We all have stories and memories of our journey into the Hip Hop dance culture and scene. Those moments from back in the days when we were finding our way as newbies and discovering everything the scene had to offer.
I came up in the early 2000s, my back in the days beginning around 2004 at Urdang dance studios/college when it was in Covent Garden, in the building opposite Pineapple studio. I took B-girl Sun Sun’s class once a week and learned the basics, while the real B-boys and B-girls got down and practiced in the back. Wing chun Master, Austin Goh, taught in the studio before the session, DJ Renegade was just some guy I saw teaching people on the side, and to me UK B-boys were the best in the world!
My back in the days was first discovering the Hip Hop dance scene at the Funkin Pussy club night every Saturday in Angel Islington. Upstairs at the N1 Centre in the O2 Academy back when it was called, ‘Carling Academy,’ where Hooch, Blue, Illegal and D.bo span Hip Hop and Rnb all night, B-boys, B-girls and other dancers got down at the back, the club always packed, me flipping off walls outside and meeting B-boy Mouse and my old friend, GG, who was now also breaking, and who’s crew I’d later join as my first. Before Funkin and P, I didn’t even know that the Hip Hop dance scene existed, and after months of only knowing breaking in a studio, all I could think was ‘Woah!’ Mesmerised and blown away by the discovery of the scene.
My back in the days was full of clubs night that the dancers went to get down at! Cyphers in the back room of Leicester Square’s Zoo bar, getting down in Storm club, Sound and The Joint in Ruby Lo night club just off Bond Street. It was battling at Jump off, Elbow rooms after training on Saturday, Disco vibes at Funk Off in Arc bar, and freeing your Soul at Jojo’s on Sunday night in Soho, or going down the road to Bar Rumba in Piccadilly.
It was Thursday Night Throwdown in Brixton’s Plan B, every second Thursday of the month, where new dancers broke their battle cherry and if you won you got an Eastpak backpack, as well as a T-shirt, hoody and cap, and 50 to 60 pounds in cash. Run by Donna Dee and then Charlie Blue, ‘no biting, no scratching, no touching, no crying if you lose.’ It was the Octagon, the ‘Track from the hat’, pole dance and fancy dress breaking battles, and then chicken and chips in Morley’s after while waiting for the Night Bus.
My back in the days was taking the hot Mega Bus to Liverpool every month for Floornography. It was Fresh Jive in Leeds, Diamond Circles and Castle Rocks in Edinburgh, Eurocultured and Break Mission in Manchester, Urban Sinfone and ill Sessions in Cambridge, All City in Reading, Breakfest in Birmingham, and Breaking Boundaries in Tutu’s Bar in London on the Strand.
It was the people putting on events like Pointman, 10 Tonn, Flowrex, Dhalsim, Cyanide, Mushroom, Slammo and Didge.
It was the summer competitions like Battle Jam in Brighton, Urban Games in Clapham Common park, the long weekend at Tear it up in Liverpool with the after party at the Camel club.
It was two invited crews going head-to-head in the exhibition battle at Breaking Bread jam in Aldgate East and then Jazz Cafe. It was the Battle of Britain in Mass in Brixton, the Welsh B-boy Open Championships in Newport, Floor Rippers back when it was in Old Street, Ya Don’t Stop in a Welsh town I can’t pronounce the name of. It was Regional Conflict North and South to see who would qualify to represent the UK at the UK Bboy Championships back when it was in October at Brixton Academy, and all the winners got Sony Ericsson phones and Armoury clothing. If you were spectating you’d either get there early to be at the front of the line or you’d push in with a friend because the queue literally went halfway around the building and forget going to the end of that! Then the afterparty across the road in Plan B, and when it was finished once again back to Morley’s.
My back in the days was training sessions that only lasted an hour-and-a-half to 2 hours! It was practicing at St Mary’s youth centre in Angel, and weekend sessions at Kings University in London Bridge, then jamming downstairs in McDonald’s afterward.
It was 3 months of late night AM training sessions with DJ Renegade at Breakstation, just off Old Street after Herbal night club; the floor slippery with sweat, legs burning from drills, no windows just a fan, and then a kebab afterward.
It was Trocadero Underground tunnel bringing the whole scene together in one place: B-boys, B-girls, Poppers, Lockers, Hip Hop dancers, Hustlers, Vogue dancers, Waackers, Lofters, Krumpers, House dancers, crazy homeless people! Graffiti and holes in the wall, arguments with security, tourists stopping to watch, too many sound systems playing at once, Dominic and then D-lo’s shop.
My back in the days was watching Breaking events on DVD, like Who can Roast the Most? Out for Fame, R16, United Styles back when it was in Boston, Mighty 4, and Hodown in Texas. It was Circle Kingz in Switzerland, IBE in Rotterdam, and Outbreak in Orlando before it came to Europe. It was going to Bboyworld.com for all and everything breaking related, it was Style2ouf and then StrifeTV.
It was buzzing with excitement when you finally got a copy of documentaries like The Freshest Kidz, Style Wars, Planet B-boy, or Inside the Circle.
It was grainy footage of cypher battles and trying to get the footage of your own battles off of B-boy Marko, back when he was the only guy who had a camera and filmed all the events. It was fake names and long dissing posts on the original UKBboy Forum site, UKBBOY.INFO, long before Facebook took over.
It was no one knowing the names of any of the breaks that DJ’s played, yet everyone doing everything they could to try and find them out.
It was hearing and being a part of the whole crowd going crazy in Brixton Academy when Physix hit like 10 elbow spins, and seeing Cico come out one year and hit ten 90s! It was everyone talking about Born vs Casper in the first cypher call out battle they had. It was footage of Pitbull vs Floor Phanton in a call out battle on the concrete. It was Ata calling out Lamine at Circle kingz, Mouse winning UK champs, Sunni hitting the head drill from hell and beating Hong 10, the All vs All at IBE!
It was international crews like Project Seoul, Flow Mo, Rock Steady, Skill Methods, All the Most crew, Top 9, Flying Steps, Havikoro, Pokemon, Masters of Mayhem, Ground Zero, Zulu Kingz, Flava Squad, Boogie Brats, Supernaturalz crew, Extraordinary Gentlemen, Style Elements, Def Dogs, Phase T, Natural Effects, Ghost crew, Massive Monkeys, Tsunami All-Stars, Lion Kings, Funky Masons, ADHD, The Rugged Solutions before they shortened it to The Rugged.
It was Sunni when he was called Jiggly Puff, Spin when he was called Lil Trix, LB when he was called… well, most of us know what he used to be called 😀
It was the home grown crews: Trinity Warriors from Derby, Physical Jerks from Bristol, Ghetlow Pirates from Leeds, Bad Taste Crew from Newcastle, Floor Riders from Manchester, Psycho Styles, Random Aspekts and Heavy Smokers from Scotland, Endless Limits from Liverpool, H20 from Wales, the all female Flowsaic Crew, Illaphelia flav bringing the Philly flava to UK for years, Steve, Norman, Clara and D-lo bringing the french flava. It was Dancing Bears, Foundations Crew, One Motion, Imperial Steps, Born to Rock, Just4Funk, Floor Cru, Children of the Monkey Basket, Havin’ Fun, Street Vibes, Floorless Forms, Natural Selection, Negro Tendancies, Sin Crew, Flying Jalapenos, the first line up of Soul Mavericks, Broken Jazz, and Pick and Mix! It was coming up, battling, traveling, sleeping on floors, learning, growing, making a local and international name and reputation with my original crew, La Familia! Repping that footwork style even when everyone dissed us for it.
It was the power battle between Kay and Bull, the footwork battles between myself and Jus Roc, the never escaping going rounds upon rounds with One Motion Crew in every cypher. It was Spin vs Beanz, Angry Abdul vs Zorro, Soul Mavericks vs Physical Jerks, La Familia vs Ghetlow Pirates, and the North vs the South!
It was breaking before Redbull, before UDEF, before Undisputed, before thousands of pounds in prize money, judging systems, leagues, live streaming, and over a 100 sign-ups for one battle.
It was cyphers and fist fights. Grimy floors and call outs in dark clubs. It was about crew name and repping, throwing cocks gestures and never backing down. It was battle tracks like Breakers Revenges, Incredible Bongo drums, Apache, Mama said knock you out, Nina Simone, Organ Donor, Planet Rock, James Brown, The Mexican, Funky Lover, Don’t Sweat the Technique, Run D MC, and Juice (Know the Ledge), being span at every jam.
It was MY back in the days, how it all started for me and my crew, our introduction to the scene and culture. For those older than me, their back in the days was watching breaking battles on VHS tapes, the Africa Centre, Second to None, the original Rock Steady Crew and Suicidal Lifestyle. And for many now it’ll be training late nights at Studio in East London or daytimes at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. It’ll be trips up to Newcastle for Just Jam, Groovnometry, Boom Bap and Rain crew’s Jam, when they all first started.
Whatever your back in the days, I hope you remember and enjoy them, as they are what defines us as dancers and helps us grow, as we adapt to how our scene changes, and continue to enjoy where this Hip Hop lifestyle takes us.
Que Biggie Smalls- ‘Things Done Changed.’
The Vivid Scribe
Bboy Manny aka Killaman (Soul Mavericks / La Familia Crew)