thing.
So is there a responsibility that comes with rap squatting? When people bend their knees does it need to be in reverence?
People love shared experiences. That's why we have hashtags, that's why we have "[Insert Thing] Be Like" memes. It's because people love to share an experience of "Oh, I know about that." Plus trying to one-up the last person… that's human nature. Action Bronson does a rap squat in front of a Rolls Royce, a kid is going to try a rap squat with an Asian Tourist at Disney World, then another kid is going to try to do a one legged rap squat at the bottom of a lake…
I am not a purist. I do not believe all rap squats need to be in reverence, but I believe the best rap squats involve reverence.
— ＦＡＴＨＥＲ ＣＨＲＩＳＴＭＡＳ (@BauceSauce) November 19, 2013
At this point we're sort of splitting hairs in terms of what truly is a "rap squat." Does the rap squat have to involve prayer hands?
I think for the sake of this conversation, and for the community at-large, a rap squat, in my experience and opinion, involves prayer hands. If it does not, then it is simply a prison pose.
What sort of angle are we talking about for the knees?
If you aren't less than 45 degrees, then you need to get the fuck away from being in front of a camera. That is disrespectful.
Copped some Heelys so I can mobile rap squat while en route to places I need to go.
— ＦＡＴＨＥＲ ＣＨＲＩＳＴＭＡＳ (@BauceSauce) December 16, 2013
I tend to do squats with the one knee bent WAY more than the other, because I have really shitty knees and it hurts to do it any other way. Am I still rap squatting? Or am I rap sucking?
I see that as your own twist or flare. You recognize the flaws of your ability to rap squat and you compensate for it. That is no different than a professional basketball player knowing he isn't very good at finishing near the rim with his left hand, so he always tries to finish with his right.
Who, in your estimation, are some of the most masterful rap squatters? Both rappers and non-rappers?
As far as the stance, a firm, wide base is required, and I do think that more elite rap squats involve the heels firmly planted to the floor, and not up on your toes. Being back on your heels displays sturdiness, and and a very casual posture. DMX, without a doubt.
A$AP Mob, Rocky & Yams most notably. Action Bronson. Also, Ludacris is an unexpectedly decent rap squatter.
watching Steve Jobs documentary and it appears Bill Gates pioneered rap squats pic.twitter.com/gNhRBZ33RB
— ernest baker (@ernestbaker) October 28, 2013
Outside of actual rappers, Bill Gates, JJ Reddick, a dude I follow on Twitter @SlimiHendrix has a sickeningly beautiful rap squat.
— Ricardo Finland (@SlimiHendrix) December 4, 2013
Tell me about your own adventures in the realm of rap squattery.
I really enjoy incorporating things on social media that anybody can get behind, and that don't require a lot of background knowledge or explaining… the rap squat is as simple as it is complex. I had seen Action Bronson's photos over the months. I had seen you do a couple of poses. I had seen an influx of rap squat poses for magazine photoshoots, and I just really respected the idea of it.
I am but a man, a lowly insignificant man, on God's green earth. How can I show my appreciation for something? Words are now hollow on the Internet. "Thank you" is a rote phrase. But how do I show someone or something that I am thankful for it? I set time aside to take a selfie with me displaying my thanks.
That's so real.
I emote the reverence I am feeling, and if done properly, the audience recognizes that. I adopted the rap squat for that reason. I believe my first one was this:
I am a huge fan of the regional soda "Cheerwine." There happened to be a delivery truck parked out front of the bodega across from my office. Without this truck… without the person delivering this delicious nectar, my quality of life would be significantly less. I propped my phone up against a parking meter, waited for traffic to die down, and took a rap squat selfie in the middle of downtown main street.
WAIT. IMPORTANT QUESTION. How do you take a selfie while not holding your phone?
That's kind of my "secret," and one I don't really give out. But it's a timer. People forget, as we've transitioned into our phones being our primary cameras, that cameras used to have timers on them. That's how all of those old awkward family pictures you see on the Internet happened. There's an app I discovered whilst doing my "Nothing Was The Same" photo series on twitter that mocked that photo of what looks like an old Drake standing on a porch looking through a cracked door.
It's called GorillaPod, the makers of those flexible tripods, and it has an adjustable self-timer and burst mode.
Anyways, how long do you see rap squats going on for? What do you think is coming next?
I think as long as you keep it organic, the rap squat will never die. Like this one is probably my the crowning jewel:
Saw a guy with a confederate flag shirt and just wanted the world to know that though I do not support what the flag stands for, I am thankful for having the opportunity to catalog his idiocy for the Internet.
My wife had the idea for the family rap squat photo, and it was one take. Set the timer for 5 photos, wife and I squatted down and pleaded for our two year old to follow suit and she did. It must be genetics.
I've inspired others to do them. Like this one with Santa Clause is absurdly moving. They are clearly very thankful for Santa, and Santa is clearly very thankful for them:
I have been sent many on Christmas, as others included their family. This one was particularly moving.
Just LOOK at his grandmother. It's like she is bearing her soul… haunting and sobering.
To answer your question from before, the rap squat is approaching its twilight. Overuse and misappropriation is the death of all memes, and fun in general. You see it every time a funny photo hits Twitter. It devolves into a Neo-The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. It steamrolls until someone who should've just retweeted someone else's joke, attempts ill-suited humor and sullies the entire experience. Enough insincere rap squats, and the trend will die… and subsequently mankind.
How do we save them? Can we? Is it simply that the rap squat is just dust in the internet wind?
The only way to save rap squats, and future generations, is to police rap squats.
And how do you propose we do that?
Do not be afraid to question someone's commitment to their rap squat. If their form is lacking, or it is clear that they are insincere, tell them.
The public also needs to recognize that, much like Yung Lean, rap squats aren't for everyone. Once that knowledge is instilled, flagrant and disrespectful rap squats will be quashed before they are even taken.
Rap Squats are the last true form of digital sincerity. If you are pure at heart with your intent then rap squat until your quadriceps tear. I feel like I still got some quality rap squats in me. I've been tracking a Passat in my office parking garage to climb on top of and take a photo. "Rap Squat on a Passat" sounds so Bronson-esque and organic. I'd like to think rap squats can make it to SXSW or Coachella, as I know many RS supporters across the Internet meet up at these events, and there could be some monumental group squat shots. I fear they will be all for naught.
By the way, your family seems great.
I married up. She runs the household. I just go to work, get paid and do dumb stuff on the Internet occasionally. I'd be dead in a ditch if I wasn't married to her. And I appreciate the compliment, Drew. To show you that I appreciate it, I will now video chat rap squat you.