How Adult Swim Remixes Took Over the Internet

We talked to producer VANO 3000 on the TikTok phenomenon he started and how the network's aesthetic inspired him.
adult swim bumps on Tiktok
Images via TikTok

Adult Swim’s calling card is its bumps, short clips that appear during commercial breaks from its twisted cartoons and sketch shows. While some of the bumps simply advertise for shows, others feature ephemera like hot takes on current events, responses to fan tweets, or stock images with a hidden AS logo in the background. Some of them are fittingly bizarre, but backing music is what pushes Adult Swim’s bumps over the top: In the late 2000s, the network gained a reputation for soundtracking them with instrumentals by producers like Flying Lotus, Thelonious Martin, and Madlib. The aesthetic caught on and quickly, and now TikTok users are putting their own spin on the format. 


Started by New York rapper-producer VANO 3000, the trend is fairly simple: users create their own bumps, either in the classic style with Helvetica text on a black screen or, more commonly, with text over videos, all soundtracked by VANO’s sunny beat, which is unofficially titled “Running Away.” The Adult Swim hashtag has garnered 2.7 billion video views on TikTok and, according to VANO, he’s been tagged in over 500,000 similar videos since posting the first one in May.    

“It’s a lifestyle, I guess,” VANO says of his initial infatuation with the network. “Adult Swim’s selection, their aesthetic, their commercials. I’ve always resonated with that brand and their sarcasm.” 

VANO was first exposed to Adult Swim by watching Dragonball Z at his cousin’s house when he was younger. His aunt didn’t approve, but they’d sneakily watch the shows when everyone fell asleep. VANO’s fascination with the weird and the wonderful followed him as he grew older and began taking music more seriously. He grew up listening to Jay-Z and DMX while living in Brooklyn, writing down lyrics from the radio and attempting to rap them. It was during middle school in Florida, where his family moved after he turned 13, that VANO began to see kids battle-rapping during lunch and knew that this was the path for him. His raps and self-produced beats began to fill his hard drive, and eventually he uploaded some of his creations to YouTube. 


“I reinvented myself a shitload of times,” he says of landing on a sound he calls “Levitation Music.” “When I say reinvent myself, it means tweaking things that I knew I wasn’t 100 percent okay with displaying. 

VANO’s perspective, like everyone else’s, changed during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020. He says he felt stuck. “Everyone knows me as someone who’s never staying still. I’m always working on something, always traveling somewhere, always trying to get something done.” 

In January 2021, he was using his truck for food delivery services when he got an idea: he would record himself creating a beat on his SP-404 sampler and upload it to TikTok. His early videos, which featured VANO creating beats with a rotating cast of friends who would react to them, gained moderate traction but most of them stalled out with thousands of views. But on January 31, VANO caught his taste of virality with a beat he titled “Very Special,” which currently has 2.2 million views and over 20,000 shares. That boost felt monumental to him. “I just went back and looked at it; only 600 videos was made from that sound, bruh,” he says. “I thought it was so much more.” 

He began uploading to TikTok regularly, posting videos of himself digging through crates of vinyl, engaging in mukbang eating challenges, and playing his Nintendo Switch. He also took to Instagram Live to make beats and connect with fans and fellow producers for advice and networking. Then, in May, VANO uploaded a video that would kick his life into overdrive. A preview of a mukbang uploaded on May 23 included a beat with a sped-up sample of Canadian jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD’s 2016 song “Time Moves Slow” featuring Future Islands lead singer Samuel T. Herring. 


“I was just listening to music as usual, just vibing,” he says about finding the song. “‘Time Moves Slow’ by BADBADNOTGOOD came on and I’m just in a trance because of the way it starts. I was like ‘Yo. Aight, this is new,’” He adjusted the EQ and pitch and added filters to the sample, but he felt something was missing: “I also wanted to put a message in it. I sampled the [lyric] “Running away is easy; it’s the meaning that’s hard.” It was perfect because people could interpret it in so many different ways. It just talks to you.” 

On an impromptu trip through the Times Square subway station the next day, he saw someone in a Spider-Man costume and filmed them briefly before they put their hand in front of the camera lens. “I looked back at the video later on and was like ‘This is some Adult Swim shit,’” he says. He uploaded the clip with the beat to his account with text that read “This sound works for everything. Try it out…[adult swim].” VANO claims it was just another beat thrown onto a pile of hundreds, but he still felt compelled to stamp his producer name on the video and claim ownership over his work. “That was the first time I’ve ever done that on any of my TikTok videos. It’s like I seen the future, like I knew millions of people were gonna come to this video,” he says. 


Skateboarders were among the first to hop on the trend—VANO even needed to create a separate account to keep track of them all—but others quickly followed. VANO had tapped into the same banal madness that informed Adult Swim in the early 2000s, and TikTok users started posting hundreds of bumps of their own and followed his lead by crediting VANO for his work. The beat can now be heard over everything from people working at desks to people going through relationship drama; some users have gotten creative with their Adult Swim logo placements in the vein of the network’s scenic bumps; even sports teams like the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Lions incorporated the song into their social media posts.

But the trend’s most important co-signs came from the very things that inspired it:. BADBADNOTGOOD reached out to VANO and even created their own TikTok account where they posted a bump of their own set to the song. Adult Swim, which recently posted its own VANO-soundtracked bump, has been in touch too. Sample clearances prevented VANO from releasing the song outright, but last week, he uploaded a new project called LONG LIVE VANO to his SoundCloud. It’s his first project with vocals, an attempt to strike while the iron is hot and test the waters for what his throngs of new fans want to hear: “If they hate it, at least I’m learning. I’m here to learn. That’s why I’m not afraid to be a risk-taker.”

So far, VANO’s risks have paid off. He’s started his own skate team, aptly called Skate Team 3000. “Running Away” will see an official release in the near future and he and Adult Swim, a television network also built on monumental risk, are beginning to establish their relationship. When I speak to VANO, I note how rare it is for a Black creative to start a social media trend and actually receive credit for their work right away. VANO chalks it up to good karma.

“Everything you give out comes back around and vice-versa. I just want that aura of goodness and clean energy,” he says. “I try to emulate that through my music. The shit’s deep, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.”