The original broomstick challenge.
“It’s April 21, and my broomstick is still standing up on its own — look!” exclaimed Johnny B. from City Heights.
NASA was quick to debunk the #BroomstickChallenge a couple of months ago when San Diegans took to their TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to stand up their brooms at improbable angles, as if the broomsticks were held up by invisible anomalies. Folks claimed it was due “to Mother Earth’s gravitational pull.”
“This is another social media hoax that exemplifies how quickly pseudoscience and false claims can go viral,” said Karen Northon at NASA in a statement. “While this hoax was harmless, it also shows why it’s important for all of us to do some fact checking and research... before jumping into the latest viral craze.”
Many assume that the #BroomstickChallenge originated on a February 10, 2020 tweet by @mikaiylaaaaa.
“Not,” continued Johnny. “We learned that in the 1980s from Turbo.”
Johnny, a vintage record dealer and old school hip-hop head was referring to the character played by Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers in the 1984 Breakin’ movie.
In the middle of the hip-hop movie based in Los Angeles, “Turbo pulled out his boombox and played “Tour de France” by Kraftwerk, then danced with the broomstick,” Johnny explained. “[It appeared that] Turbo made that shit float in mid air, and after that — that scene went viral.”
“Viral how?” I asked, “we didn’t have America Online until ten years later.”
“Viral via VHS,” he responded, “we made video copies of that scene and looped it so that we could watch the broom scene over and over again, and we made copies of “Tour de France” on cassette, because it didn’t make the Breakin’ soundtrack.”
Kraftwerk, founded by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, released the “Tour de France” single in 1983. The electro song pays homage to the annual French cycling event. Hütter, Schneider, and Kraftwerk’s other half — Karl Bartos and Peter Schmidt — took up cycling when they weren’t producing beats on the electronic drum machine or robotizing their voices on the vocoder machine at the group’s Kling Klang Studio in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The six-minute song begins with human breathing, a popular sound in hip-hop’s electro-funk subgenre that’s also infused on “Space is the Place” by the Jonzun Crew, “Egypt, Egypt” by Egyptian Lover, “Jam the Box” by Pretty Tony, and “Surgery,” a World Class Wreckin’ Cru song about their DJ, young Dr. Dre.
“Those breathing samples were contagious on the dance floor,” Johnny continued, “it helped us dancers find our inner chi.”
The 133-beats-per-minute “Tour de France” features sounds of spinning bicycle chains and shifting gear mechanisms, which worked well with Turbo’s popping, waving, ticking, backsliding, roboting, and liquid animation in Breakin’. And no matter which side of the record you played — side A being in German or side B being in French — it was a must-have weapon in the scratch DJ’s arsenal of the time.
“Regarding Kraftwerk’s other songs, 'Numbers'  and 'Trans Europe Express' , weren’t they sampled on that ‘Planet Rock’ cut?" questioned Johnny.
In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine voted Afrika Bambaaata and the Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock” as the third greatest hip-hop song ever, and confirmed the song contains samples from Kraftwerk.
- Thursday, June 25, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
868 Fourth Avenue,
Kraftwerk is slated to perform at Balboa Theatre on June 25. “Bringing together music and performance art, Kraftwerk 3-D concerts are a true Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art,” says the venue’s website.
Boogaloo Shrimp Documentary can be viewed on Amazon’s Prime Video. It explains how the 2020 broomstick challenge might’ve began.