When Bianca Bonnie teamed up with DJ Webstar as a 14-year-old high schooler in 2006 to create the viral hit “Chicken Noodle Soup,” she had no way of knowing that it would stretch further than the confines of the Big Apple.
However, over 13 years since its release, the popular Harlem-based song and dance sensation resurfaced as an international craze, thanks to a remake by some of the biggest names in international pop: South Korean superstar J-Hope of BTS fame and Mexican-American hitmaker Becky G.
Recognized by its siren-blaring opening, club-ready bass and New Yawk-style spitting by way of Ms. Bonnie (who went by Young B until the 2016 release of her project The 9th Year), the original song peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in Oct. 2006. A shuffle-heavy dance associated with “Chicken Noodle Soup” made it a staple at middle and high school-dances, and according to the musician (now 27), the moves preceded the melody.
“Chicken Noodle Soup’ is a dance that was already created in Harlem, and I used to make songs to these dances,” she explains to Billboard. “It could be the Harlem Shake, and I would write a Harlem Shake-themed song.”
Bonnie came up in the game rapping alongside her uncle Da Drizzle, an unsigned Harlem rapper who created the “Chicken Noodle Soup” beat, and the track itself was written while she was sitting in detention at school. Many of the song’s lyrics (namely “let it rain, clear it out”) were inspired by basketball terms, which serve as the emcee’s homage to where her career began. The video itself features scenes shot at the Holcombe Rucker basketball court in Harlem.
Bonnie notes that growing up, most of the “hot songs” in her native borough were played at public ball courts like Rucker, Kingdome and Black Gates. After a stand-out guest spot on DJ Webstar’s “Tone Wop” (which has a music video featuring cameos by young Teyana Taylor and A$AP Ferg), she was pleased to see the positive response to her own rim-rattling rap.
“One day at the Rucker, [radio station] Hot 97 was there,” she recalls. “They played [‘Chicken Noodle Soup’] and it started raining, and the kids kept dancing. That’s when people knew this was going crazy. It was infectious, this organically lit thing that you couldn’t explain.”
“Chicken Noodle Soup” gained Internet virality even before “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” broke the hip-hop dance fad mold. The official video wasn’t released on DJ Webstar’s YouTube until three years after the track dropped, where it currently has over 12 million views. However, that didn’t stop the steps and song from being seen and heard on platforms like YouTube, MySpace and BET’s music countdown show 106 & Park during the height of its popularity, where they caught on like wildfire.
Fast forward to 2019, and the music video for the J-Hope/ Becky G-remake of “Chicken Noodle Soup” has currently been viewed over 65 million times since Sept. 27. The trilingual tune fuses J-Hope’s magnetic rapping skills with Becky G’s Latin pop zest; lyrics regarding staying working hard by any means encapsulate the song (“A grand vision, a plan I’m going on to draw/ A kid who goes on to shape his dream” the Korean-to-English translation says). The visual — which includes choreography inspired by the OG version — spawned a massive social media craze called the #CNSChallenge via TikTok and Twitter, which urges fans to show their best attempts to do the choreography.
Bonnie says that DJ Webstar was first contacted regarding the remake, and J-Hope and Becky G’s interest was relayed to her by way of her uncle.“[I said] ‘People remix the song all the time,’ but they were like ‘No, [BTS] is one of the biggest boy bands,’” she said of the new version. “Then, I heard the actual song, and I thought it was dope.”
Since the track’s resurfacing, Bonnie gained a plethora of new fans by way of the loyal BTS Army, who are eager to see if she will collab with J-Hope (she tells Billboard she is working to make it happen). She also expresses her gratitude for the No. 1 trending Twitter topic involving her after the remake gained legs; #ThankYouBianca celebrated her as an originator, and she says she received support from acts like Chance The Rapper and Missy Elliott through the hashtag.
“I can’t even really explain what [the gratitude] exactly means, because the song is timeless,” Bonnie says, proudly. “I created something that keeps reinventing itself and keeps me relevant 13 years later, which is amazing to me. It’s just different — ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’ hit different.”
While several people voiced their beliefs that the new version was appropriating the original, Bonnie says J-Hope was showing his appreciation. Recently, the superstar opened up about frequenting the song while he was learning how to dance, which speaks to the cultural impact “Chicken Noodle Soup” holds.
“I’m a black woman, and it’s a real thing that we have to work harder and overcome more obstacles, and [some fans] feel like people just come in and take what we created,” she explains. “I feel like ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’ was always an international record. People of all cultures know the song, and it’s always been that way… [J-Hope and Becky G] made it even bigger for this day and age. I’m very open-minded and I feel like [the remake] is good for the culture. It was created in Harlem, and now it’s a worldwide thing.”
Bonnie is still on the music scene, and is working hard to create new heat. Outside of a forthcoming new song called “It’s a Vibe,” she’s gearing up to release an album at the top of 2020, and she hints at reuniting with DJ Webstar for a special project “for the dance culture.” She says she also has plans to return to reality television next year (she was a cast member on Love & Hip-Hop: New York from 2015 until 2018). Above all, she’s eager to continue setting herself apart from her “Young B” moniker, and hopes to keep adding longevity to her already lengthy career.
“I’m redefining myself through the music and through the visuals and staying connected with my fans,” she says of her tireless grind. “[Fans] see the growth, they see the progression…and look, I’m still creating history somehow! Timing is everything.”