The dab is a dance move in which the dancer simultaneously drops the head while raising an arm and the elbow in a gesture that has been noted to resemble sneezing.The dab has its origins in the Atlanta hip-hop scene, particularly among artists on the Quality Control record label.
When dabbing first caught popular attention several Quality Control artists were mentioned as possible originators including Migos (‘Look at My Dab’), Peewee Longway, Jose Guapo, and Rich The Kid. OG Maco eventually called out labelmate Migos for taking credit when the move was actually the brainchild of Skippa da Flippa. Though Migos later confirmed da Flippa as the originator of the dance, they expressed displeasure with the way Maco handled the situation.
American rapper Bow Wow attempted to explain the origin of the dab dance, saying it derived from the cannabis dabbers community started long before the dance move in 2012. (‘Dabbing’ also refer to the act of smoking hash oil) He was met with opposition from other rappers who immediately took to Twitter to insult and disprove his claims.
The dab rose to national prominence in the U.S. in 2015. According to hip hop magazine ‘XXL’: ‘What started as a regional down South adlib is quickly becoming a masterful maneuver in clubs and on street corners.’ The move gained broad attention after Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers started incorporating it in his victory celebrations. His first touchdown dab took place against the Tennessee Titans in November of 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.’
After his famous dab against the Titans, Newton explained at a press conference that his 16-year-old brother Caylin had instructed 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.’ In the 2016 offseason, Newton announced that he would no longer perform the celebration. However, he would dab once again on in November 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 early 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dabbed on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ In early 2017, Cal Marshall, 17-year-old son of Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan) dabbed at his father’s Congressional Swearing in ceremony, confusing for a moment House Speaker Paul Ryan, who asked him if he need to sneeze.