Friday, August 16, 2013

Hip-Hop Is Apparently 40 Years Old: Where Is B-Boying now?

(Note: I put some links in this article, you just have to move your mouse over certain words)

I don't claim to be deeply into hip-hop scholar, but I have taken classes about its history courtesy of the Ethnomusicologist Cheryl Keyes and the rising hip-hop scholar H.Samy Alim.

I open Twitter and I see two articles about the graying of hip-hop, by which they mean the graying of commercially-successful rappers from the 1990s.  One from Village Voice.  One from NPR Codeswitch.  Another from another NPR Writer named Dart Adams.

What will happen to them as the rappers from the 1990s (Nas, Jay-Z, Andre 3000) get older, each article asks.  In terms of whether they will continue to be commercially-successful as rappers, who really cares.  Each of them seems set, whether they continue in the art or choose something else.

But, hip-hop is more than just rappers/MC.

What of the other elements of hip-hop 40-years later?  Graffiti/writing, turntabling/DJing, beatboxing, b-boying?

All exist in expanded forms nowadays, and it bears asking how has any of these arts have evolved, grown, and/or shrank?

Were making a documentary on b-boys, and so we should start with that.

From having seen the Twitterverse, exploring the hashtags #bboy and #breakdancing, I get that the art has spread internationally.  A search of these hashtags will bring you the profiles of Bboys/girls from the UK, Iran, Korea, Japan, etc.  We see crews alive and well, and representing.

But the Twitterverse and intentionally seeking out the #bboy #bgirl hashtags appears to be the only way where we can find them.

Having only been a casual b-boy fan before joining #TeamInnate, the B-boy/girl documentary project team, I don't know any of these groups or people as icons.  I don't seek their names out on a Google search.  I might've seen them in a movie, TV production.  I love the Jabbawockeez, Poreotics and whoever I saw on America's Best Dance Crew when that show was on, but I don't know the extent to which they were involved with breaking.  I might know the b-boying moves as I've seen someone do on my TV set, at Venice Beach, but I don't know anyone really (the producer of the doc though, James, is much more versed in the culture than I am and the reason were even making this documentary). 

From my vantage point, whenever anyone from ordinary life or even Hip-Hop Academia references a name in b-boying, the only real icon they can name is Crazy Legs or whoever is on a TV talent show or on Youtube.  Wild Style was produced when my fiance was being produced.  She is now 30 years old.  I don't know any other b-boying influenced movies other than these "urban Dance movies" that came out in the late 2000s.

Crazy Legs is 47 years and has been retiring for two years now.  CNN did this special below on him, which actually featuring one of the b-boys that will be in our documentary, ynot.

Recently an article came out about Crazy Legs in the New York Times.

The sense I get is that though the popularity is truly global (as has been each of the other elements), virtually all of the b-boys are relatively anonymous and work anonymously.  Sure the best b-boys/b-girls will be hired into movie projects and/or tv shows as back-up dancers, but that's about it.  Their bodies are not the faces.  Just virtually all anonymous.

Aside from crazy legs, there are no other iconic breaking crews the general public knows of, that people love and hate.  But everyone will acknowledge that the dancing is "cool." 

B-boys and b-girls make big "statements" on the dance floor, but if they are not recorded in this age of ubiquitous media, unless they have reputation and have others who know them, it may be like they don't exist.  It's not that I wish there was a lot more commercial success for b-boys, but at least I wish there was more public acknowledgment and engagement with the form than what seems to be the case now.

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