In 2012, songwriter Dan Henig created a social media uproar when he walked into a random coffee shop, acoustic guitar in tow, and played a stripped down rendition of “Get Low.” Baristas stopped mid-pour, students looked up from their laptops, and couples enjoying mid-day mochas started giggling uncomfortably as Henig poetically sang out the lyrics: “Till the sweat drop down my balls/till all these bitches crawl/till all skeet skeet mother*ckers” from the 2003 Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz tune. The video went viral, eventually commanding nearly 100 million views between its posting between platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, FunnyOrDie, and Uproxx.
Henig followed that up with a cover of “Move Bitch,” which he sang while walking throughout the streets of his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He then went back to focusing on his songwriting career, writing tracks for the likes of Krewella, Lauren Duski, and Chelsea Cutler.
Now Henig is at it again, with the mission to make his performances of “rap songs in unsuspecting locations” a regular ordeal. Though many songwriters are struggling behind the scenes in the streaming era amid falling album sales and intensifying competition to pen hit singles for big acts, starring in their own videos is one of the ways writers can boost their buzz and income. Here, Billboard brings you the debut of Henig’s latest endeavor: a visit to a senior center in Los Angeles to sing a melodic rendition of Khia‘s explicit 2002 hit, “My Neck, My Back.”
It was a typical Thursday afternoon at St. Barnabas Senior Services. Shortly after noon, a morning chair-aerobics class had wrapped and the center’s elderly folks were escorted into the dining hall for lunch. They were told that a special guest would be joining them to perform some feel-good songs while they enjoyed their lasagna and vegetable side dishes. Little did they know, they were about to get way more than they bargained for.
“Dear Lord,” said one woman who heard the explicit words from the hallway. “I better go in their and check that out.”
While some non-English speakers bobbed their heads to the music and staff received positive feedback about the melody, most residents who understood the lyrics weren’t pleased, sources told Billboard. The St. Barnabas Senior Services staffer who’d coordinated the show declined to comment. (Warning: Explicit Content)
Billboard caught up with Henig to get the low down on his new character “Danny Trolls” and all the antics that he has planned going forward.
What is your background as an artist?
I have been writing songs for a very long time. I had my first band at the age of 16 when I lived in Michigan and was trying to make it as a “serious musician.” The comedy came about as an accident almost. Four or five years ago, I was doing open mics and I started doing these rap covers and the crowd was always reacting well to them. Then I did a few videos and those went crazy and viral. I kind of just went with that. I write serious songs for other artists, songs that are not about balls. But I’m also striving to create music that makes people laugh, as opposed to cry. Hopefully cry laughing!
You took a break from the comedic stuff for a while. What inspired you to get hop back into it?
I think the thing that really changed my mind from pursuing the serious thing to the comedy is how many people have reached out on platforms like Facebook, saying, “Thanks for making this day so much better. Thanks for making me laugh. I’ve had a rough week. Thank you for that.” If I can make people a little happier by putting myself in these awkward situations, then it’s just fun and it’s worth it.
I’ve been scheming ideas for the comedy stuff for a while; I just never had an outlet because I wanted my serious music to be taken seriously. But because of the outreach from people seeing these videos and how much they like them, it was like why deny people these funny songs? I like to say I do rap covers in unsuspecting locations. I do this under the name of Danny Trolls, which is a character I am playing that I will release episodes around. And I’m going to be doing a lot of these going forward. I don’t want to reveal too many details to keep it a surprise but my Instagram is going to have a lot of micro clips. I will be writing original funny songs as well as doing the rap covers and some sketch comedy stuff.
How do you describe the Danny Trolls material?
Weird Al meets Lonely Island meets Flight of the Concords and also meets Internet prank stuff. Those guys are all huge inspirations to me, as well as just life in general. The reason the rap covers came about was because in middle school, we were 13-year-old kids dancing to “Aww Skeet Skeet mother f*cker” which is kind of weird if you think about it. The original thought with the rap stuff was almost social commentary on how ridiculous these lyrics are. My goal is to make people laugh. I just want people to have fun. These songs are around us all the time. But we don’t always listen to the lyrics because the beats are really cool. You just enjoy it in the moment so I just think it’s funny to take things out of context and put them in a new one and see how strange and funny that will be.
How did “Get Low” take off on social media?
Four years ago, a friend of mine put “Get Low” on some sports blog. It started going viral through there and then it got to the top of Reddit. “Move Bitch” did some similar things. It’s always been organic. I haven’t really done a whole lot because at the time I was trying to be a serious artist. Now I’m just more interested in giving people what they want because everyone’s been asking for more of these songs. Now that I have an outlet with my writing to write with other artists and have them put my songs out, I’m free to do this.
The past couple weeks leading up to this video, things have been crazy – on Facebook mostly. And then YouTube has grown over the last few years, just every once in a while; one of the videos goes viral again. I’m up to 125,000 subscribers on my YouTube page and then 126,000 Facebook likes now and I haven’t put out a video in a couple of years. This is all based on people sharing my videos from four years ago. I think my biggest thing is listening to what people who are watching my videos want instead of trying to shove my ideas down their throats. They wanted “My Neck, My Back,” they are going to get it at a senior center. If they want “Bad and Boujee,” they are going to get it somewhere as well.
How did “My Neck, My Back” in a senior center come about?
So the idea was how do we beat a coffee shop? It might be a little offensive, but I feel like if you can’t laugh at these songs, you are taking life too seriously. Hopefully no one gets too offended but we’re really just trying to up the ante, just really beat the last video.
What can you tease that you have coming up?
Danny Trolls will have a lot of episodes releasing around the character. We’re gong to aim for at least one a week. I have what I call the first Jewish country song coming out in a few months called “Bar Mitzvah Missing You.” That’s pretty wild. I’m also creating these characters for Danny Trolls to portray. One of them is going to be “Clueless Guy” who is just like me but who doesn’t know anything. It’s going to be funny, just a guy who has no idea what’s going on in any situation. Like next week, I’m going to do Clueless Guy goes to a bong shop. I’m going to be clueless in a bong shop and take the bong and put my whole mouth over it. It’s all improv. It’s all spur of the moment stuff. And at the end of the day, as long as people are going to keep laughing at my material, I’m going to keep doing it. And I will consider doing anything that the fans suggest, as long as it doesn’t get me arrested (laughs).