The Running Man Challenge viral video has turned into a major pop culture hit. Launched by high schoolers Kevin Vincent and Jeremiah Hall, the dance features a quick rhythmic step that’s catchy and entertaining. The dance went mainstream after numerous college and professional athletes, celebrities, and grandmothers posted their own renditions.
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The song utilized in all Running Man Challenge videos is the 1996 hit “My Boo” by the Ghost Town DJs. The Miami Bass-inspired anthem came to fruition when Rodney “Kool Kollie” Terry and Carlton “Carl Mo” Mahone met in So So Def A&R Lil Jon’s office. Terry created the drums and the infectious bass while Mahone added his keyboard and played the melody of the song. Suddenly, the trunk-rattling, electro-smooth R&B track was born.
The creation process included some luck. “Carl Mo was a keyboard player at the time but not understanding what he was doing he set the key in his voice and his tone,” said Terry. “It was very low and the original lead singer could not hit that low note period.”
Virgo Williams had entered sessions for “My Boo” as a background singer. Little did she know, she would be the voice behind the record. “When I was first called in, I got some initial background vocals on there,” said Williams who goes by the name Madison Bleu now. “Then they asked me to set up and do the lead. When I first heard the track, I was excited thinking that this was going to be amazing because it’s going to be different. You don’t hear a lot of R&B vocals on top of bass tracks.”
An unexpected savior was involved in hitting that low note. “There was a guy in the studio who sang the record and Virgo followed him piece by piece and we pieced it together,” said Terry. “The notes were so low for a female to hit because it wasn’t a female’s voice or key. That’s why I tell people, we fucked up and lucked up pretty much.”
The song was part of a collection of bass records released by So So Def Records as a compilation in the Summer of 1996. “There’s a bunch of records that were on the So So Def Bass All-Stars compilation,” said So So Def Records Founder Jermaine Dupri. “They all sound the same basically. They all have the same tempo. That’s the whole mentality with the compilation. It was a compilation built across music that was a certain tempo. So when I heard ‘My Boo’ it was a standout amongst the rest of the records because it sounded more like a commercial record. But it also just sounded like that thump, thump that DJs do when they mix R&B records on top of ‘Planet Rock’ or something like that.”
The record initially took off when DJ Greg Street broke the song on V103 during Freaknik in the Summer of 1996. It became a summer anthem and helped propel the compilation to gold status.
Despite the success, the group still remained relatively anonymous. “I honestly just think it was a wrestling match Columbia was having with itself because they really didn’t understand how to approach the situation,” Terry said. “I was the individual signed to So So Def, but I’m not the individual that was singing on the record obviously. And then Virgo, who at the time — and I’m so glad that she’s back and she’s getting the credit that she deserved — we had a situation where she was under bad management and they wouldn’t allow her to be involved in the situation. I kind of had to move on without her and I think Columbia’s situation was ‘ok, if you don’t have the girl to sing the record, nobody can be in here.’ That added to all of the mystique that was going on.”
Williams also remained anonymous as the singer. To this day some people still think Inoj is the vocalist. “People who were close to me knew, but for people outside of my immediate circle it was kind of difficult seeing people, said Williams. “I’d ride by and hear the song play, but I believe that everything happens for a reason and now it’s here again and everybody knows now.”
Twenty years later, the Running Man Challenge has gone viral and “My Boo” is experiencing a healthy second wind. The track reached number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week—a higher peak for the song than 20 years ago, when it landed at number 31. The track also reached as high as 22 on the iTunes charts.
“This don’t happen to everybody,” said Dupri. “This is not normal. When people ask me if it’s crazy, it’s beyond crazy. It’s the craziest shit that ever could happen in my career and none of my other peers have music like this. This ain’t happen to Roc-A-Fella, this ain’t happen to Bad Boy, this ain’t happen to Death Row. This is a Motown action. This is something like ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ when that song came back and the California Raisins commercial brought the song back.”
The reaction has been crazy for everyone behind the song to see. “It’s crazy because all those songs might’ve been out and people might love them,” said Ghost Town member DJ Demp. “They won’t resurface and actually get added back to radio or chart like this has charted.”
Williams now can listen to her voice on repeat while seeing the song reach new heights. “It’s exciting, said Williams. “I feel really blessed about it. God has given me that second chance and some people don’t get that.”
Terry’s just happy to see a song he co-created come back to the light. “I’m just really happy about it man,” said Terry. “You don’t know what to feel. You just try to feel grateful and just smile. You just go wow, this is something I did.”
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