A group of teens dabbing.
Dabbing, or the dab is a simple dance move or gesture in which a person drops their head into the bent crook of a slanted, upwardly angled arm, while raising the opposite arm out straight in a parallel direction. Since 2015, dabbing has been used as a gesture of triumph or playfulness, becoming a youthful American fad and Internet meme. The move looks similar to someone sneezing into the "inside" of their elbow.
Before the term "dab" was coined, the move has long been a feature of Japanese popular culture for decades, regularly appearing in anime and manga, for example. A popular example is the 1990s anime series Dragon Ball Z, where the character Gohan (as The Great Saiyaman) occasionally performs the dab move. It is known as a "Sentai move" in Japan, from its popular use in the Super Sentai tokusatsu superhero series since the 1970s (localised as Power Rangers in the 1990s); the English dub of the anime series Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (2017) adds a joke referring to a Sentai move as "the dab". Other anime series where the dab move appears include the 1990s show Detective Conan, the 2000s show Naruto, and the early 2010s show Love Live, among others. The K-pop group Crayon Pop also appear to have performed the dab dance in the early 2010s.
The dance had a surge in popularity throughout mid-2014. Musicians on the Quality Control Music label had claimed the dab was invented by rapper Skippa Da Flippa and had origins in the Atlanta hip-hop scene in the 2010s. Another rap group on that label, Migos, who released a single in 2015 titled "Look at My Dab," had claimed to have invented the move, but they later agreed that Skippa Da Flippa was the inventor after criticism from a third member of that label, OG Maco.
American rapper Bow Wow attempted to explain the origin of the dab dance, saying it derived from the cannabis dabbers community, which started in about 2012, before the dance move. He was met with opposition from other rappers who immediately took to Twitter to insult him and disprove his claims. The rappers Peewee Longway, Jose Guapo and Rich the Kid contributed to popularizing the dab dance.
As XXL magazine reported in August 2015, "What started as a regional down South adlib is quickly becoming a masterful maneuver in clubs and on street corners. It's called dabbin'."Jason Derulo taught James Corden how to dab during the November 4, 2015 edition of "Carpool Karaoke" on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
The dab gained popularity in American sports following an eight-second celebratory dab by Cam Newton, football quarterback for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League, during a game against the Tennessee Titans on November 15, 2015. According to a Sports Illustrated account of the incident, "[w]hen two Titans players confronted [Newton] about the celebration, he continued to dance in their faces, even as he backed away." Newton explained the incident by crediting a 16-year-old for instructing him to "Dab on them folks":
I'm a firm believer that if you don't like me to do it then don't let me in ... I just like doing it, man. It's not to be boastful, and from the crowd's response they like seeing it. ... Tell me what to do "Dab on them folks," so I tried "Dab on them folks," in that tone too. "Dab on them folks." He's only like 16, but he's got an Adam's apple out of this world.
It was later confirmed that the 16-year-old was Newton's younger brother Caylin. On June 9, 2016, Cam Newton announced that he would no longer perform the celebration. However, he dabbed again on November 13, 2016 after a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs, nearly a year after his initial dab against the Titans.
Dabbing has made its appearance in politics, as well. In January 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dabbed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. In October 2016, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez dabbed at the end of a Senate debate against Attorney General Kamala Harris. On January 3, 2017, Cal Marshall, 17-year-old son of Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan), dabbed at his father's swearing in as a Congressman, confusing House Speaker Paul Ryan. On February 22, 2017, Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson dabbed in the UK's House of Commons. French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron,Benoît Hamon and François Fillon dabbed on TV in March 2017. In May 2017, Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway dabbed at the Royal Palace in Oslo during his grandparents' King Harald V and Queen Sonja's official appearance for their 80th birthday. In October 2017, Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten dabbed as part of a "diss track" criticising members of the Liberal Party. He later alluded to the dab's infamy, stating that his children had been "humiliated" by it.
In January 2017, an Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja dabbed in celebration of his half-century scored in a Test match against Pakistan in Sydney. His move received mixed reactions, with some praising it while others accused him of disrespecting his opponents.
In February 2017, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, invited a dance group to State House to perform the dab dance move with him. The president was doing the dab dance in a bid to appeal to the youthful population of Kenya to come out and register as voters. Some critics found this move to be in bad taste since there were other pressing issues like the doctors and lecturers strike that the president ought to have been dealing with rather than dancing.
Today, the dab is both a dance move and a statement. The culture behind it has been propagated by celebrity use and memes. Many dancers incorporate the move in their repertoire as a minor addition to a set. Whether in the beginning, middle, or end of a set, a dab is usually used to mark a drop. In Korean pop music (K-pop) some South Koreans adopted the move, along with the Whip and Nae Nae.
Manchester United footballers Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard also popularised the dab by performing the dance as their goal celebration. Wrestler T.J. Perkins often uses the move as a taunt or a sign of disrespect after a headstand headscissors takedown.
In Saudi Arabia, dabbing was made illegal by the National Committee for Drug Control as it was deemed that it alludes to cannabis and other illegal substances. In August 2017, Saudi singer and actor Abdallah Al Shaharani was arrested for performing the move at a music festival in Ta'if, and afterward apologised in a tweet. In January 2018 a Saudi footballer was criticized on social media for performing the move during a match.
There's a great deal of controversy surrounding the pioneers of the dabbing dance, with the credit going to various members of Quality Control label (including Migos, Skippa Da Flippa, and Peewee Longway). Migos has gotten the bulk of credit for the trend since releasing the song 'Dab' on Sept. 3, 2015.