Those who frequent the TikTok universe may have come across last winter’s viral Junebug Challenge, in which participants find unusual locations where they perform a dance move to “Beat Box 2,” a track by Florida rapper SpotemGottem featuring Pooh Shiesty.
The dance’s Richmond, California-based originator, known as Junebug, has been touring the U.S. since January to perform his eponymous dance move at clubs and parties. Earlier this month, Junebug visited the DMV, where he appeared at a go-go event with TCB and Reaction Band at Alexandria’s Club One and at a public afternoon birthday party for the nephew of Rare Essence percussionist Tony Tee at Hanger Club in Camp Springs.
At both events, Junebug wore a gift he received as he arrived on Easter Sunday: A pair of New Balance sneakers, the brand favored by the go-go community on and off since the ’80s. The sneakers were a gift from the events’ promoter, Behind the Scenes Entertainment, run by Tony Tee’s brother Tayion Wright. At Club One, the crowd went wild as Junebug performed Beat Ya Feet, the dance style that is inextricably connected to go-go’s bouncebeat culture.
About a month before Junebug’s visit, local go-go artist and producer Drew “Keys” Hillocks recorded a bouncebeat remix of “Beat Box 2” that he posted to social media. Clearly, Junebug liked it. During his weekend here, Junebug visited several Washington landmarks to perform his signature dance, and compiled a new video set to Drew Keys’ bouncebeat remix. The video shows him Junebugging in front of the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and some cherry blossoms. He also performs some Beat Ya Feet.
The video’s caption reads, “Day 40. I discovered GOGO.” So far, it’s been viewed over 2 million times.
Junebug’s D.C. video is yet another example of go-go’s increased visibility in recent years. It also represents an opportunity for the genre to connect with a larger, younger demographic. “This is a great integration of the viral universe and go-go culture and an important and futuristic opportunity,” says Malik DOPE, the local percussionist who danced onstage with Junebug at Club One. “Right now, someone who is killing it on social media, Junebug, has embraced our culture and spotlighted it. That’s helpful to getting go-go and Beat Ya Feet to the masses, because he has the eyes of the masses at this moment.”
For Drew Keys, Junebug’s video with his remix has given him his largest audience to date. A veteran of local acts KOB, New Vision, the Go-Go Symphony, and TCB, Drew Keys works as a satellite communications engineer by day, but the rest of his time is dedicated to music, which he has been immersed in since he was 15. Earlier this year, his “trap go-go” remix for the social media “Buss It” Challenge went viral. As it turned out, he got some help promoting his “Beat Box 2” remix from local director and cinematographer Spike Nu, a former bouncebeat musician who played in MOB and Undisputed and now does camera work for ABM.
Once Junebug arrived, says Spike Nu, they talked about how he might best explore the city. “Junebug didn’t say he wanted to see the monuments, and he didn’t say the White House,” says Spike Nu. “He pulled out his phone, and he said, ‘I like this song … whoever made that beat, I would like to meet them, and I want to get that song to use for a video.’”
Spike Nu contacted Drew Keys for the remix, but Drew Keys did not expect anything to come of it. Then, on the afternoon of Easter Monday, Drew Keys’ phone lit up. “I was shocked because he never acknowledged that I sent him the remix, so I didn’t know that he heard it,” says Drew Keys. “I got a notification on my phone that I was tagged by Junebug, and then my phone just went crazy. I couldn’t keep up with my notifications.”
Actually, Junebug’s D.C. clip was not the first viral video featuring performers dancing to Drew Keys’s “Beat Box 2” remix. In late January, local street dancer Sheldon “Yo Shellz” Silvers, who also goes by “The Prince of Beat Ya Feet,” put together a video featuring Prince Lamar, Goofys, and Tre Ricardo. Yo Shellz, like Junebug, danced in various locations in the DMV and mixed the Junebug move with Beat Ya Feet. “I found D.C. landmarks that I knew that would mean something to the public here and used them for my locations,” he says. “I used the Big Chair in Southeast, the speed trap on 295, Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, and other spots. I chose the Big Chair to pay homage to an original Beat Ya Feet king, Jose Hancock, who made a video dancing on the Big Chair years before I came in the game.”
Released on January 30, the Yo Shellz video went viral within an hour. It can be hard to estimate the total number of views across platforms, but it was seen 20,000 times on both Yo Shellz’s and Drew Keys’ Instagram pages, and it was also shared more than 8,000 times. On YouTube, it currently has over 30,000 views, and on the @dmvhoodzandnewz Instagram page, it has more than 100,000 views.
“All exposure’s good,” says Yo Shellz. “Drew’s remixes are absolutely engaging with what’s hip. The youngins that have not experienced a real go-go or older go-go culture, they can relate to this because it’s blended with what’s relevant now, which is the TikTok dances and the Instagram viral videos. That’s good for bouncebeat because honestly, the youngins and the dancers is what’s pushing music anywhere.”
TCB keyboard player Brandon “Bee” Smith doesn’t pay much attention to TikTok dances, but his daughter does, and he can appreciate the impact that a social media sensation can have on go-go culture. “I do think social media can and will be very good for go-go,” says Bee. “What Drew Keys is doing for go-go can’t hurt, and it can definitely help. Junebug did that video for Drew’s remix, and so now people from TikTok see him partying and having fun with bouncebeat, so it’s got to be something that will help spread the message of go-go. People that are unfamiliar with go-go, they need something that they know, love, and are familiar with to help introduce it to them.”
Drew Keys hopes to continue collaborating with Junebug and he’s mixing new remixes. His version of Soulja Boy’s “She Make It Clap” has already received airplay on WKYS, and he also remixed Junebug’s original song “Bug Out.” From Drew Keys’ perspective, it’s all about exposure. “If a song has a TikTok challenge, it gets shared a lot more than other songs simply because people are doing the challenge. And if a go-go version of a song has a challenge, then that will in turn lead to go-go spreading more through social media.”
Several days after Junebug first posted his D.C. video, Drew Keys joined him on an Instagram live with a split screen. “I thanked him for using the remix and I started beating my feet on the live, and he was hyped up,” says Drew Keys. “After I stopped dancing, we had a conversation. I asked him how he learned to beat his feet so fast because he was only here for two days. He said he’s been practicing his style for six months, but he thought the dance was from Jersey.”