Music and dance go together like money and sex. Makes sense that some rap classics first broke in strip clubs before ever hitting the airwaves — and continue to be the soundtrack for erotic dancers all over the world. DJ Gold of Houston’s Screwed Up Click gave mad props to dancers in the book Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop: “The girls are always gonna promote good music, if they feelin’ the song…then they go dance in another club and say, ‘do you have this song?’ It’s a chain…a domino effect.’”
Chicago-based DJ Parker Lee, half of rap group Mental Giants, remembers first hearing songs like Tag Team’s ’93 hit “Whoomp (There It Is),” Ludacris featuring Shawnna’s “What’s Your Fantasy?” and Juvenile’s “Back That Thang (Azz) Up” in strip clubs. “Every Cash Money Records artist did well there first,” he adds. Antonia Crane, author of Spent and veteran LA-based dancer of 25 years, knows how it goes down. “We are the ones who tip DJs — they might be getting minimum wage. The business owners depend on the dancers to supplement their incomes. The DJ wants to please the dancer to get a bigger tip.”
There’s a natural synergy between dancers and rap artists, says Crane. “Some dancers might say, ‘Hey, play my boyfriend’s new track’ and tip a DJ to do so.” Back in the day, dancers made an art of mixing and burning three-song sets onto CDs, she recalls, “until corporate chains leveled all of the mom-and-pop clubs in ’98, and by the early aughts things started to be more stringent — they only wanted us to dance to Lady Gaga and Top 40.”
While working in New Orleans for seven years, Crane was bummed to find a “no rap rule” in some corporate clubs. “It’s incredibly racist. At one cabaret there they wouldn’t even let me play Jimi Hendrix.” Sad to hear about the hometown of Lil Wayne, Master P, Mystikal, and so many others who have made music perfect to “shake it fast” to.
Kraig Tyler, who played in rap-rock band Crazy Town and DJed at Cheetah’s in Los Angeles for seven years, says the club’s Silver Lake neighborhood location brings out Hip-Hop-loving hipsters as clientele. “I mean that in the best way,” he says. “Hipsters appreciate history and nostalgia. They dig the throwbacks. You can use it to turn up or create a chill, sexy vibe with something like A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Electric Relaxation’ or LL Cool J’s ‘Around the Way Girl.’”
So the beat goes on and certain songs keep it bouncing to this day. Here are a few of the faves, straight from the mouths of babes.
Best song for: Gettin’ Hype JAY-Z – ‘I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)’
“The lyrics are ‘I’m a hustler baby, so just give it to me,’ so if nobody’s at the rail I’ll do the splits or something and put my hands out and beckon to them,” says Veronica Marie, an LA pole artist. Not to mention JAY-Z name-checks “Club Cheetah” and “Club Amnesia” (in Raleigh, North Carolina) in the song. She says Prince is a middle ground for fans of both Hip-Hop and rock, while Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” always catches the crowd with its hook.
Best song for: Making It Rain Puff Daddy – ‘It’s All About the Benjamins’
Adult film star, former Playboy Playmate, webcammer, and erotic dancer Tera Patrick says classic Hip-Hop is always in her mix. “My three faves are ‘All About the Benjamins’ by Puff Daddy, ‘Lap Dance’ by N.E.R.D, and ‘Grindin’’ by Clipse,” she says.
Best song for: Locals Only Too $hort – ‘I Need a Freak’
“I started in San Francisco so I always liked to dance to more local artists there, like trip-hop artist Tricky or Too $hort,” says Antonia Crane, who now dances in Palm Springs. “But I also love everything by Snoop, Dead Prez, and Cypress Hill.” She adds that “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G. plays well on the East Coast, too.
Best song to: Be Nasty as You Wanna Be 2 Live Crew – ‘Pop That Pussy’
Remember that part in The Players Club where Luke Skyywalker rolls up with his posse and Bernie Mac’s character Dollar Bill hits the green-light button, signaling “money in the house,” and “Pop That Pussy” starts pumping through the sound system? The filmmakers knew this was the perfect song to get a party started. Marina, who strips in Orlando and across the country, likes to bust out the Miami Bass (aka: Booty Bass), the genre that arguably gave birth to twerking. 2 Live Crew have plenty of songs about “doing tricks to make you holla,” and Uncle Luke pioneered the era of the video vixen.
Best song for: Booty Shakin’ Sir Mix-A-Lot – ‘Baby Got Back’
“Your ass has to be big enough for ‘Baby Got Back,’” says Arabella, a Manhattan-based dancer. “It’s a classic that gets people excited.” That or Missy Elliot’s “Work It,” asking, “Think you can handle this badunkadunkdunk?” helps her work her own magic to get guys sprung.
Best song for: Pole Dancing Snoop Dogg – ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’
While some dance to Cardi B, Antonia Crane prefers anything by Snoop. “Long before the ‘Trash Bags’ [full of money] song there was ‘Drop It,’ and I also love the whole Doggystyle album.”
Best: Stripper Ode Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz – ‘Get Low’
The kings of Crunk feature “scrippers” and water-gun-toting lady cops in their video for dancer favorite “Get Low,” and Chris Rock joked in Never Scared that “we should all be ashamed of ourselves for liking this freaking song,” yet it stays in rotation because the beat is so dope.
Best song for: Bringing Out Your Inner Stripper Ginuwine – ‘Pony’
“Everyone likes to get up and dance to ‘Pony’ themselves,” says Heather Lynn, a dancer in Atlanta. “That and ‘Lady Marmalade.’”
Best song for: The Ladies in the House Khia – ‘My Neck, My Back (Lick It)’
“If there are a lot of women in the crowd, I pull out ‘Lick My Neck, Lick My Back,’” says Veronica Marie. “It’s fun because you can really exaggerate and play off the lyrics, if you want. Antonia goes for Salt-N-Pepa, saying, “Those songs hold up.”
Best song for: Cheapskates Suga Free ft. DJ Quik — ‘Why U Bullshittin’?’
LA’s Brett Ashley isn’t having it when people “sit at the tip rail, watching — but keep their small stack of singles to themselves in a pathetic sense of entitlement.” If someone does this for dancer after dancer, she puts on Suga Free’s “Why U Bullshittin’?” as a way to call them out. “In Los Angeles, everyone knows the lyrics to that song, so watching them and their homies sing along to it is hilarious because eventually people figure out who is not tipping and why I put that song on. I always get the last laugh — and dollar.”
Best song for: Last Call LL COOL J — ‘Going Back to Cali’
Tera Patrick tells us she likes to end a 15-to-20-minute stripper feature set with rap and loot. “We choose four to five songs and my last song is a ‘giveaway,’ where I throw out my posters, magazines, photos, or DVDs to fans. This is where I deviate from my usual metal or rock choices and go Hip-Hop. I’ve done ‘Going Back to Cali’ by LL many times!” Others, like Cherry, who dances in Long Beach, like to end a night with N2 Deep’s “Back to the Hotel” or, with the right crowd, Tupac’s “California Love” always leads to an uplifting singalong.
Best song for: Whack Nights Gangsta Boo – ‘Can I Get Paid?’
One dancer who preferred not to be named claims to don a mask at the end of a bad night while lip-synching and gesturing to Gangsta Boo’s “Can I Get Paid” lyric: Get ya broke ass out the club if ya ain’t gone tip…
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