Butts Are Back: The Ass Is Having Another Pop Culture Moment


It’s unclear if the ass ever really went away, but if it did, it’s certainly back now. Ignoring the obvious Beats (formerly by Dre) pill product placement, the most notable thing about Robin Thicke’s new Super Sexxxxy video for his song “Give It 2 U” featuring 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar is how much ass action there is.

Thicke’s video takes place on a football field, against a backdrop of real-life dancers from troupes like the Albany State University Glden Passionettes and the Alabama State University Stingettes, some of whom performed at the VMA’s with Thicke on Sunday. The dancers do their thing, with much dedicated butt-shaking. Butt-shaking is such an important part of this video that the dancers end up performing next to and on a float of a huge butt that also shakes.

In case you weren’t sure that what you’re looking at is in fact an ass float, Thicke and crew have helpfully used their words to explain it to you:

The actual song is devoid of extensive ass references, except for a brief moment during Kendrick’s verse:

Now you gettin’ this dick, love
I’m looking for you with a flashlight
I want to feel what a real fat ass like
No injection, I learned my lesson

Who can we credit with this ass-plosion? Certainly not Flo Rida and Pitbull, though they pushed the trend along with their video for “Can’t Believe it”. Not even Busta Rhymes and Nicki Minaj, Queen of the Ass, can be given too many props their video “Twerk It” which came out in July.

No, the real credit goes to first, the popularity of “street dancing”, such as jerking, popping, locking, krumping etc. made mainstream by Step Up and every subsequent sequel that movie has birthed. Secondly, the growth of electronica and dance music, which used to be more of a niche genre but which now features prominently in hip hop and R&B songs. That change can be credited to songs and videos like Major Lazer’s “Bubble Butt”, which has inspired a wave of artists to take note and jump aboard the ass.

“Bubble Butt” only came out in May but also featured an appearance by 2 Chainz. Before that, there was Lady’s “Twerk” which came out in 2011 (and which prompted a friend of mine who reminded me of it to note that it’s a video “where girl does ZERO twerking”). She is, however, surrounded by many other ladies twerking. As is Lil’ Debbie in her video for “Ratchets”.

In 2012, rapper Le1f released his video “Wut” that featured many of the same dance moves.

The ass never really went away; since the days of Sir Mix-a-lot, every rap and R&B video under the sun has featured it prominently. But never quite so explicitly and with such joyful celebration as it is being featured now. The ass was always a key player in these music videos as a sexual thing, but the degree to which it has been comically represented through recent dance moves, fake ass islands and ass-shaped floats indicates a whole new level of love and attention.

Alternatively, the ass has, in recent years, almost taken on a life of its own, completely separated from the actual human females with personalities that they are attached to. Its staying power represents a continued sexualization of women that, as the ass becomes popular, becomes more and more detached from the actual women owning their own bodies and dancing for themselves. Instead, the large, jiggling butts – and by extension, the women who have them – become a literal prop in a music video for a man (or lately, a woman) much more rich, powerful and well-known than they are.

Ultimately, we can’t really blame one person in the origin story of the ass. Unless we decide to pin it on that one loudmouth guy who found some woman who loved it when men talked about her ass.

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