Brandon “Young Busco” Moore, an internet comedian who in 2015 invented a unique and hilarious way to make fun of a person’s shoes, died Tuesday at the age of 31, People magazine reported, citing a Facebook post by Moore’s mother.
No cause of death has yet been reported for Moore, who lived in Northern California and was reportedly the father of nine children.
While using the phrase “what are those” to mock one’s shoes dates as far back as 2011, according to the meme history website Know Your Meme, it was Moore’s use of it in a 2015 Instagram video that launched “what are those” to prominence.
As the story goes, on June 14, 2015, a female friend of Moore’s was being arrested in Berkeley. While filming the arrest, Moore went up to a police officer on the screen, pointed at his boots, and asked, “I’ve got just one question for you- WHAT ARE THOSE???? What are those?” The officer, rather than escalate the confrontation, merely walked away.
After the video was posted to Vine, the meme spread quickly, becoming a favored insult at playgrounds around the country. It reached critical mass later in the summer of 2015 when the video went viral of a young attendee at the basketball camp of NBA legend Michael Jordan pointing at the new Jordan Brand sneakers Jordan was wearing and shouting “what are those???”
Soon there were other “What are those?” viral videos, including compilations of the catchphrase being used by regular people, and even small children. In other cases, the original audio was put over footage of popular cartoon characters.
“What are those” had another moment of prominence earlier this year when a “what are those” joke was used in the popular Marvel movie Black Panther, with Shuri (Letitia Wright) pulling a “what are those?” on T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman.) The scene was actually somewhat controversial at the time of the release, as some thought the movie was taking advantage of a catchphrase that was already pretty dated by the time the movie came out in early 2018.
The film’s director, Ryan Coogler, defended the scene in a Huffington Post interview.
“The idea with Shuri is that she rarely leaves Wakanda,” Coogler said. “She’s connected to the outside world through the internet, through youth culture on the internet.”
Moore had gone on the record at the time as disliking the movie’s use of his meme, but the police officer, Sean Fenner, was more of a fan.