The models for The FADER’s Fall Fashion editorial are SheLovesMeechie and TheRealYvngQuan, Atlanta-based dancers whose videos bring to life the lyrics of great songs, and whose Instagram and YouTube channels are becoming a new kind of radio for music to be promoted and discovered on. Cara Stricker photographed that story, and to go along with it directed this dance video, choreographed by Meechie and Toosi, as Quan is known to friends, and soundtracked by Lil Yachty.
Meechie, 21, and Toosi, 19, both began dancing as kids, but neither has formal training. They connected after both had made names on the internet, and are together best known for their innovations on a dance called the Hit Dem Folks, which originated about two hours south of Atlanta, in Columbus, Georgia.
Meechie and Quan have performed with Yo Gotti and Rae Sremmurd, and made a fan and friend in pro football player Odell Beckham Jr. Currently, they’re traveling on Drake’s Summer Sixteen tour, dancing with Future. Their place at that show is a testament to the renewed prominence of dance in rap music today — where songs go viral faster if they’ve got viral dances attached, or at least are enjoyed more. But among the thousands of teens who’ve cammed themselves hitting a hit, Meechie and Toosi stand out because they have star power, radiating out from their big-ass grins. Their moves are democratic, but their happiness is aspirational.
“We make fun. We make it feel like you can do what we doing,” Toosi said in August, in a conversation with Meechie that’s excerpted below. “I'm smiling cheek-to-cheek in every video. Back then in dance, people were battling each other. We're not battling each other. We're just expressing ourselves.”
Meechie: I moved to Atlanta from New York when I was 13. I’d already used to dance, when I was younger, when family came over. My momma a nurse, and my daddy in construction. After I first moved to Atlanta, I wasn't talking to nobody. I used to just be on the computer all day, looking at other dance videos. I always knew I was gonna do something involved with the computer. I was watching my niggas Dragon House dance to dubstep, like non-stop. Then I watched Les Twins, Chris Brown, South Dallas Swag, and a dance called skitzing — I got it from this nigga named Sparrow in Dallas. Now I’m like all that mixed into one. I take a little sauce from it all, and put my own sauce.
When I first started making videos, I used to use a tripod. I had videos up on Facebook first. I was in the tenth grade. I’d get hella comments on Facebook, but wouldn’t see the amount of views. So I started putting videos on YouTube, to see how many views I’d get. I’d get 300 here, 500 there. When Vine came, I made a Vine at the gas station, dancing to some Texas shit. I was dancing to the lyrics and shit. In like 20 minutes, I seen I had like 100 re-Vines. Next day I’m refreshing it and it keeps going up. So I’m like, “Damn, might as well just put up Vines and shit.” Now everybody wants to be Instagram dancing. When we upload videos, I'll put the clip on Instagram but I'll tell people to watch it on YouTube, so I'll see the views.
Toosi: My parents are from South Carolina. My mom moved to Atlanta when I was in the third grade. She works for this German engine company. She's like an engineer. It’s pretty cool for a woman to be an engineer like that. I think she wanted me to follow her into engineering and stuff. But that's not me. I just couldn't see myself going that route. I knew I could do something more, like bigger. I couldn't just have a regular job.
In high school I was a hooper. I played basketball. The coach hated me. But when you go to practice you dance, but I was definitely not taking dance classes or taking it serious. I just always knew I danced, since I was little. I always had rhythm. But it was never like, "I'm gonna dance when I grow up." I was really doing it for fun. But when people really started messing with it, like "do more,“ I kept doing it. It just took off from there. My mom wasn't messing with the dance wave until I started bringing in those checks. The money came in about 10 months after I started dancing.
I met Meechie like two years ago, October 2014. We lived three exits away, but we never came across each other. He hit me up on YouTube, then he hit me up on Instagram. Like, “Yo, where you stay at?” I’m like, “Norcross.” He’s like, “Yo, that’s 10 minutes away from me!” He pulled up probably like two hours later and we made like 6 videos.
“We paint a story. While this rapper is talking about something, we take time and visualize what the fuck they’re talking about.” —Meechie, @SheLovesMeechie
Meechie: In dance it just be little phases. When we had the Nae Nae, everybody was doing the Nae Nae.
Toosi: Then everybody's doing the Whip. Everybody's doing this, that. But the Hit Dem Folks originated from Columbus, Georgia. They claimed it: Downtown BTW [Booker T. Washington] projects.
Meechie: There’s a video on YouTube, it's an old nigga just talking about, “It's the Hit Dem Folks. Yeah." And it’s the whole hood, everybody's doing that shit. We were watching that video. At first, I thought niggas was just like, flexing. Posing.
Toosi: We posted a video of us doing the dance. Then a bunch of people commented like, “Y’all doing the wrong things.” So we were like, “Let’s get the research right. We gon get it right.” You can’t just jump in somebody’s game and be good. But we kept working at it. Instead of doing it how they did it, we did it to where it fit us. To this day, we still don’t do it like them. We turned it into our own slang. It’s still the same dance but it's our style. And our style is one of the more popular styles.
Meechie: [On the Summer Sixteen tour with Future] the two other dancers with us are from Columbus.
Toosi:We call these dudes the creators. They were a part of the creation of the movement. I don't know why we get the credit, but we let the people know where it come from. But innovators, and creators and innovators always clash. Whether the creators are upset because the innovators are the people who are more known, or the innovators are not giving them credit, stuff like that. Creators always just beef with the innovators.
Meechie: We paint a story. Other people just put on a song and up and do some shit. They do the same shit at the same time, every time. I don’t even think they listen to the song they’re dancing to. But if you watch our videos, all of them look different. While this rapper is talking about something, we take time and visualize what the fuck they’re talking about.
Toosi: We bring the lyrics to life. We turn a song into visuals, to where people can understand. I paint the song for you.
Meechie: Sometimes people comment like, “I ain’t know what the fuck this nigga was talking about till I seen this video. Now I can picture what they saying.”
People hit us to dance to their songs every day. I used to be like, “They giving me bread. I'ma do it." But then I had to sit back and look at it like: I don't have to accept everybody bread. If we're dancing to some weak ass shit, that makes us look bad. I’ll listen to a song. If it got potential, then I'll move forward with it. But if it doesn't have potential, nah. Some labels will be like, “Aight, we have this person. We want you to do this single.” I be like, “Bruh. I know what’s going on. I know what people are going to copy. And this ain’t it. Go ahead then. But I’m telling you that this shit just don’t sound right. I can’t hear this over and over again.” But they just be tripping, like, “We gon do radio.” They be thinkin they gotta do shit like they did 10 years ago.
Toosi: They don't know that we are the radio. They still don't understand that. Everybody on our YouTube commenting like, “I’m on your page just for your music. I need your playlist.”
Meechie: We try to not do the big, big, songs, because labels can shut it down. YouTube deleted [our video dancing to] “Jumpman” the minute I posted that shit. And Instagram deleted the [21 Savage and Metro Boomin] “X Bitch” video. If it’s an artist we know — Rae Sremmurd or people like that — we can contact them like, “OK, we want to do this song, could y’all clear it for us?” I don’t know why our Justin Bieber video is still there. It’s meant to be up.
“Atlanta should be the capital of the United States. We’re the music culture, we’re the dance culture. I don’t know why people don’t understand that.” —Toosi, @TheRealYvngQuan
Toosi: Dance is up there at its peak right now. In the 80s, breakdancing was pretty big. That was one of the biggest things. But this era now might be the biggest for dance, because we got social media. People want to be dancing. Back then, if you were dancing in the middle of a party, people would be like, “You’re so lame. Why are you dancing?” Right now, you get all the girls if you know how to hit them folks.
Meechie: I was at the 21 Savage “Red Opps” video shoot. The whole time there’s a nigga in the back, wearing a pistol. The nigga was looking at me, and I’m like, “Why is this nigga looking at me like that?” I was talking to myself: I’m a good kid, I don’t be doing that shit. We ain’t got no beef. Then the nigga was like, “You Meechie?” I didn’t even wanna say yeah. Then he said, “You be killin that dancing shit.” I’m like, “Bro! The fuck! I thought you was gonna shoot me, nigga!” He said everybody be watching our shit, just sitting and watching and getting turnt. Cause the shit is fun!
Toosi: We make fun. We make it feel like you can do what we doing. I'm smiling cheek-to-cheek in every video. Back then in dance, people were battling each other. We're not battling each other. We're just expressing ourselves.
Meechie: Odell [Beckham Jr.] had seen our videos. He hit us like, "Can y'all come to New York?" So we gone. He flew us to New York and we was at his crib for two days. I think he’d just turned 24. He got loud music, games. Nigga's a kid for real. And we just big ass kids, you feel me? So it's late as hell, we playing games, and then we hear music, so we be turnt. So we’d be dancing, and we’d teach him. So then nigga got right! At the end, we’re about to leave, and he’s like, “Y’all got something to do or something?” So he paid to extend the tickets.
Toosi: We was out there for a week. He didn't want us to leave. We was having so much fun. It’s just good vibes.
Meechie: Metro [Boomin] called us the cheat code in the studio. We’re in the studio and he’s playing a beat, and the shit hard, so we up! He said, “We can’t have these niggas doing that, they some cheat codes! If they dancing to it already, then we know it’s gonna be a hit!
Toosi: The dance is really meant for trap music. That’s where the dance came from. That’s what it is. When it's like a hard beat, like a Metro beat or a Southside beat, it just takes it to the roof. We can do Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift too. But when we do trap, it's like crazy. This dancing was made for this era.
Meechie: Next I think we might just dab into choreography, too. Making videos we was in gas stations, we was in the parking lots, then we just turn on the song. But on this tour, Future ain’t say it, but we got the word that Future said, “We want this shit to look organized. So come up with some shit.” So we deadass choreographed four songs in a day and a half. Came up with the whole routine in 36 hours. Now it’s all these people that are like, “I want to learn.” So we might just have to do a class and go to D.C., New York, Miami. Make a little route. Tell em that we got Odell right, we got Future right. Now this nigga Future out here dancing like a motherfucker.
Toosi: Atlanta is the dance capital. We should be the capital of the United States. We're the music culture, we're the dance culture. Atlanta is the culture. I don't know why people don't understand that. You go to a party in the United States, you're gonna hear Atlanta somewhere.
Director: Cara Stricker
Featuring: SheLovesMeechie & Yvng Quan
Producers: Naomi Zeichner, PET, VAVLT
Executive Producers: Joseph Patel
Co-Producer: Robert Semmer
Production Coordinator: Madison LaClair
DP: David Vollrath
Steady Cam Operator: Steve Cantrell
AC: Doug Durant
Gaffer: Greg Tango
Editor Wranger: Michael Bell
Fashion Editor: Shibon Kennedy
Photo Director: Frank Seidlitz
Photo Assistant: Jonnie Hokklo
Fashion Assistants: Ian Mcrae & Pauline Seng
Grooming: Colby Smith
Designer Credits: BVNDO, LACOSTE, Nike, Token
Compositor: Michael Bell
Editor: Cara Stricker, Michael Bell
Colorist: Cara Stricker
Music: Lil Yachty f. Skippa Da Flippa, “Good Day”