What is Backpack Kid up to today?
In today’s 24-hour news cycle, viral personalities such as Backpack Kid often enjoy about 15 seconds of fame, rather than the 15 minutes comedian Andy Warhol famously forecast. While Backpack Kid’s signature dance move, “The Floss,” was all the rage in 2018, its time on the dance floor is disappearing faster than you can dab. So what is a kid (real name Russell Horning) with happy feet supposed to do?
Well, lucky for Horning, he has some options to avoid becoming the next Chris Crocker? Who? Exactly. With some surprising rap skills and a big heart, Backpack Kid is out to prove that he can turn fleeting internet fame into a full-fledged career. Keep in mind, we’re living in a world where the ‘Cash Me Ousside’ Girl” aka Bhad Bhabie aka Danielle Bregoli can transform from a catchphrase meme to a legit music star with an Atlantic Records deal. And if a career rebrand doesn’t work out for Horning, he could always stay in the headlines by doing it the old-fashioned way … suing someone. Here’s a closer look at what Backpack Kid is up to today.
Backpack Kid gives back
Although Russell Horning lives the fast-paced life of a viral sensation, he still finds time for his community, especially kids. Backpack Kid has visited numerous underprivileged schools across the nation to spread positivity, hand out gifts, and dole out “flossing” lessons. Inside Edition caught up with him at the Elsa Ebeling Elementary School in Brooklyn, where he gifted 400 students with new school supplies, which included backpacks, of course.
The Lawrenceville, Ga. native might have started a worldwide dance craze, but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. According to his hometown CBS-8 affiliate, he lends a helping hand to the Aurora Theater of Gwinnett County, where he first graced a stage, and he has also partnered with local outreach programs such as the Lawrenceville Housing Authority, Families of Children Under Stress (FOCUS), Gwinnett County Public schools, and The Boys and Girls Club of America.
Between his charity work and budding entertainment career, Horning makes time for his fan club, too. ABC 8 KLKN-TV reported that a die-hard Backpack Kid fan suffered an injury that required the amputation of his leg below the knee. Horning lent his support by sending him autographed photos and words of encouragement that reportedly lifted the boy’s spirits.
Introducing SwagPack Kid
Russell Horning (and/or his mom, agents, etc.) know that his dancing shoes can only get him so far, which is why he’s wisely rebranded himself as an aspiring rapper. So does the social media phenom have mic skills? His first single, “Drip on Boat,” off his debut EP, SwagPack Kid, was surprisingly well-received by online music critics. “Naturally, on the pop-rapped verses, Horning brags about how awesome he is, much like most rappers,” said The Music Hype. “Give him credit though. He does it sans profanity and tasteless, objectifying references to girls.”
Horning talked to Rolling Loud about his first single: “The inspiration behind it was being introduced to the hip-hop world and how much I loved it. And how I needed to be in it,” he said. Okay, but what do his true “Floss” fans think of this new endeavor? Well, upon the single’s release in December 2018, Horning urged his followers to engage in the #DripOnBoatChallenge, a viral dance-off to coincide with the midnight release of “Drip on Boat.” Although he’s posted some meme-worthy fan interpretations of the catchy single, the hashtag hasn’t exactly gone viral.
He wants to pack up for Hollywood
The dancing phenomenon told the Daily Mail that he wants to add movie star to his bio. “I wanna see myself on the big screen a thousand times,” Russell Horning declared. “People think that this is all I do, the Floss dance, but I have way more talents than that, people just don’t know about them yet.” The Backpack Kid has done commercials, music videos, and played himself on television (including a 2018 episode of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare), but he hasn’t done any actual acting to date. He does, however, have a built-in audience of more than 2 million Instagram followers who enjoy his humorous-flavored content. “I would like to do comedy,” Horning said. “I like Kevin Hart, he’s my favorite actor and Will Ferrell is very funny too.”
The Backpack Kid is also getting his schmooze on. Aside from hanging with football star Odell Beckham at the ESPY’s and teaching Wiz Kalifa how to Floss, he attended the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where he was spotted chilling in the Wanderluxxe Lounge, a luxury membership concierge service founded by industry veterans Marti Hines and Lola Wood. Dang, kid! Horning knows that to make the big leap into movies, a young man like himself will eventually need to head west. “I want to live in Los Angeles,” he told the Daily Mail. “…A lot of people have invited me to their cribs to make videos and I’m just looking forward to living that (celebrity) lifestyle.”
He dropped his album on his birthday
Russell Horning celebrated his 17th birthday by dropping his debut album SwagPack Kid. The Dec. 19, 2018 midnight release was a surprise gift to his fans. The four-song EP, on indie label Winsome, included the previously released single “Drip on Boat,” featuring SwagHollywood, and another trap rap track called “Too Young” with up-and-coming MC Yung Baby Tate. “She makes a lot of music,” Horning of his fellow Dirty South collaborator. “She’s in Atlanta. We just started linking after that.”
While some rap purists might deem the SwagPack Kid EP as pure clickbait, Horning told All Hip Hop that he put a lot of TLC into the project. “Over a year for four songs,” he said. “We were planning five or six, but it ended up just being four. Cause quality over quantity, for sure.” Although the snack-sized album has been generally well-received, Backpack Kid is realistic about this bold career move. “The music industry changes really fast” he said. “One day it’s gonna be this, the next day it’s gonna be that. You just gotta keep up.”
He’s not a Katy Perry fan
Katy Perry might have introduced the world to Backpack Kid in her memorable 2017 Saturday Night Live performance, but he’s not a huge fan of the “Swish Swish” singer. “I’m more into hip hop,” he confessed when asked if he would collaborate with the pop star now that he’s a rapper. “She’s more of a pop singer,” he said. “It wouldn’t make a lot of sense.”
We’re sure Perry isn’t losing any sleep over that passive-aggressive diss, but who would the aspiring hip hop star want to make music with? According to Hollywood Life, it’s another Georgia teenage sensation. “My overall goal is to make music with Lil Yachty,” he said. That’s some serious #SquadGoals. “Lil Yachty really influences my music because he introduced me to the happy vibe of trap music,” he explained. “I am a very happy person so listening to this happy music made me realize how happy I really am and how much I loved hip hop. So ever since then I always wanted to make happy music.”
He lawyered up
Backpack Kid was one of a handful of (ahem) celebrities who sued Epic Games for copping their signature dance moves in the smash hit video game Fortnite. Originally, Russell Horning was cool with “The Floss” homage, telling TMZ: “It’s not that big of a deal, I’m just glad it’s in the game.” Those good vibes soured after The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (again, ahem) star Alfonso Ribeiro sued Epic Games for incorporating his trademark “The Carlton Dance” into Fortnite.
In a follow-up interview with TMZ, Horning revealed that his mom and manager felt that Epic Games took advantage of him, so he was letting the adults handle the legal proceedings. Backpack Mom subsequently lawyered up with the legal office of Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price and Hect, who also represented Riberio, and two others who felt cheated by Epic Games — rapper 2 Milly and social media star Orange Shirt Kid.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the disgruntled foursome voluntarily dismissed their suits against Epic Games in March 2019, but this may not be the last dance. “We will continue to vigorously fight for our clients’ rights against those who wrongly take their creations without permission and without compensation,” said attorney David Hecht.
Is Backpack Kid a Floss fraud
Russell Horning’s high-profile lawsuit against Epic Games has, ironically, prompted some to question if he was the originator of the viral dance move in the first place. Australian radio station 96.1 FM did some online investigating and uncovered YouTube footage of a member of a Mormon dance group busting out what appears to be “The Floss.” And get this: that video is dated 2012! In true crime era fashion, others joined the conspiracy theory hunt, including YouTuber Eual Kennedy, who posted an even earlier video clip (dated 2011) by someone known as “Mashed Potato Man” who can be seen doing a somewhat clumsier version of Horning’s signature move.
While there is no doubt that Backpack Kid introduced the world to “The Floss,” there clearly are some grey areas regarding who invented it. It could all be #fakenews, or these videos could play an important role in the Backpack Kid versus Epic Games legal case, which debates if a dance move can be copyrighted in the first place. According to Variety, Horning’s law firm, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hect, dropped its case after the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs (Backpack Kid, Alfonso Ribeiro, 2 Milly, and “Orange Shirt Kid” must have their work registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before suing for copyright infringement. According to Law360 (via Variety), Horning and the other plaintiffs may refile their cases after applying to copyright their dance moves.