The 10 Most Important Black Memes Of All-Time


The Internet has returned the singular image to the forefront of creative ideation. Interconnectivity has destroyed our patience for content and thusly videos have taken a backseat to memes. Memes, reaction gifs, viral videos all move ideas through the internet at rapid pace. But memes in particular allow an unprecedented consolidation of pop culture and shared emotion within the overarching milieu of greater culture. The cross sections of meaning create a multiplication of thought that embrace pointed nuance. If pictures are worth a thousand words than a picture multiplied by black bordered white impact text has to be worth at least a million.


This effect is even more noticeable within the African American community. Black twitter pushes more trends into the mainstream than any other subculture. While there are many niche communities on the internet creating content, they are regularly sequestered to the nerd zone. “Black cool” still has clout in the online world and the memes have been and will continue to flourish. The immediacy of the internet has made inevitable commodification arrive much faster than in the past, so, I had to unveil these now before they’re individually sponsored by Bevel.

10. Hotline Bling


This is the industry pick. But unlike the Grammy, Oscars, et al, we can acknowledge sales without claiming it’s the outright best. While undeniably popular, Drake’s calculated memefication of himself results in a deduction. Each YouTube view might as well have came with copy of Adobe Creative Suite and subscription to Apple Music.

9. Why You Always Lying?


In the true spirit of the internet, Nicholas Fraser’s Vine video shot him from obscurity to ubiquity. The vine quickly morphed into a still of Frasier’s grin that could be utilized in any situation. The meme gave us 90's nostalgia via “Too Close” and a new word mmmmmohmygod (m’s may vary). Most importantly, it does what all good memes do: it encapsulated nuance. Because of this meme, maybe a few of us became bold enough to not lie and admit sitting in the house butt naked was more appealing than linking up at a happy hour.

8. Uncle Denzel


This meme presents an interesting existential thought experiment. No matter how cool you may think you are, you could potentially become that uncle. We know that Denzel is the picture of refinery, but somehow he found himself in an Adidas sweatsuit rocking a fu-manchu mustache. It’s almost as if his ear beckons for a bluetooth to clothe it. This also confirms that “ain’t shit” uncle is more a spiritual state of being than individual reality. Perhaps, a spiritual punishment in the Tina Turner sect of Buddhism.

7/6. Nick Young/Confused girl


This is a two for one deal. Confused reaction pics are common but these two dive below the surface both emotionally and culturally. First, Nick Young, in name and behavior, has become a sort of spokesperson for youthful playfulness. His meme has followed suit. Typically, it involves older people who are bit out of touch. If your grandmother insists The Life of Pablo got updated after your free trial ended because you skipped church, queue up Nick.


The Confused Girl hits a feeling beyond base level confusion. Utter incredulousness is more appropriate. Only someone completely baffled could jut their neck out at a 45 degree angle like that. Even if it’s a bit dated a terrible roommate can easily bring it back into rotation.

5. Man on Phone


Supposedly, Martin Baker was photographed as the lone Black supporter at Darren Wilson support rally. Whether or not that is true, at least his image has contributed to the Black community. We’ve all had to make an exasperatingly dreadful phone call and having Baker’s expression at your disposal makes it a little easier when Comcast customer service tells you dialing “0” isn’t an option.

4. Aint Nobody Got Time For That


Way back in the olden days of 2012, an on the street interview from a local Oklahoma City news station gave the world, Sweet Brown, and Sweet Brown gave the us, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That.” Although it’s easy to be gripped by recency and Twitter style memes, we’ve got to pay respect to the OG of time management.

3. Skeptical African Boy


At the heart of every Black person is a skeptic. Skepticism sends thousands of young hoteps to battle on street corners and in incense filled bookstores near you. History has taught us rather harshly that people are not to be trusted. This includes well-meaning White people. Positive intentions quickly dissolve into misplaced confirmation bias. Like The Rock, this young man’s eyebrow represents the people. People who are weary of well-wishing volunteerism.

2. Kermit the Frog (None Of My Business)


This meme serves an important practical function. It shrouds one’s messiness in humor.

Of course mature adults shouldn’t call attention to someone’s hypocrisy outright, but, what if a puppet could do it for you instead? While Kermit’s image has spread across a variety of memes, the original stemming from a Lipton tea commercial sparked the wave. First, it involves tea. Tea is slang for a bit of secret information. Second, as a character, Kermit is known for his mild mannered behavior. So passive aggressively sipping a bit of tea may be exactly how he told Gonzo he noticed his fake Cement Jordan’s.


1. Crying Jordan


Speaking of Jordan, was there any other option? There are a number of important crying memes including the famed “Lil’ Mama,” but, his Airness once again takes the title. What makes this meme so special is that it not only signifies sadness but also palpable disappointment. Jordan is competitiveness personified, therefore, any person participating in a public contest from this point onward must beware of his iconic duality like tragic drama masks. Victory will associate you with his 90s era tongue wagging swagger, while defeat gets you the puffy weeping face of a middle aged man. Now, the stakes don’t have to be high for Crying Jordan to apply. An empty fridge or a closed DC metro can make you want to be like Mike. If the greatest basketball player of all time can ugly cry, then you too can fall from your mountaintop or footstool. Slander knows no prejudice.

Brandon is washed under 30. He programs short docs at the Brooklyn Film Festival, has a podcast, and eats good charcuterie.



Totally off-topic: I woke up this morning to all three networks covering a terrorist attack in Brussels with wall to wall non-stop coverage. Which made me think of the attacks that occur in non-White majority cities and the contrast between the wall to wall coverage of attacks in majority White cities and the almost non-existent coverage when they occur in majority non-White cities.

American mainstream media is constantly telling us that White lives matter the most. And then they act brand new when we say Black Lives Matter.