More Men in Rap Should Dance

Take a lesson from Offset, Lil Nas X and NLE Choppa— a few small steps could be a giant leap for live rap shows.

More Men in Rap Should Dance

Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

NLE Choppa caught viewers off guard during his performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, and all he had to do was dance. Pacing back and forth onstage with just a microphone and a backing track has become so normalized that the Memphis rapper’s moves made headlines. Regardless of genre, venue, or budget, women in music have had to pop-lock it and drop it onstage and in music videos. It’s about time choreography became a mandate for male artists—even if they just get silly with it.

Aside from his addictive hooks, humor, and eye for controversial Satanic imagery, Lil Nas X’s rise had a lot to do with the fact that he was one of the few men in rap fearless enough to dance. From his Ancient Egypt–themed performance at the BET Awards to his twerk-filled appearance on the Grammy stage, he’s consistently taken a page out of the pop divas’ book and brought his visuals to the stage.

Offset has also helped lead the charge in bringing the performance arts back to male rap. During his 2019 BET Awards performance with Cardi B, he put on a mesmerizing capital-S show, busting out neck isolations and synchronized sways—both individualizing himself as a solo artist and reminding everyone that he used to dance alongside Whitney Houston as a kid. More recently, his Michael Jackson–inspired music video for “Dance” was similarly filled with skillful dance breaks.

Of course, dancing on national TV opens you up to scrutiny, and many men are afraid of that vulnerability or to appear soft. The amount of discourse Choppa’s shimmy created is evidence enough. However, it’s undeniable that the right choreography levels up any performance. Just take a look at K-pop groups. They’ve been able to globalize their reach because of how impressive their dance routines are live and in their music videos. Even if they aren’t singing live, no one really cares, because they always hit their marks. Now that the girl-group resurgence is underway in the US, labels need to get back in the lab and cook up a few Mindless Behavior–like boy bands.

Ok, if the eight-count choreography is too much to learn, then at least resurrect the dance trends. The early to mid-2010s were ripe with rappers just letting loose with some moves— you had the Cat Daddy, Soulja Boy, “Juju on That Beat,” the Dougie, the Quan, and so many more. Hit-generating mediums like TikTok incentivize these challenges, so why not take advantage and make rap a bit more fun in the process? Even Drake’s half-hearted “Toosie Slide” got a boost due to its levity and actual instructional lyrics. With the current Usher renaissance, it’s clear that there’s an appetite for dance-filled performances. Call up Sean Bankhead and shake a little something, like NLE Choppa.

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