Enter a city or US Zip  
Washington DC's Weather
VOL 3. NO. 38 Monday, November 5 - Sunday, November 18, 2001
SIGN UP NOW! FREE Metro Connection email newsletter.

The Four Elements Of Hiphop: B-Boying
(Second of a 4-part series)
Rock Steady Crew: Mr. Wiggle, Crazy Legs and Ken Swift
DJ Kool Herc

With rap so dominant in every form of media, it's easy for the casual fan to overlook the total hiphop experience. But, while the music gains the most focus, there is much more to the genre. To borrow a line from one of its most vocal advocates, KRS-1, "Rap is something you do/hiphop is something you live." This series focuses on hiphop as a lifestyle.

There are four pillars of hiphop culture: Graffiti ("Writing"), "B-Boying" (Breakdancing), "DJ-ing" and lastly "M.C.-ing" (Rapping). In this issue we examine the street art known as "B-Boying."}

The origin of B-Boying, more commonly known as Breakdancing, rests not in the hands of New York City youth, but in the legs of the Godfather Of Soul James Brown. It began in 1969 when Brown's hit "Get On The Good Foot" was enjoying plenty of radio play. Known for his high energy dance steps, Brown displayed his most dazzling footwork during live performances of this particular song.

Before long, a host of New York youths were trying to emulate the Godfather's dance moves. Many succeeded and took this new step to dance competitions at Harlem World, a venue where young dancers could perfect their craft. Brown's "Good Foot" dance moves were the impetus for many other dance steps to follow.

The term "B-Boy" is attributed to Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc (often called the Godfather of hiphop). Herc developed a style of mixing records that allowed for constant dancing. He would play two percussion breaks from identical records and manipulate them so that they played continuously. He named this technique "cutting breaks" and when he mixed would shout "B-Boys Go Down." This call filled the floor with limber, fleet-footed dancers. Hiphop historians still aren't clear about what Herc meant by the term B-Boys. Some say that the "B" stands for "boogie" while others prefer to think it stands for "break."

The earliest form of breaking is a technique known as "Uprock." If a casual onlooker witnessed two B-Boys engaging in an Uprock battle, they would think they'd stumbled upon a Saturday afternoon Kung-Fu film. Dancers would perform many athletic dips, spins and turns while standing well within the opposing dancer's personal space. Though most often harmless, B-Boying (like graffiti) was embraced by many black and Latino street gangs. Eventually fights broke out in clubs and early B-Boying crews soon lost access to many venues.

The 70s was the decade of dance. With Disco beginning to take hold, Los Angeles performers introduced their own brand of B-Boying to their east-coast brethren. Popping, said to be invented by Shabba-Doo, was a dance that i nvolved the arms more so than the legs. Dancers would "poplock," moving their arms in a stiff, almost mechanical motion. Later, a form of this dance was named "The Robot." The style gained wide exposure after dancers were featured on Don Cornelius' {Soul Train,} the long-running dance program filmed in California. Eventually New York breakers picked up on the West Coast style, but adding smoother movements and waves. This style of popping is still the method used by B-Boys today.

The New York-based Rock Steady Crew (RSC) are renowned as the most elite breakers in the world. They even have chapters in Japan. The crew was officially formed by Jo-Jo, a South Bronx B-Boy. He has passed the torch to current members Ken Swift, Mr. Wiggles and Crazy Legs. These Latino B-Boys are responsible for taking breaking worldwide.

Although director Charlie Ahearn was responsible for the first hiphop documentary (1982's {Wild Style}) and filming the RSC at work, it was the 1983 movie {Flashdance} that propelled the RSC and B-Boying worldwide. After the film's release everyone hopped on the breaking bandwagon. Many other films followed including {Breakin'} {Electric Boogaloo} and {Beat Street.}

But as the 80s faded into the 90s, so did B-Boying. Dancing remained a part of hiphop, but some felt breaking was too archaic. But while it was replaced by other choreographed dance steps, the moves continued to borrow heavily from it. Instead of "windmills," "flares" and the "toprock," there was the "running man," "roger rabbit" and other faddish dances.

However, some of the early B-Boys, like the RSC, refused to let the art fade into obscurity. Crazy Legs and Swift joined forces with the GhettoOriginal Production Dance Company, a New York-based dance troupe, and helped organize many street and traditional dance events across the country.

We are now in a renaissance period for B-Boys. Asian, Hispanic, white and black youths are reinventing the breakdancing wheel. We have two well-known crews in the DC metropolitan area, The Lionz Of Zion and Natural Elements. They are known to frequent the Soul Camp, a weekly hiphop venue where they can hone their skills. These days there are friendly dance battles between the two, often displaying extremely athletic and sometimes death-defying moves.

To comment on this or any article by D.L. Chandler email confluence@metroconnection.info.

Welcome Calendar Connection What's Up?/Story Ideas/Events Classified Ads Best Black Web Sites Business Services Including our Ujamaa Black Business Directory Our Print Edition Our Advertising Media Kit Contact Us/Feedback Form