This Is What's Really Going On With The #TzAnthemChallenge

A dance challenge made Zay Hilfiger’s song a viral hit, but someone else is seeing most of the shine.

On September 7, high school junior Hannah Talliere's best friend posted a video of Hannah dancing in a parking lot, outside of her school in Norfolk, Virginia. That video now has over 150,000 retweets, and has prompted hundreds of copycat clips shared across social media. As Talliere explained to her local paper, the dance video was filmed as she was celebrating a win with her volleyball team, and waiting around for rides with other school athletes.

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The song she was captured dancing to is "Tz Anthem," by 15-year-old, Detroit-based rapper Zay Hilfiger, whose real name is Tyjuan Peoples. Hilfiger and a friend created the song in 2014, after they were inspired by the viral success of the Nae Nae, a dance invented by Atlanta quintent WeAreToonz, and spread by amateur dance videos, professional athletes, and the regional hit “Drop That #NaeNae.” Over the phone on Monday afternoon, Hilfiger told The FADER that he wrote the lyrics for “Tz Anthem” and choreographed its chorus, which features eight dance moves performed in quick succession, at the same time. "I didn't write nothing down," he said. "It was just randomly on the beat. I was just so excited."

#freshtheclowns be lit!!! Tag us, DM us for promo, dance videos, if you want us to kill your #challenge

A video posted by Founder @freshboyira @smilez.p (@freshtheclowns) on

Last month, Hilfiger was contacted by Fresh The Clowns, a Detroit squad of dancing clowns who are currently on tour with the UniverSoul Circus. They reached out to Hilfiger, with the idea to make a dance video using his song. Hilfiger is now a member of their troupe but credits Fresh The Clowns with the idea for turning “Tz Anthem” into a challenge — or a hashtag, where social media users are prompted to share their own version of a dance, or freestyle. (At a time when dance culture is back in a major way with young music fans, dance challenges give songs major boosts. In August, after Chance The Rapper’s entry into the #SoFarGoneChallenge was retweeted more than 250,000 times, Monica’s 2003 song experienced a massive surge in sales and streams. In May, the 1996 Ghostdown DJs song “My Boo” charted higher than it had upon its release after athletes started participating in the #RunningManChallenge.)

Fresh The Clowns shared their #TzAnthemChallenge video on August 1. Their clip only has 100,000 views, but seems to have spread widely enough to reach Talliere, the Virginia volleyball player. In her video, Talliere performs Hilfiger’s original choreography, just as Fresh The Clowns had. On September 8, a popular Travis Scott parody account shared her video on Twitter, writing in his caption: “I’VE NEVER BEEN SO PROUD OF A WHITE GIRL.” Days later, Hilfiger posted a new video, featuring himself and a female friend, Kiki, performing an “advanced” version of the “Tz Anthem” dance. “Y'all White Girls Killed It But This How It's Really Done,” he wrote.

In the following hours, a #TzAnthemChallenge video created by another young white woman was aired out on popular Instagram account The Shade Room, and Talliere deleted her own Instagram account. When dances and memes that originate with black creators gain popularity, some commenters observed, it’s often white people who reap the most profits.

Talliere did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on Monday, Hilfiger said that he loved Talliere’s dance, and had reached out to her to pay his respects. "I feel like Hannah and everyone else did good," he said. "I just like the fact that everyone has fun. I'm a person that loves positive energy and dancing. No matter what race you are, if you do the ‘Tz Anthem,’ you are my best friend in my book."

While it’s hard to measure the popularity of Hilfiger’s song, which is not streaming via major services, Google searches for “Tz Anthem” have taken off in the last 30 days. Searches related to the song make up nearly all of the top 10 dance-related searches in the U.S. over the last seven days. Hilfiger said he's already looking to the future and is excited to work on new dances with Fresh The Clowns. In the meantime, he and Hannah Talliere are both starting a new school year. He's being homeschooled: "I don't have to worry about students wanting to make a scene." After they went viral together, Talliere has suddenly amassed 38,000 followers on Twitter. He has less than 2,000.

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September 12, 2016
This Is What's Really Going On With The #TzAnthemChallenge