The New Orleans rapper Juvenile’s biggest hit record, Back That Thang Up, might have been released 21 years ago, but the classic song is now enjoying a new life as a reworked, pro-vaccine paean that could prove to be a stroke of genius in the battle against Covid-19 in the Black community.
On 6 July, the YouTube channel for BLK, a dating app created for Black singles, released the video for Vax That Thang Up, which finds the former Lil Wayne collaborator giving new lyrics to his original summertime dance anthem.
With the original music from Back That Thang Up remaining mostly intact, the song features catchy new lyrics with a jab of social responsibility mixed in with romantic ambitions.
Juvenile opens the song by promoting the BLK app, then cautioning listeners: “Before you find a date, yeah, you gotta wait, yeah / Gotta go vaccinate yeah, get it straight, yeah.” He’s joined on the track by his fellow New Orleans hip-hop hitmakers Mannie Fresh and Mia X.
In the song’s second verse, Mannie Fresh adds: “Girl, you can be the queen, aftеr quarantine / We can meet up at the spot and we can do the thing,” while Mia X counsels the ladies: “If you wanna get sticky and hot / Go, go, go, go get the shot.”
By Wednesday morning the video was trending on Twitter, with reactions of almost universal praise, from everyday users to a Harvard epidemiologist.
It’s a fun, funny and creative solution to a major concern seen as a critical component to defeating the Covid-19 pandemic. Black adults younger than 40, according to the US census bureau, are the most likely group in the country to resist vaccination.
Among likely reasons for the community’s hesitation are widespread distrust of government, and specifically government medicine, due to historic incidents such as the infamous “Tuskegee Experiment”, in which almost 400 Black men with latent syphilis were deceived and unwittingly studied by the US Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Race and ethnicity play a part in health risks from Covid-19, according to the CDC. Black Americans are two times more likely to die from Covid than white Americans, and almost three times as likely to require hospitalization.
According to recent data on vaccinations published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, less than half of Black and Hispanic people have received at least one dose in nearly all states that have reported data.
Lower vaccination rates among individual groups leave them at increased risk for infection, the report says, particularly as new variants spread. High vaccination rates among individuals and throughout communities is key to achieving broad population immunity, Kaiser’s report says.
In a statement obtained by Rolling Stone, Juvenile proudly promoted the song and his stance on the vaccine.
“I just wanted to do something positive for my people and to stand in the front to show that I’m willing to sacrifice my life, not just for me but also for my family,” he said. “We don’t know what we’re facing right now but we really do all need to be vaccinated so we can continue to do our thing and survive.”