The song of the summer had no marketing plan, no record deal, no big, glitzy video with star cameos. It contains just two lines, perfectly delivered and perfectly encapsulating a moment that is both maddening, exhausting, and oddly hopeful. It comes courtesy of 27-year-old Johnniqua Charles, and she’s as surprised by the development as anyone else.
If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last two weeks you’re likely familiar with the song, known informally as “Lose Yo Job.” Charles first sang it as she was being detained by a security guard outside a nightclub in Dillon, S.C. earlier this year.
“Why are you detaining me? You about to lose yo job,” Charles says, before busting out into an impromptu song. “You about to lose yo job. You about to lose yo job. Get this dance! You about to lose yo job ‘cause you are detaining me for nothing.”
It became something of an anthem—Charles has been quoted in signage and graffiti around the country as part of the massive Black Lives Matter protests. It’s also been remixed by DJ Suede the Remix God and iMarkkeyz, two popular DJs who remixed Cardi B.’s viral “Coronavirus” clip in March.
But until recently, little was known about Charles—when the video happened, who she was, and whether she was getting any credit or compensation for her viral hit. A new report from BuzzFeed confirms that, thus far, the popular earworm has had a positive impact on Charles’ life.
Until recently, BuzzFeed reports, Charles had been living on the streets, estranged from her family. She was having trouble managing her drug addiction and had turned to sex work in order to survive. Her 3-year-old son was being raised by her family, whom she hadn’t spoken to since November of last year.
The video of her was actually first posted in February by the guard who detained her, Julius Locklear. He told BuzzFeed that he had a colleague film the incident because his body camera wasn’t on. She was accused of trying to trespass at the Diamond Gentlemen’s Club; Charles says she had actually left her purse inside and was just trying to retrieve it.
“I guess he thought I was going back in just to go back inside the club, but he wouldn’t allow me, and that’s how the argument between me and him started,” Charles said. “I told him to suck my dick, and that is the moment he basically put the handcuffs on me and tussled with me a little bit.”
“I just let her vent,” said Locklear, “and exercise her freedom of speech.”
“The situation had nothing to do with race or discrimination,” he said. “You can see me handling it professionally and trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t.”
Charles was let go once sheriff’s deputies arrived.
It’s unclear how the clip had resurfaced, but once it did, it was seemingly everywhere. It provided a much-needed moment of levity as protesters continue to combat police brutality, but it also became a warning for every politician intent on giving half-assed, lukewarm responses to protecting black lives (looking at you, Bill de Blasio). As of Tuesday afternoon, the song was No. 28 on iTunes.
But more importantly, the song has helped bring Charles and her family back together, and given her a “breakthrough” she sorely needed.
“I’d been on the streets, and they’d been looking for me,” Charles said. “And I guess they seen that this video could basically change my life, and they put out a whole search party to find me.”
Her sister Andrea has set up an Instagram for her, as well as a GoFundMe that has raised more than $50,000 since it was launched three days ago. Andrea says the impetus for the GoFundMe came after fielding tons of requests from people eager to send her sister donations.
“Once I made her Instagram, people were flooding in, saying, ‘How can I bless her? She just blessed my day so much. She just made my day,’” said Andrea. “So the only reason it was created was so people could bless her life.”
Dj Suede the Remix God also said proceeds from the song would go toward Charles and her song.
Charles is wary of the newfound fame—“I don’t want to consider myself quote-unquote famous or a celebrity. I can’t do that,” she told BuzzFeed—but she doesn’t take the dramatic and sudden turnaround for granted.
“Other people keep telling me I helped them so much, but they don’t understand —nobody understands—how much this video going viral like this is helping me, because it’s giving me the breakthrough I so badly needed for so long.”