In recent days, the Mannequin Challenge has flooded all corners of social media, with celebrities from Paul McCartney to the Dallas Cowboys to Kevin Hart embracing the viral trend. Participants upload videos of themselves frozen in motion and the soundtrack has most often been “Black Beatles,” the single from Atlantan hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd that’s currently at No. 9 on the Hot 100 and rising. But for all the glitzy names who have taken part, one stands out in particular.
“Hillary Clinton was the one that sealed the deal for me,” the duo’s Swae Lee tells EW by phone of the Democratic presidential nominee’s take on the challenge, which she posted to Twitter early on the morning of Election Day. (Sremmurd subsequently posted an edit of Clinton’s version that replaced its silence with “Black Beatles” and added a call to “go vote for her.”) Rae Sremmurd have denounced President-Elect Donald Trump for months and Lee’s partner, Slim Jxmmi, agrees about Clinton’s support: “That was cray.”
But the trend emerged from far humbler roots. “The mannequin challenge started in high schools,” explains Jxmmi, citing the bevy of videos from teenagers that sparked the craze. “First time we seen the video was a few days ago: Colony High School. We reposted them. We wanted to do it too, so we participated.”
As the videos began to multiply — including one Rae Sremmurd taped onstage at a Denver show on Nov. 3 — Lee says he “tuned in” to “see what’s really going on” and was shocked by their prevalence. “Everybody’s doing it around the world,” he says. “Everybody’s squad is doing it. All these kids are doing it. All these football teams are doing it. All the homies are doing it. We’re just like, ‘Damn!'”
So, why do Rae Sremmurd think these videos use “Black Beatles” rather than other songs? “It’s the best song out!” Lee says with a laugh. “It has a good mood to it, and the world is just appreciating that song. When it comes on, it makes you feel a certain vibe. You really pay attention to what’s going on. You see everything that’s going on… it feels like you’re frozen, that something big is about to happen. When the beat drops, it’s perfect.”