Bboys: A History of Breakdance

S1 E2 | FULL EPISODE

Rock Steady Crew: The Story

Breakdancing, which started in the Bronx block party scene over 40 years ago, has become a global phenomenon. This series travels to New York, Berlin, Paris, and Seoul to see how the next generation of dancers is pushing the genre to new heights.

AIRED: July 14, 2021 | 0:08:05
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TRANSCRIPT

[ Up-tempo hip-hop plays ]

[ Echoing ] B-boys!

♪♪

♪♪

Rock Steady Crew comes from Jimmy Dee and Jimmy Lee.

They are the founders of Rock Steady Crew.

And it's real simple.

Rocking --

you know, B-boying, breaking, it was called rocking as well.

Like, "Yo, we were rockin'. We're rockin'."

And Jimmy Dee and Jimmy Lee --

They used to make fun of Jimmy Dee and Jimmy Lee

and tell them, "Yo, you guys are always steady battling, man.

You're steady battling all the time."

Rock Steady Crew.

♪ Rock steady [ Up-tempo hip-hop plays ]

My cousin Lenny Len told me,

"Yo, let's try out for Rock Steady Crew."

And one day, in Jimmy Dee's building,

on Echo Place in the Bronx, we met up with him.

My cousin Lenny Len and I battled Jimmy Dee and Jimmy Lee.

We lost the battle, 3-2.

But because of our potential,

we were invited to be part of Rock Steady.

That was in '79.

In 1981, Rock Steady was given to me.

I had already met Ken Swift and Doze and Frosty Freeze

and Take One and Lil' Crazy Legs and Kippy Dee,

all these people that eventually became part of Rock Steady.

And I put them down with Rock Steady.

You know, I met Crazy Legs, actually.

He came around my block.

I was extremely proud, you know,

because he had a very established name.

And to have a name in the streets

is just not something you just get like that.

You really have to represent yourself.

[ Up-tempo hip-hop plays ]

Crazy Legs: Fast forward.

As Rock Steady grew, the central meeting location

for the next generation of Rock Steady crew

was a spot in Manhattan that we named Rock Steady Park

on 98th Street and Amsterdam.

It started with a few of us. We'd go in the back of the park.

We had the rubber mats, as you could see in "Style Wars."

And that was dubbed Rock Steady Park.

Crazy Legs: And that was a central location

because I had 500 members of Rock Steady

and you had people in the Bronx, you had people in Manhattan,

you had people in Brooklyn or whatever,

and everybody would just come and meet up, and that was it.

You knew you could see Rock Steady there.

Lenny Len: Right now he's doing the footwork,

when original breaking came out.

Yeah. He's doing the baby and the turtle.

Man: The back bridge.

Yeah. Head spin.

Did the head spin and then just went up.

Most of the people in Rock Steady that got in,

I met them through battling, you know, at that early age.

Because it was all about the battle, you know?

For me, it was like, I'm'a go find you if I heard about you.

We're gonna battle. I'm'a do my best to smoke you.

And maybe you got smoked by somebody else,

and you may bring it up to me after we start hanging out

and be like, "Yo, I know this dude.

You should battle him."

And I would go battle that dude, beat him,

and then bring him into Rock Steady.

MC: One, two, one two. Party people in the place.

Rock Steady against Dynamic Rockers.

Rock on till the break of dawn.

[ Mid-tempo hip-hop playing ]

Crazy Legs in the house.

[ Music continues ]

Crazy Legs: The main thing for a B-boy or B-girl back then

was to practice and battle.

[ Music continues ]

Mr. Freeze: But we were definitely on a mission.

We were seeking our people to battle.

It was extremely exciting,

because whenever you got into a circle,

you didn't know what the hell was gonna happen.

You didn't know what guy was gonna come out.

To battle somebody, to fight somebody,

it's not about just doing something for yourself.

Everyone has to understand what you're doing.

I wanted you and I wanted everyone to know

what I was doing to you.

That was, you know, the foundation of this dance.

We knew we wanted to smoke you or beat you

because it's like, I came up with something.

I did that move on you.

And a lot of times, you know, I was the most hated in the crew

because I'd, you know, I'd get them all riled up -- "R-R-aah!"

See, the idea was to distract them from their moves

and to humiliate them.

They'd say, "I'm gonna get that guy!"

[ Music continues ]

And, you know, Buck Four -- rest in peace --

Kuriaki -- rest in peace --

you know, they were like our secret weapons.

We'd send them out at the heat of the battle,

and then Ken Swift would clean it up with Crazy Legs.

You know, it was a cleanup crew. [ Laughs ]

MC: Who goes for Rock Steady?

[ Crowd cheering ]

Dynamic Rockers?

[ Crowd cheering ]

We had a lot of respect for each other anyway, as warriors,

and you never knew what the next person was gonna do

the following week.

You could lose a battle

and then win against the same person the following week.

It was back and forth all the time.

You all know we took 'em out, right?

Put it this way -- We're outta sight and they bite.

They bit my turtle into a hop. Oh, man!

I could've cried when I seen that...

It was absolutely against the rules

to do someone else's moves.

You would be laughed at.

I think originally was very important,

because originality established your identity.

So the first time I did what we call a whip backspin,

which is the fast backspin, I did it at this place

called Mom and Pop's disco in the Bronx,

which was an underground club in a basement...

[ Laughs ]

...of a tenement building where people lived.

Illegal completely.

But I went there,

and it was the first time I was recognized as an individual,

because I did that backspin.

And people were like, "Oh!"

This guy comes up to me and says, "Yo.

Show me that backspin."

I'm like, "Huh? What do you mean?"

You know, I'm not gonna say I created it,

because it was an accident.

But that's because of the practice

and the training and all that stuff,

and you keep doing things, and accidents happen.

And then it's a matter of recognizing, "Oh, shit.

That accident was pretty good. Let me keep working on it."

I got a certain backspin that I made up.

Want me to show you it?

I started off doing like this...

...and landing like that.

Right?

So then I just decided not to do the freeze and keep on spinning.

So it goes like this.

I put my arm right here, and it's easy.

And I push on my arm and swing my left leg --

my right leg -- both of them -- around.

Crazy Legs: I was wack when I started.

I stole moves. I bit moves from other people.

But the beauty of that back then was how can you take something,

re-create it within that week before the next jam,

show up at the next jam,

and do that move in a manner that would allow people

to feel like that move is now associated with you

because you have your own thumbprint on it, you know?

That's what it was all about. That's what we lived for, man.

To battle, to create, to battle, to get some props.

[ Mid-tempo hip-hop plays ]

B-boy!

♪♪

♪♪

B-boy!

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