If you’ve never done the big steppin’, you probably will soon. Why not start practicing? Just extend your fists back and forth like you’re doing a bench press, and slowly rotate on your tip toes. Now you’re big steppin’.
The dance and accompanying song come from the mind of Stunnaman02, San Francisco’s most exciting up-and-coming rapper. All of a sudden, his knack for self-promotion is starting to pay off, big time, as the #bigsteppin02challenge begins to go viral on social media, and pro sports teams commission their own versions of the song.
At their preseason game on Saturday, the 49ers unveiled a themed version of “Big Steppin’,” with mascot Sourdough Sam and rapper E-40 demonstrating the dance to the crowd. That very same day, Mayor London Breed did the Big Steppin’ with Stunnaman at the grand opening of Global Net Detailing in SoMa. And on Monday, Stunnaman said the Warriors reached out asking for their own themed version of the song. That came a few days after Stunnaman performed the song into the ear of a rapt, gold medal-sporting Draymond Green at a local club.
Now, Stunnaman is hoping “Big Steppin’” can become more than just the “Bay Area song of the summer,” as KQED’s Pendarvis Harshaw dubbed it, and a real gateway to mainstream success.
“It’s definitely impacted my career exponentially,” Stunnaman, AKA Jordan Gomes, says. “I was just running at Lake Merritt and hella people stopped me to hit a big steppin’. I went to the Giants game yesterday, and a couple of people were like, ‘Oh my god, big steppin’, big steppin’!’”
While Stunnaman is a bit surprised by how quickly his song and dance have gained popularity, nothing about this ascent is accidental. Back when he and producer QuakeBeatz released I Gotta Feel It in January, his A&R identified “‘Big Steppin’” as a summer smash. Starting that winter, Stunnaman hired a personal trainer to prep for the video concept he had in mind: a gritty weight room scene that devolves into a strip club bacchanal.
“During the video, my production team was like, oh man, that dance is dope,” he says. “And I was like, man, thank you. I’ve been doing it for like 15 years, since I was in like 8th grade.” (Stunnaman later had to clarify the origins of his moves in an Instagram video, after Detroit drill fans falsely claimed he stole the dance, and its name, from them.)
After the video shoot, friends and collaborators kept talking up the dance, so Stunnaman and his team decided to build their promotional strategy around it. When the “Big Steppin’” video dropped on June 3, so did the #bigsteppin02challenge. Every day, the rapper would post a video of himself big steppin’ wherever he happened to be, whether on a hike, at a house party or in a Target — often shirtless. The challenge really started to take off when Stunnaman hit a big steppin on a 280 offramp downtown. Shortly thereafter, Bay Area hip-hop don E-40 got in on the action, big steppin’ with Stunnaman in a TikTok sketch.
“Ever since then, every week somebody new is doing it,” Stunnaman says, rattling off a list of celebrities who’ve posted videos of themselves big steppin’: DaBoii and Slimmy B of SOB X RBE, Nef the Pharaoh, 24KGoldn, DJ Esco. “Now the 49ers and Mayor London Breed just did it.”
The fitness-inspired song and dance, with its bass-heavy, quintessentially Bay Area beat by QuakeBeatz, pairs naturally with pro sports. Stunnaman re-recorded the chorus for the Niners version to be more in theme: “Big steppin’, 49ers with me and we out here bench pressin’/ Big flexin’, offense scoring and we got some big weapons.”
By the regular season, it’s not hard to imagine all of Levi’s big steppin’ after every Mostert touchdown. Warriors games at Chase Center could be a similar scene.
The dance might look easy, but Stunnaman insists it’s “a full body workout.” “The first motion you see is the benchpress, but the real movement of the dance is coming from the tip toes. So it’s like you’re doing a calf raise the whole time,” he says, adding, “then to stay stable, you kind of have to flex your core.”
Fitness, simplicity, irreverence: big steppin’ has the right ingredients to pop off on TikTok. Stunnaman’s hope is to replicate the success of the Track Star Challenge, based on the Mooski song of the same name, which now has 1.3 billion views on TikTok. “I was talking to a few labels, and they were saying the Track Star Challenge started regional first, and then it didn’t hit mainstream ’til six months after it came out,” Stunnaman says. It’s been two months so far, and the #bigsteppin02challenge is nearing half a million views on TikTok.
Of course, the end game for Stunnaman is advancing his career as a rapper. He says he’s getting some “great offers” from major labels, “but nothing to where I want to stop my independent movement to go be part of a label right now.” In the meantime, he’s got plenty of new music coming out soon, including an album with DrewBanga, and collaborations with E-40, San Quinn, DaBoii, J. Stalin, and others.
Stunnaman, who was part of the group that shut down the Bay Bridge last year to protest racism and police brutality, is also hoping to spread positive messages through the big steppin’ dance. On the aforementioned hike in Pacifica, he got a trio of “older white and Asian ladies” to do the big steppin’ with him. They got to talking about activism, and one of the women told Stunnaman, “We protested for a lot of this, so we understand what’s going on, and we’re fully with the movement. And at that moment, while she’s saying this, it kind of hit me like: we connected over a dance. It gave us this space to talk about race and what’s going on and talk about all these problems that we got, and even though these problems are big, how we can dismantle them.”