YORK CITY BREAKERS - INTERVIEW
Who are all the members of New York City Breakers?
London: Powerful Rex, Action, Kid Nice (Philip Rock), Speedee,
Little Lep, Mr. Wave, and myself.
Give us a little history on the group.
Action: Originally we were called the Floormaster Crew. Rocksteady
was basically very popular back in '80-'82 and they used to dance
against another crew called the Dynamic Rockers. They used to
perform in a Club called the Grill with Africa Bamabatta and various
artists like Jazzy J, Whizkid, Cool B, Freddy B...you know, People
like that, they invited us to do a battle with them, because they
needed a crew that they could burn and take advantage of. So what
ended up happening was that Rocksteady put out the flier (Rocksteady
vs. Floormasters) and we showed up at the grill, and guess what, we
had a big surprise for them. We blew them away!
Is that right?
Action: We rocked 'em and that's where we met Mike who turned
be our manager and agent. He was at the Rocksteady and he wanted to
manage them, but when we showed up and destroyed them and took them
apart ... he just fell in love with us.
Do you guys have a dance studio?
London: Yeah, it's in the Bronx. I converted my apartment into
So what have you been working on?
London: Right now I'm working on some rap tracks and some R&B
How were you guys able to gain expose to the general populace?
Action: Well, we were the first group to go mainstream. We did
films and we did the most TV shows. We performed for a lot of
stars...David Letterman, the Ronald Reagan inaugural...
Right I remember that shit.
Action: For the Ronald Reagan one, we got a personal invitation
Frank Sinatra himself, that we had framed in glass.
Action: Yes, by the way Frank Sinatra is doing bad and I wish
the best of health. Tony worked with Dick Clark and he sat in Dick
Clark's house, hanging out with him. We did the Mev Griffin show, we
did the Bob Hope show, we did Soul Train...We had our own album out
and we had the first break dance video that won awards which was the
Gladys Knight and the Pips video, that was filmed in New York. We
did a lot of live shows like Russell Simmons, Hot 97 the radio
station, and we performed with various artist such as KRS-One, Dr
Dre, Doug E. Fresh, DJ Hollywood, Cold Crush, Furious Five and MC
Ronald Reagan, the Inauguration. Who was that little kid who busted
all the headspins?
Action: That's the kid that me and Matthew Glidemaster (who passed
away) used to teach everyday. We used to hang out with him. He was
like nine years old and we used to teach him. He created the UFO.
That's the influence we had on kids. We were teaching that kid for
about a year and let me tell you something, man in a year's time he
had created his own moves. Now that's what I call a B-Boy. Yo, and
when Matthew passed away, we needed another guy... I mean he didn't
take Matthew's place, but we brought him (into the group). Me and
Matthew were the ones that taught him, and I mean he was crazy
B-Boys aren't really used in videos anymore as new school dancers.
Do you see B-boys coming back as dancers for MC's?
London: There are videos which represent B-boys in comparison
schoolers, so no, obviously for every twenty videos, maybe one or
two will represent a b-boy. Some videos out there like KRS-One and
Lords of the Underground represent a little bit, (in addition to)
the Alkaholiks and the Roots. I'm sure you're gonna see a group
called Crew represent soon. In terms of what you see now like Puff
Daddy who has twenty videos, but doesn't represent the B-boy
element...that's just lack of education and a lack of understanding.
For me personally, as a businessman, artist or producer, for you to
embrace the whole Hip-Hop culture, you gotta get an understanding of
what it really is. New school artists really truly don't. (I'm) not
saying their completely ignorant, they just look into Hip Hop
deeper, because it really is just B-boying, Mcing obviously,
graffiti art and Djing, but if you don't represent, not saying that
you have to in all videos, but at some point you must acknowledge
it. A person really going back to the foundation is KRS-One, you see
it in shows. I'm on the road with him now, and you can see it in his
shows and his videos. Obviously, you can't do it in every song, like
How do you feel about Hip Hop music today being slower than that of
the past and making it harder for the orthodox B-boys to dance to?
London: The B-boy scene has really changed and evolved. I equate
to a car or a house which are made differently now than they were
10-15 years ago. Same as B-boying back in the day when we used to
dance to James Brown or Apache. Those beats were somewhat fast, but
now beats have slowed down. Now the average tempo is between 95 and
110. Back then, it was like 120. Now me personally, I kinda like the
beats slower, you have more time to show more stuff in terms of
style, flavor... you can do a lil more, do more personally, I still
love old school stuff, don't get me wrong things change. B-boys have
now changed the way they uprock, toprock, the way they do their
floor steps, it has changed like anything in life. You kinda gotta
The styles adapt to the music.
London: Exactly. You can't do on a slow tempo beat what you can
fast one, but personally, you can get more into it on a slow beat
'cause you got more time. On the other hand, on a fast beat you get
hyped and crazy--it works both ways no question about it. If you're
a good B-boy, you should be able to represent whether it's slow or
fast, not saying it has to be slow because that's much more
difficult. You should be balanced.
How do you feel about the dance scene in general at this point?
London: I think if you're in the underground scene, you would
known it never died out.
London: That kept it going, flow wise. What happens now is that
corporate America picked it up again. The moves obviously are almost
the same, but some of the moves are more dynamic. Some of the guys
who were dancin' in the early part of '80s have somethin' a lil bit
different than everybody else out now.
Do you feel what happened to the dance scene and corporate America
could reoccur in the 90s?
London: No 'cause now what's happened is a lot of people in a
crews are gaining control of their own artistic views. The first
time around people kinda got swept up into the storm and didn't
realize what was going on and went along with the flow. They said,
"Hey, you'll pay me to do this, sure, you'll pay me to do that, okay.
" They just went along with the program, but with us , we are more
in control and have learned from our mistakes. In terms of not being
in more control of our future, on different projects now we're
working on our own thing as well as (things with) other groups out
there, like Jam on the Groove for example, we're trying to help out
one another at the same time.
How is the scene now different from when you were dancing?
Speedee: A lot more work. Trying to keep up with the younger
generation requires a lot more work. They're doing a lot of Tex
moves, foot work combinations...
Except for Air Force, Rock Steady and dancers such as yourself,
there seems to be less innovation of moves like there were when
breaking was at it's peak. But innovative moves were what you had to
do, not bite the video. How do you feel about kids coming out now
doin' some 1980 head spin that you see from rented videos at the
London: I guess I have mixed feelings. It depends on how well
educated the B-boy is. Everyone has to bite to learn, you gotta
borrow someone's moves sooner or later. What you should do as a
B-boy is if you're in the learning process, you're gonna rent the
videos, look at someone's styles and try to emulate them... you
gotta give them No.1, credit. For example, there are things that
I've created that I see people doin' and I feel good in some ways,
but then I don't 'cause they need to take it to another level and
create on their own, be more creative, we laid a lot of the
foundation. It's one thing to look and copy, but it's another thing
to create it. That's the magic in breaking, to go out there and
create something that's yours and original that someone says, "Wow,
I've never seen that before, that was good ." That's where you get
respect. A lot of people don't understand that. Unfortunately you
don't get respect from copying other people. Ok, I can do head spins
and windmills, that and that, but you get respect from creativity.
That's where new B-boys have now gotten respect.
What bothers you about the scene right now?
Action: There is only one thing that I'm a little upset with.
haven't danced in 10-12 years, but it's 1997 and the only thing that
bothers me is that these kids are very repetitious. I mean since
we've been here, me and Kid Nice, we've been observing how these
kids do the same things like head spins and 1990s. They are
concentrating more on power moves, but they're not doing the basics,
they're not doing the fundamentals... They're not uprocking, and
they're not showing any style. I've seen freezes, but they're very
rare. Some kids have a beginning, no middle and an ending.
Kid Nice: The thing is, they're learning off themselves. What
they're doing is they're keeping their own L.A. style in L.A.
Action: No, I wouldn't say that. I would say that they see a
and try to copy it as much as they could and they get another way
and they keep that way, I think that's how it is everywhere like
Germany, England, everywhere. If you see something and then you say
to yourself, "Oh I remember it", and try it and do it a different
way and say, "O.K., now I'm good with that." They keep it.
Kid Nice: There's always going to be someone who's faster and
stronger than you. All these kids keep working on their power moves.
I see one kid and he's doing good and I see one kid and he's doing
better than him and one kid is doing better than him... I mean they
should all be concentrating on creating new moves. It's 1997. I'm
expecting to see new moves, but it's the same moves. But they keep
it alive and looking good. I'm working on a new move... I mean I
can't do it yet, but I've got a lot of new moves.
Interview originally appeared in Subculture Magazine, issue #4.
Reprinted with permission from Subculture.