Check It Deeply: Rihanna’s Primetime ‘Pat & Crank’

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton

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“Check It Deeply” is a new recurring feature here on LargeUp, in which we zoom in on a particular trend of Caribbean culture and break it down in detail for the uninitiated. In this edition, we examine the raunchy interludes of the Bajan “pat and crank” dance in Rihanna’s recent performance at the 2011 Grammy awards and NBA All-Star Game.

Since last week, people have been talking about Rihanna’s sexed-up performance with Drake at the Grammys, especially a set of explicit moves which she dusted off again for the halftime show at last night’s NBA All-Star game. And wherever those people are West Indian, the talk basically comes down to: Did she just do the pat and crank at the GRAMMYS!? The answer is, Yes. Yes, she did. But for the rest of us, such talk just leads to more questions like, What the hell this!?

Let us put you on. The pat and crank is a dance move which consists of a ritualized crotch-grab (or alternately, a friendly crotch-pat) followed by a pelvic grind, a Bajan version of a basic gesture that’s been seen everywhere from Passa Passa DVDs to Madonna and Michael Jackson videos (and may in fact be as old as dancing itself). The phrase and the latest spin on the move had already been trending in Barbados for quite some time when soca artist Peter Ram incorporated it into a reggae-tempo song called, yes, “Pat & Crank” last November. It was quickly leaked to the internet with a raw video that cut between studio footage of Ram voicing the tune and a collage of female pats and cranks–many of them compiled from Passa Passa DVDs and other sources that had nothing to do with Ram, Barbados or the catchphrase. Watch below–for educational purposes only!

As with previous, provocative dance crazes like daggering, dutty wining (and all the way back to lambada-ing) the video resulted in a swift backlash in the form of scandalized politicians and angry online editorials like this, all of which prompted Ram to publicly defend the song, while claiming he had nothing to do with the video. In his own words:

Which brings us back to primetime. Rihanna. Drake. On Grammy night, the dance move in question ironically takes place after baby-boy Drake has exited stage left during a specially-choreographed ragga soca interlude which drops in just about two minutes into the performance:

Apparently, Caribbean rhythms make the Grammy producers nervous because, by accident or design, the cameras pull back to wide shots in which Rihanna’s body is partially obscured by waving hands in the crowd, exactly when the beat changes up—hence all the, “Did she or didn’t she?” controversy. In case you have any doubt, we screengrabbed it for you (and then screenpatted it a little, for ourselves):

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Oh, yes. She did. And then she did it again (and again) at about five minutes, 50 seconds into the NBA performance, this time in the middle of “Rudeboy” (although “What’s My Name” still gets an extended instrumental breakdown of whining skills.)

So where does this slackness come from? Our theory is that Rihanna is taking her revenge on rival/predecessor Beyonce for co-opting the dutty wine. But on the other hand, this could just be Ri-Ri being herself. ‘Cause if you think she’s not a student of the dancehall queen arts, watch this: