Epic Games' Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the world, and a big part of that popularity comes from their emotes -- dances and other gestures which are used in the game as taunts or celebratory moves. However, many have called out Epic Games for these emotes, claiming that they have been stolen and renamed in Fortnite without permission or citation from their creators or sources.
On this week's episode of Function, we explore the concept of commodifying culture through video games. We talk with Ty Robinson, a former game animator for Konami's Dance Dance Revolution, about the technology behind putting dance moves into video games. And we also speak with Brooklyn rapper 2 Milly, an artist at the center of the controversy surrounding Epic Games' and their use of his dance, the Milly Rock.
Big thanks to Microsoft Azure for supporting the first season of Function.
Anil Dash: Hi. Welcome to the very first episode of Function. I'm Anil Dash, your host. Every week here we're going to talk about the way technology is reshaping our lives but at a real human level, because we're going to talk to those of us that are users that live with the apps every day, but especially to developers, software developers, creators, designers, the people that make those apps that shape the world we live in.
I'm incredibly interested in the impact that technology has on our lives because, well, one, I've been a computer programmer, and I've made software and wondered how it affected people. But also, I'm somebody who's written about technology whether it was in Wired magazine or on my own personal blog and especially because these days, I'm the CEO of Glitch, which is a company that runs a creative community for millions of developers, and all of that creative work that's happening makes me really curious about the impact that these apps are going to have on our lives.
We're going to connect the dots. We are going to talk to the software developers, the coders, and the designers who actually shape these apps and have them think through and talk out loud with us about what impact they think they're having on culture and on us as individuals. Today, we're going to be talking about the cultural phenomenon that is Fortnite.
Now, if you don't know, you've been under a rock. But Fortnite is this incredible battle royale-style game. You might see it on an Xbox. You might see on your iPhone, anywhere that you play games. It's out there. The amazing thing is even though it only debuted in September of 2017, just in the first five months, it passed over a hundred million downloads for regular users all over the world. And by July of 2018, the game had brought in over a billion dollars in revenue.
This is a massive monster hit. Very, very few games ever have been this kind of phenomenon, and almost none that quickly. One of the things that's made Fortnite so popular other than the fact that it's fun and it's free to play is that there is dance incorporated throughout the game. Now, Fortnite calls them emotes or dance emotes, and these are these little moments that you have in the game where you can trigger your player to perform a popular dance.
It's to celebrate a win when you're doing really well or because you captured some of these weapons or just to talk to your enemies or opponents in the game, and Epic Games, who are the makers of Fortnite, have come under a little bit of criticism because most of the emotes that are in the game are based on real dances from popular culture. Like take the Hype emote in the game. It's actually pretty clearly just BlocBoy JB's Shoot dance that he made as his signature dance with his hit single.
Same thing with the Floss emote. That's just The Backpack Kid's dance that became a viral sensation over the last couple of years, baked into the game under a different name.
Some of these dances come as free rewards in Fortnite, but some of them are available to buy, and it doesn't look like the Epic Games team got permission from the artists who created the dances or is paying them any royalties for using them.
A little bit later in the show, we're going to hear from 2 Milly. Now, he's a Brooklyn rapper who years ago came up with the Milly Rock Dance and the song Milly Rock, and he popularized them and made them a cultural phenomenon.
Earlier this year, Epic Games introduced an emote called "Swipe It," which is very similar to the Milly Rock. And 2 Milly only found out because people told him on social media. So we're going to talk to him about what his experience was of seeing a dance he created show up in a hit game.
Now, we'll speak 2 Milly a little later. But first, we're going to talk about how a dance even gets programmed into a game in the first place.
We'll speak to a former game animator named Ty Robinson. Back in the late '90s and the early 2000s, he worked for Konami. That's the Japanese game company that produced the interactive dance game Dance Dance Revolution. If you played it back then, you probably know it better as DDR. DDR was huge in the early 2000s. There were videos everywhere of people in arcades or in front of their TVs dancing frantically, trying to keep up with the beat, following all these little arrows and prompts on the screen. Ty can explain the gameplay of DDR a little bit better.
Ty Robinson: You would follow prompts on the screen, so there'd be these arrows — up, down, left, right — and it would correlate to a dance pad that you're standing on, and it's synced up to the music. So the arrow would light up indicating where to step, and then on the actual physical dance pad you would then step on that arrow. It got really, really complicated when you're matching the beats to all these different arrow prompts, and people got really, really good at it, and they'd start doing actual, basically look like choreographed dancing on the dance pad to the music, synced with the game.
AD: Now, since Dance Dance Revolution, we've seen a lot more games incorporate dance. Some of those are interactive games that are about dancing, like Just Dance was on the Wii. But some of them are games that just use dance to enhance the gameplay the way that [NBA] 2K18 does or the way that Fortnite does. Ty's worked as an animator on other games and other movies too. I talked to him about the process of capturing a dance from the real world and putting it into a game and also about where the future of dancing games is headed.
"There's definitely like a polarity there where some of the artists and engineers would be really into the music, and some would just not even know. If you mentioned one of the artists or the tracks, they just wouldn't even know what it is."
AD: Ty Robinson, thank you for joining us on Function.
TR: Thanks for having me.
AD: So DDR becomes this huge cultural phenomenon. It's in arcades. It's in our homes. Were there other rhythm games before DDR took off that were incorporating pop culture and mainstream music this way?
TR: There were a few games, like I believe for the PlayStation One. I think there's one called PaRappa the Rapper or something?
AD: Oh, sure, yeah. That's the game where there's a little rapping dog on the screen, and you have to press the buttons to try and get right on the beat. I think any honest hip-hop fan has PaRappa as one of their top five of all time. There's no question.
TR: Yeah, for sure. So that game I think had a little bit of that rhythm element to it that you had to sync up to the game. But yeah, DDR was in Guitar Hero, and all those games are really the pioneers.
AD: So coming back into DDR, you come over from the extreme games that you'd been working on. You are brought into the task of capturing these moves, these dances, right? Can you talk a little bit about that process? Is there a person in your game studio and in one of these motion-capture suits, like they're golem, and they're doing these dance moves? How does it work?
TR: It's interesting the way the game was put together. So you mentioned dancing is one of the cultural phenomenons in the game industry where it blew up from that DDR space. But also, there's a huge community centred around the music as well. We had DJs and people putting together these music tracks and even curating the music for the game that became really popular in that community as well, the DDR community. So there's two sides. There was the music side and then there's the dance side. But to your question to dance side, we have these professional dancers come in, and we'd rent out studio space basically for mocap.
AD: Mocap is motion capture?
TR: Motion capture, yes. So yeah, they're wearing the suits with the ping-pong balls, and the ping-pong balls are registering to ... Usually, it's ultrasound or other sensors, and it's capturing the data of the dancer. Then we apply that data as a file into the 3D animation software, and it gets baked. They call it ... The term is baked. But it's basically just applying the data to the bones in the skeleton of the 3D model that's in the game. Then you have this theoretically one-to-one movement capture from real human into the 3D character in the game.
AD: So, these dancers come in. Are these hired dancers, like do you go on Craigslist? Or somebody had relationships with a dance troupe?
TR: I mean, they're generally professional dancers or people that operated in that industry where some of them might have worked on commercials or music videos or things like that. They got picked up, I think, from a talent agency to work on the project.
AD: Were there people on the team that were really into whether it was the music side or the dance side that were like, "I want to pick the tunes," or, "I wish I could be one of the dancers," something like that?
TR: We had a couple of guys in the audio team that were basically on the side. They were DJs. So they loved spinning. They loved music, and these were the guys that we're helping to curate a lot of the music tracks. So they're really, really into it, and they developed a following in the DDR community actually, just as a lot of DJs do in their own sphere. So that was really interesting to see.
AD: So you can get real fans by being part of this game culture around a music game or a dance game?
TR: Apparently. I mean, I didn't develop a following, but these guys did, yeah.
AD: We fast-forward to today, and Fortnite is an even bigger cultural phenomenon. I'm curious, within your creative team whether it was the choreography or the music choices, how much discussion was there about the meaning of creative choices when you were creating DDR?
TR: Well, DDR at the time, it was somewhat both. So they would take songs that were either currently popular or that had been popular in the pop culture sphere, and they would try to decide if this was going to match the type of gameplay. So DDR has a very specific type of gameplay being that rhythm game. So the music had to match the game and how you would play it. That was really important. As far as the dance moves though, they were just trying to sync it up, try to get dance moves that would match that song to a high degree.
TR: But it wouldn't always be a perfect one to one that you'd have in a music video where it's heavily, heavily choreographed to that performer and that performance crew.
AD: You mentioned that on the music side, you had co-workers or colleagues that were creating these games that were DJs and that knew the music and were fluent in it, and certainly fluent enough to be able to help influence tracks that were chosen or something like that. Many of them, whether it's Epic Games or others, the Fortnite team that are making these games, they might not be fluent in 2 Milly and his music. They might not know BlocBoy JB and the Shoot dance. There are a lot of people that just think that dance came from Fortnite.
I'm curious about your feelings about that. It's like the team that you were in, in creating some of the early experiences around dancing games, do you think that they were fluent in the culture that they were connected to, like that they were part of it? Or were they just cherry-picking stuff?
TR: Within the team, there's definitely different demographics of people in relation to the music and the dance. So there's a few team members that would be really, really into it, like especially the audio guys deep into that music culture. There's a lot of other team members that really weren't that into that type of music or dance or anything. They loved making video games. So yeah, there's definitely like a polarity there where some of the artists and engineers would be really into the music, and some would just not even know. If you mentioned one of the artists or the tracks, they just wouldn't even know what it is.
AD: Yeah, and I think that that's somewhat of the stereotype, right? As the geek or the person that's coding that's not fluent in these cultural things. But it sounds like there was a pretty good mix. There were a number of people that lived in that world and knew the music and knew the context, and that's an interesting line to draw because if we go to the current era and one of these fundamental tensions, and it's not just BlocBoy JB or 2 Milly. But Chance the Rapper talked about, "Wow, shouldn't these artists be compensated?" I think drawing a connection to the larger issues around artists being exploited, especially black artists being exploited.
Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2018
AD: And it is interesting too because video games have used music for many, many years, and pretty much always has been pretty good about licensing it, like maybe the very early years they didn't. But there's always been an understanding that the songs have to be respected. It feels like maybe dance is in a different category. Choreography is seen as kind of a different class of intellectual property. Does that mesh with your experience?
TR: On DDR, we were very aware of the licensing issues with music. So we had obviously a legal team that, as developers, we didn't interface with at all. But we were very aware that licencing was a thing with the music. But with the dance, it almost seems like with this explosion in Fortnite, and you have all of the dances really mimicking existing performers. It's almost like we're at this new phase that music was in back in the...I believe it was in the '80s with sampling. When you had rap music sampling, and it was eventually deemed to be artistic use, but maybe we're sort of in that grey area now with dance performance, where there's no precedent really for it.
AD: I love that idea. They were sort of at the moment that Biz Markie was at when it goes to the Supreme Court in the late 80s, around sampling, and the permissions, and who has the right to use existing culture in what ways. So, what you're saying is maybe we're going to have that sort of similar reckoning around sampling dancers. The technology has progressed to where it goes from just audio to the audio plus video, and motion that is dance. Also the ubiquity, I think that's got to be another factor. Back then certainly everybody had a record player, but it's only very, very recently that everybody has a smartphone that can play a game that's got this very elaborate dance routine in it.
One last question here. You've moved on from years ago from working on games like DDR to as I said, a varied career across TV, film, doing new startups, VR, a lot of different areas. How have you learned from those sort of early experiences in capturing dance and animation, and bringing music into this sort of digital culture? How has that influenced what you create now, and what you've learned since?
TR: One of the projects I worked on, which was Maisa, so it was the first animated film in the Chamorro language. It's a little longer than a short film. It was 45 minutes. But it was a big deal in Guam because of the fact that it was the first animated film, all in their language. There's a lot of cultural elements that we had to be aware of, in making that film. A lot of these Pacific Islander cultures, dance is a big thing. Growing up in Hawaii, dance was obviously huge. I learned to really be aware of how much power dance has, whereas in DDR it was just for entertainment and I didn't really think anything of it. But dance for a lot of cultures is like storytelling. In a lot of projects I've worked on since that had a cultural base, that was a good learning experience. Taking the technical knowledge that I got from those previous projects like DDR, and the music experience, and then being able to blend that with culture, that really helped a lot.
AD: Well, it seems like almost a profound lesson to think about that first exposure to some of these aspects of dance happening in this very deeply technical context, and going all the way into this cultural, even spiritual context for what dance represents to people. That seems like the best possible learning you could take away from having these different approaches in context to dance.
Ty Robinson, thank you for joining us on Function. It's really been an insightful conversation, and I love the perspective you've brought to us.
TR: Hey, thanks for having me.
"They could reach out, 'Hey, we're interested in using your dance in a game. We sell the emotes for whatever, whatever, so we would like to give you a fair percentage.' Sure." -- 2 Milly
AD: Welcome back to Function. I'm Anil Dash. All right, let's talk about Fortnite. Although it isn't a dance game itself, the dance emotes in Fortnite have become the most popular signature from the game. During the World Cup we saw players doing dances from Fortnite, right there on the field to celebrate when they scored a goal. There are even classes where people can learn to do the emotes from Fortnite in the real world.
The Battle Royale version of Fortnite is free for people to download, but many of these dances are only available for purchase, or sometimes you can earn them by hitting a milestone in the game. That stirred up some controversy because it doesn't seem like Fortnite is asking permission from the artist who created the dances, or paying them when the dances show up in the game. Instead of doing that, Epic Games changed the name of some of these dances, like the Shoot. That's BlocBoy JB's hit song and hit dance that showed up everywhere in pop culture over the last year. But when it showed up in Fortnite, it was renamed as the Hype. The same thing happened to Snoop Dogg's signature from the "Drop It Like It's Hot" video, which got renamed to the Tidy in Fortnite.
That means that there are a lot of people out there who know these dances, but have no clue about the artist or the culture that created or inspired them. Is this a classic example of appropriation? A video game industry that hires relatively few black creatives is profiting from the work of mostly black artists, but without compensating them. Lots of people think it is appropriation. For example, Chance the Rapper, called out Epic Games on Twitter, saying that Fortnite should use the songs associated with the dances in the game, and pay the artist who created those dances and songs. He's not alone in that criticism. A lot of the artists whose dances are included in the game think it's unfair that they weren't compensated, including 2 Milly, who we'll hear from in a second.
Now obviously, appropriation in gaming isn't anything new. PaRappa the Rapper is a classic example all the way back in the last century. But, should dance be treated like music, with all the copyright protections that music enjoys? It is important to note that choreography can be protected. Soulja Boy's a good example here. His signature "Crank That" dance is not an emote in Fortnite. Soulja Boy gave credit to the fact that he has copyrighted the choreography of his dance.
But what about other artists? Does Fortnite have a responsibility to compensate the artist they profit from? We reached out to Epic Games to talk about this, and they politely declined the invitation and did not offer a statement. However, we did get to talk to 2 Milly about his signature dance, The Milly Rock, being used in Fortnite.
AD: Let me just start by going back, three or four years ago to the moment when the Milly Rock bursts out into popular consciousness. Tell me about where the dance came from.
2 Milly: Well, growing up in a neighborhood where I was at, I was like, 15 of us. I was always the turn up one. Right? I was always the turn up one. I'd drink a little bit, drink some Henny or somethin', some Nutcracker or somethin', and then I'd just be turning up. Spike Lee, he did a 25th anniversary for Do the Right Thing. He shot the movie on my block.
AD: All right.
2M: When he had the block party, I was drinking, Nutcracker, I think. Then my brother, he had a song out at the moment. His song was called "Trouble." I jump on top of the car. I just start busting the moves. I don't know what I was doing. I was just turning up, feel me? Vibing. Milly Rock was always just a good vibe for me and my friends.
AD: And it's born at the block party.
2M: It's a turn up dance that we do, feel me? That's where we really got it noticed. Because it was like 90 people recording me.
AD: Right, right. They put it on Instagram, put it on YouTube.
2M: I don't even think there was Instagram.
AD: Oh yeah, it was before that, right?
2M: Really like Facebook, that's it. They put it on Facebook. It was going crazy. Everybody texted me: yo, you famous, you famous, or you're about to be famous. I'm like, what you talking about? I ain't have Facebook at the time, so I never knew. They like, you about to be famous, or you famous. I'm like, what? It was crazy. But the video had 10K views on Facebook. At that time, that was a lot.
AD: Yeah, that was a lot.
2M: Just coming out of nothing. It kept going, kept going. I ran with it. I'm like, all right. Well, what could I name the dance? Because it still didn't have a name back then. It didn't have a name. I'm thinking, what name could I name it? Then I'm like, all right, we rock'n side to side. Because there still wasn't no song or nothing. I'm just like, rock'n side to side. Man, my name, 2 Milly, we're going to name it Milly Rock. I'm like, oh, Milly Rock. Oh, that's fire.
AD: This is roughly around the same time as the [Shmoney] Dance and this other stuff's coming out, so you got 50 Cent...
AD: This is before?
2M: We put the song out closer to the end of 2014.
AD: Oh, okay. So, it takes a while before everybody sees it out in the world.
2M: Yeah. Now I probably took a whole year in 2015 when it finally, you know what I'm saying? Made noise.
AD: Yeah. So, there's a build and a build, and a build for a year.
2M: It was a just a building process. We was just posting and posting, and posting. Now, I'm home, let me make a song for it. I made this song there, because I got the name for the dance. I'm like, let me make a song. I made the song, Milly Rock. I'm like, all right, now I just need something. I'm Milly Rock, or any block.
AD: How long is it from the block party — from Spike Lee's block party — to when you know Milly Rock is just bigger than you could have imagined?
2M: That was like August, right?
2M: I got my first show the next year, April. April 16th.
AD: All right. You remember the date. I like that. So, phenomenon is not even the word. You've got, dudes in the NFL in the end zone, they're doing it. You've got people on stage. I saw Janet last year, Janet Jackson. She's not cosigning anybody's choreography. She's a legend, and she's up there and she's Milly Rocking.
AD: Yeah, yeah. You have this impact. You see this creation of yours, and artists are taking it and running with it. How do you feel about that?
2M: Some artists don't really take it; they actually reach out, and we do kind of like a contract where they can bust the move into a dance routine. Yeah, some artists. Jennifer Lopez to be one. Like Beyoncé, like those. But then you have the artists that just, hey, well I like the turn up. Well, I'll be Milly Rocking in my video.
AD: There's an interesting thing. JLo, obviously an incredible dancer, incredible artist, she's also been a choreographer. She's somebody who respects dance. She's been paid to create dance for people. Do you think that has to do with why she reaches out to you when she says she wants to step into this style?
2M: Well, pretty much, it's New York. She don't want nothing to fall back on. You know what I'm saying?
AD: That's great. You want to take care of business.
2M: All right, let me just pay him this percentage. It's really nothing.
AD: I wanted to start there because I want to get that feeling of what it's like to be on the inside of creating something so big, and so pervasive in culture, and that crosses...I don't think you were thinking when you made that song, or when you hopped on top of a car at the block party, like this is going to be everywhere. I see kids in the suburbs, at the junior high school dance, right?
AD: That's this moment, and you create something in the world, and it inspires other artists, it inspires kids. Now we fast forward, it's a couple years later. Are you a gamer? You play games?
2M: Probably like 2K19. I'm trash. I ain't shit. I just play.
AD: What about Fortnite? Had you ever heard of it? Had you ever played it? Seen it?
2M: I heard of it, but I never played it still.
AD: It feels like it came out of nowhere. And then at some point, the last, I'd say...six months really, it starts to be this huge cultural phenomenon. How did you find out that there was this move trying to be Milly Rocking in the game?
2M: From my fans. My fans. Basically on Twitter, moreso than anything. I think I got like, it said 99+ mentions. I'm going what the f—
AD: What just happened?
2M: Yeah, because some of my Twitter-
AD: ...trouble, right?
2M: Don't be booming like that. I'm like, hold up. What? I got to it, everybody bugging. You need to sue Fortnite. You know Fortnite stole your dance? They got your dance. They took it and they call it the Swipe. People DMing me. My whole DM's filled up. Fans like, you know they stole your dance, so you need your credit. At-ing Fortnite, at-ing Epic Games: give 2 Milly his credit. Yeah, I'm working for that. I'm like, hold up. What's going on? I seen the same type of thing when 2K18 came out. They was doing it in there too. When I seen Fortnite, they was really going crazy. Even on Instagram, they was DMing me. Then Joe Budden...he wrote under my picture: you need to sue Fortnite.
AD: There's an interesting thing there, because it's almost fans and friends and other artists that are like, they want to protect you, just sort of looking out for you, and they said, this is this thing that's happening. Did you have the context of emotes and how all that works? How dance is used in the game?
AD: The short version of it is, is it's the core game isn't about dance.
2M: Yeah, I Googled it recently. I know it's like a shooting game, right?
AD: Yeah. Yeah.
2M: So why do they put dances in it?
AD: That's wild, right?
2M: This is why I say that they use the culture. You know what I'm saying? Basically, our dance which is most popular, because you know that the kids are going to buy it. The kids are going to want it and the parents are going to buy it. Kids are going to buy it. I mean, the kids are going to want it, and the parents are going to buy it. So you make the game free. The game is free to get. I think it's just a download or something.
AD: That's right. That's right.
2M: But you have to pay for the dance moves? Come on.
AD: That's an interesting thing, too, right? It used to be you were paying for whatever, the character or something in the game. Now, to take dance and the emotes especially, as this explicit thing that has that value, how does that feel?
2M: That's robbery.
AD: Because that's different than what happened with 2K18, right?
2M: I feel like that's the same thing too because you had to hook somebody up to the strap things, and all that for me just to get the moves.
AD: Yeah, yeah. The motion capture.
2M: You didn't hit me up from me, so you stole that, too.
AD: Right. Who do they motion capture to do it?
2M: Come on. It's not an official Milly Rock if it ain't come from me, feel what I'm saying? How could you put that into a game and a brand for sale without contacting the creator?
AD: Have you ever licenced your music for a game?
AD: But would you?
AD: Yeah, easily, right.
AD: But they would never put your song in a game and not ask you, right?
2M: Not yet. Yeah. They can't.
AD: Is this about the difference in respect between music and dance?
2M: I feel like they're going to use whatever aspect they can to get the most money. They're going to do it. You see...look, they have 2K19. While you playing the game, you hear Trippie Redd, you hear...you know what I'm saying? You hear up-to-date artists.
AD: But they license all those songs, right? All those people get paid.
2M: Sure. But why would you need that in a basketball game? Feel what I'm saying?
AD: Well, I mean, that's a broader culture. The question for you is can you have, I mean, certainly a basketball game without hip-hop. I mean, that's the culture. It is what. That's not basketball, right? Because you couldn't even put it on TV. You can't put a game on TV, let alone in a video game. So if we say the culture is linked, that raises that question, but is that true for all games? I mean, is it only because it's basketball or is that true for a game you're playing on the Xbox?
2M: That's for all games. Any game. If you know...say Lil Pump, "Gucci Gang," it got what...crazy millions, right?
AD: Oh, yeah.
2M: So you want to put that song in your game, right?
AD: Right. They'll put that in every game.
2M: Because you know the kids want to hear that.
2M: Know what I'm saying?
2M: So if you want to use the dance, it's like the same thing.
AD: As we said, they would never put your song, your music into the game without knowing we got clear rights. We got to license the song. We got to get you paid.
AD: Now, for dance...it's a whole different thing.
2M: Why it's not the same thing?
AD: Yeah. Do you feel like it should be?
2M: They could reach out, "Hey, we're interested in using your dance in a game. We sell the emotes for whatever, whatever, so we would like to give you a fair percentage." Sure.
AD: Then you'd be open. You'd do business.
AD: Going forward, one of the things I was, I think, another turning point, another sort of big moment of attention for this conversation was Chance sort of spoke on this. He's not, like dance isn't his lane for what he does, but he obviously respects when people add movement to what they're doing.
2M: He respects the movement. No matter who it is. I feel like if it's me, if it's BlocBoy JB, there's something that we created. Feel what I'm saying? So it should be fair. They would make me furious it's like, all right. Yeah, we could take the dance move, but we can't name it Milly Rock because then they're going to be really mad, right.
AD: BlocBoy is an interesting example too because there's probably more people that know the move from the game now than even from Shoot, from his own videos, from whatever, right?
2M: BlocBoy JB created the shoot. It's really evident. He just burst on the scene until he had a feature with Drake. Nobody was doing that dance before that, nobody.
AD: Yeah. Tell me about the dance. Tell folks what the dance is if they don't know.
2M: It's the shoot. I don't know. It's the shoot.
AD: It just is.
2M: It's the shoot. That was it is.
AD: It just is. It's yeah.
2M: You jump up and down.
AD: You got to like, kick...and yeah.
2M: You kick and you pumps, and...
AD: ...and you got your fists going.
AD: Yeah. Well, I think actually to that point, now there's probably as many people that are like, oh, that's a Fortnite dance.
2M: Now, look. Hip-hop, I'd say is global, but you have a good percentage of people that listen to hip-hop, and it's a very great percentage of people that don't. People that don't know hip-hop, they're going to play Fortnite. Then they're going to look at the dance, and whatever they named that dance...they didn't name it...
AD: No, they didn't call it the shoot.
2M: You feel what I'm saying?
2M: You don't have people lost. People calling it the whatever.
2M: It's really the shoot and he created it, but y'all go it your game and named it something else.
AD: Do you think people who make dances can ever get that same level of respect and even just the money that you do when you make music? That they would just never think of taking your work and putting it into a game without paying you. Can that change?
2M: Yeah, it's going to change.
AD: How does that happen? How are you going to change it?
2M: I have a good attorney, so I work with him. I work with my attorney so...
AD: Let me get into that a little bit. So...
2M: I gotta copyright the dance choreography. Most people don't know. It's not the actual dance or name of the dance, it's the choreography. It has to deal with two or more steps. Feel what I'm saying?
2M: BlocBoy JB, that's what I said. That's choreography. That's put together. Hey. Then Milly Rock. I start off side-to-side. That's how I always start off. Then you got your arms in it, then I got the MJ "get out of my sight"...you feel me?
AD: Yeah. You, BlocBoy, you got the copyright on the choreography because that's the part you can control. That's the part you can own. You got a good lawyer. Are you reaching out to Epic Games? Are you reaching out to these folks and saying, "Let's make this right."?
2M: I hit them up first like, "Yo, I don't really want to go all that long route with it." Know what I'm saying?
AD: Start out friendly.
2M: Yeah, like feel me. Just Do a fair conversation.
2M: I don't even want to bash y'all on the Internet. I don't want to have to go to interviews about y'all. You know what I'm saying?
AD: Right. This is business.
2M: Yeah. Y'all know. Feel me? Y'all took it. All right. This is consequences. Y'all knew that because y'all didn't put the song in and y'all didn't name it. Know what I'm saying? So you have really tried to go around the artist as much as possible. They ain't look out.
AD: You've seen the video of people in the game doing the Milly Rock. Does it look right to you? Does it feel right?
AD: Tell me how they're getting the dance wrong.
2M: Because man, I keep my rock low, feel me? Yeah, then they start doing this. I would've never made that.
AD: It's not in the hips.
AD: They're like way up here.
2M: Come on. We low. Feel me?
2M: We low with it. Rocking low what this is.
AD: I'm curious about overall. Do you think, whether it's 2K18, whether it's Fortnite, whatever is...
2M: 2K18, Fortnite, and supposedly FIFA '19.
AD: But we look at all those games. Do any of them get the moves right? Do you feel like this is doing the dance justice?
2M: They had a commercial for 2K18. It was looking like it was the rock, but they wasn't moving the feet with it. They just is moving the arms. I'm like, come on, man.
AD: Doesn't count.
2M: It don't count. If you ain't never been like this in your rock, it's not the rock. Feel me?
AD: How does this get right? If they say, "We're sorry. We didn't mean to do it." If they write you a check, if the next time somebody makes a game, they reach out to you first. What feels like justice for you as a creator or for anybody?
2M: That right there. That right there. Hey, you know who made it. Go to them personally. Don't even no manager, no nothing. If you want to use this for services, for money, go to him, "Hey, how do you feel about this?" This is all I feel like they should do. Yeah.
AD: Same thing they do for the music.
2M: Same thing.
AD: Same thing they do for the art.
2M: Same thing.
AD: Same thing they do for the video, whatever. Let's say Epic Games says they want to make it right and they're going to write you a cheque, and make sure that things are square with you, but your name is not on it. Your dance name isn't on it. You don't get the proper public credit. Are you still good with that?
2M: Nah. I'm not jacking that. You know what it is? It's like it's still theft, and I don't get robbed.
AD: Without your name on it, it's not right.
2M: I don't get robbed, so I'm not jacking that. It's still theft. If you're going to use something that came from me, credit me.
AD: Simple as that.
2M: Well, or take it out. Take that emote out of the game and put it back in with the name Milly Rock. We have our agreement, pay me my cheese.
AD: All right. To Milly, thank you for joining us.
2M: Appreciate you having me.
AD: Glad to have you on Function.
2M: Yeah, man. It's love.
AD: All right.
AD: We started the conversation today talking about a huge culture phenomemon Fortnite is and how it uses dance in a really interesting and innovative way. But what's striking to me is to listen to, for example, Ty Robinson talk about how much thought and care goes into the creation on these dance games, all the artists involved in animating, capturing, and writing the code that makes these games work. The contrast between what Ty said and the obviously frustration that 2 Milly felt about his dance being represented in these games without him as an artist being represented. It makes me wonder whether we couldn't find maybe a little more equitable solution, so that people like coders or the designers that create tech could sit at the same table with dancers, and rappers, and other people who create culture, and maybe start to look at each other's work in a way that is a little more of level playing field.
Well, that's it for this week on Function. Next week we are going to explore why so many celebrities use that Apple Notes app whenever they have to make an apology to the public. We're going to talk to a user experience designer, a pop culture expert, and if you've done anything wrong between now and then, you can share your Apple Notes apologies with us too.
Function is produced by Bridget Armstrong. Our associate producer is Maurice Cherry. Nishat Kurwa is the executive producer of audio for the Box Media Podcast Network. Our engineers are Srinivas Ramamurthy and Jarrett Floyd. Our theme music was composed by Brandon McFarland. And a huge thanks to our team at Glitch. You can find us every week at glitch.com/function or follow me on Twitter at @AnilDash. Please remember to subscribe to Function wherever you listen to podcasts, and we will be back next week. We hope you'll join us.