Diggin’ In The Crates: The Sample In Jeremih’s ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em’

A super brief history on the samples used in that song you can’t get out of your head

Jeremih has comfortably been making bank from the bedroom for the past five years. In 2009, the crooner who looked like Diddy’s mini-me turned birthdays into the second baby-making holiday after honeymoons with “Birthday Sex”. The year after, the Def Jam signee fronted the 2010 freaky deaky anthem “Down On Me” co-starring 50 Cent. Then, in 2012, he dropped the underrated Late Nights with Jeremih mixtape for the grown and sexy. Now, the singer often on hook duty attempts to penetrate speakers once more with the slick and sly “Don’t Tell ‘Em.”

If you find yourself repeating Jeremih’s hook after one listen, it could be because you already know the song. Before EDM became a (highly profitable) thing, German eurodance music tandem Snap! (comprised of Michael Münzing and Luca Anzilotti) dropped “Rhythm Is A Dancer” in 1992. It peaked at No. 5 on the US Billboard Top 100 but enjoyed more success overseas as the biggest-selling single of the year in the UK with 582,700 copies sold.

With vocals from American singer/writer/composer Thea Austin and bars from rapper Turbo B (an American reportedly discovered at a navy base in Germany while doing service in the army), the catchy refrain goes, “Rhythm is a dancer/ It’s a soul’s companion/ You can feel it everywhere.”Jeremih takes a more shallow approach on “Don’t Tell ‘Em”, flipping it into, “Rhythm is a dancer, I need a companion/ Girl I guess that must be you/ Body like the summer, fucking like no other/ Don’t you tell ‘em what we do.”

At a time where TMZ and Twitter were obsolete, the original copped some flack for the eyebrow-raising line: “I’m as serious as cancer, when I say rhythm is a dancer.” (UK’s Telegraph hailed it “the worst lyric of all time”.) Some say it’s a play off of Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Ain’t No Joke” off their 1987 LP Paid In Full where they rap, “I got a question as serious as cancer/ Who can keep the average dancer.”

For the visual, Snap! makes a play for global domination at a space station with an army of men dressed in light-up, skin-tight bodysuits. As they salute to the beat and hold globes above their heads, Austin is hoisted in the air amidst fog. Bill Nye The Science Guy-type effects also prance in and out of the screen. Despite the dated video, “Rhythm Is A Dancer” set the tone for mainstream. Electronic beats, dinky rap and infectious powerhouse vocals ultimately became the stuff that all great ’90s pop hits are made of (see: La Bouche’s 1995 “Be My Lover“). Whether your dance skills extend as far as Will Ferrell’s head bop in Night At The Roxbury or the Jabbawockeez, “Rhythm Is A Dancer” is an instant pick-me-up that stands the test of time.—Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton)

“Don’t Tell Em” is produced by DJ Mustard and Mick Schultz and will appear on Jeremih’s forthcoming LP on Def Jam Records. Cop “Don’t Tell ‘Em” on iTunes here.