A history of the mic drop, with a surprising origin

Forrest Wickman at Slate has an explainer on the "mic drop," popularized anew by President Barack Obama. "The mic drop has been employed by rappers and comedians since at least the 1980s, and it’s grown steadily in popularity since 2007, but it’s only in the last year or so that it’s become a full-blown meme throughout American culture. And no single person has been associated with the mic drop more frequently than the president." Bet you don't know who is credited with started it back in 1983, though.


  1. I used to do sound at a university theater – the kind used for concerts and whatnot (not plays), and we frequently had small musical acts and bands play. Our manager was a 5′ tall woman, all muscle, and she was awesome.

    One time we had a young hip-hop act play, some locals, and at the end, the MC dropped our brand new Beta 58a wireless vocal mic onto the stage. I was at the mixing board with the stage manager who said, “No. He. Didn’t.” She stalked backstage at 100mph, grabbed this kid by the shirt and said, “Until you REALLY learn how to rap – you are in my world. And in my world you do NOT drop mics that are worth more than your sorry rhymes. Go. Pick. It. Up.”

    Poor kid slunk back on stage, picked up the mic, and put it gently on the mic stand.

    1.  While funny, that is mostly just hilariously overprotective for a Shure dynamic. One of my oldest SM58s was run over by the equipment truck once and came out of it with a slightly dinged pop filter. I could see the screaming being appropriate for mistreatment of a nice diaphragm (or, god forbid, ribbon) mic, but the SM58 and Beta 58 are specifically designed to be as tough as possible.

      1. That SM58 is an amazing little piece of workmanship and engineering. If you look over youtube there are plenty of videos where people run over it with a car, use it to hammer nails into a 2×4 and even bury it in their yard for a year and the mic still works afterwards.

      2. Sure, they are tough mics, but I think two things were at work here – we had a minuscule budget, so stuff was expected to last as LONG as possible. Getting a new set of Beta 58s was a huge boon and replaced an extremely ancient set of AT mics that were falling apart. Even the sturdiest gear needs to be taken care of if you expect to get 10+ years of regular use out of it.

        And second, disrespecting Connie’s gear was disrespecting Connie – and she wasn’t going to take it from anyone. We all knew the gear was going to get worked hard – that’s its job – but intentionally f’ing with our gear was not going to stand, just on principle.

        1. Especially not from some kid who just wanted to look cool. If it had been LL Cool J we probably would have let it slide. ;)

          1. Shoulda paid out about ten feet of XLR and bopped him upside the head with the mic, like a flail. That’ll teach him.

            Oh damn they were wireless. See, this is why wired is just better! :)

            Incidentally, there are some people on Slate declaiming this as a horrible sign of how awful the kids are etc etc because it might blow up the PA speakers. Dude, if you don’t have a limit compressor inline in your PA, you deserve to be run out of town on a rail!

          2. 58 as weapon would have been entirely appropriate – I would NOT want to get clocked by one of those bad boys. ;)

            And good point about the limiters – if people tapping on the mic has you scared about speaker damage you are doing it wrong. The thing I was constantly fixing on the wireless betas was the battery connection under the rear cap, just got loose with enough jostling. Easy fix, though!

      3. Yup, that “in reality it is damaging a wireless Shure Vox mic that costs a few hundred bucks.” comment in the Slate story made me laugh.

        You’re paying a few hundred bucks for how indestructible they are, not for their fidelity, you goober.

  2. I’m going to guess Eddie Murphy in “Delirious.”   That bit where he’s talking about his ice cream cone.   “I got some ice cream, I got some ice cream and you don’t got none–” >drop<

  3. A classic egotist’s gesture.

    I understand that nouveau riche high status people do similar in India and Pakistan if something (food usually) is not to their satisfaction. Throw it on the floor; the servants will deal with it.

    That the President of America considers this acceptable behaviour says nothing positive.

    1.  You… really don’t understand the idea, at all, do you?

      While I’m ice skating uphill, the idea behind the mic drop is not “the servants will pick it up” but rather “I have finished saying everything that need be said, and did it with such panache that nobody needs to bother trying to follow me.”

      And based on the Slow Jam The Newz segment, they had a lot of trouble convincing the President to do it at all, so you’re wrong on that account too.

  4. I must have missed it.  When did Obama “drop the mic”?  Some skit on Jimmy Fallon?

    Is this what really popularized this as a thing?  I’m not sure I agree with that.  Although if I find out someone has done a study on the popularity of mic dropping and compared against events and performances we’re going to have words about Life Priorities.

    Then again, here I am posting about mic dropping when I could be at a soup kitchen, so who am I to judge…?

      1. The thousand+ word article *doesn’t actually answer the question* so an unwillingness to read it merely shows a talent for prescience.

  5. Janis Joplin did it at the end of her set at the Monterey Pop festival in 1967 so it definitely goes back further than 1983

  6. Trent Reznor does an epic mic drop in March of the Pigs. First time I personally remember seeing a mic drop. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL72Tyxe1rc

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