B-BOYS AND B-GIRLS UNITE
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Ever since Afrika Bambaataa formed the Zulu Nation, the first organized group of individuals practicing hip-hop in the late 1970s, the four pillars of hip-hop have remained the only constant in an ever-changing music world: Emceeing/ rapping, DJing, break dancing, and graffiti writing define a subculture that has taken over the mainstream.
Adding to the growing list of hip-hop events and culture in the Triad, Higher Underground Productions is holding the third of its kind one-on-one break battle at the Green Bean. Pitting crews from all over the country against one another, Funky Funky North Carolina has become somewhat of a talked about event on the east coast. It’s speculated that crews from as far north as New York and as far south as Florida may make the trip.
Whereas other genres rely on thirdparty promoters to bring talent and cover those expenses, the hip-hop scene seems to just build from within thanks to community support and passionate artists.
As it applies to hip-hop, the Triad has already seen its share of events this year. Joseph Wilkerson of Uptown Artworks just finalized an installation called “Thinkin’ of a Master Plan: Hip-hop the ARTform” focused strictly on hip-hop artists. And truly embracing the changing times, Winston- Salem’s AFAS Group brought in 13 regional artists to paint wall spaces at Artivity on the Green, which is interesting because what is now called a “mural” was actually just graffiti 10 years ago.
Garren Bell, or Magroc as he’s known in the breakdance circles, grew up in North Carolina and has watched the community he so cherishes now begin to flourish. Having danced for 15 years, Bell has been able to travel all over the country to various competitions, often times with two of his closest friends that started dancing around the same time he did.
“We were in ninth grade,” Bell recalls, “and we used to do trickin’ – backflips and corkscrew flips – after school. We saw this dude doing windmills in the hallway and we just asked him about it.” From there, he says it never stopped. A self-proclaimed hip-hop-head, Bell took it upon himself to seek more knowledge on breakdancing by way of videos like “Beat Street” and “Wild Style,” two popular 1980s films focused on breakdancing. Although Bell was young, and this was before Facebook would send you multiple notifications about events that you might be interested in, he still found out about battles going on in Charlotte and traveled to them. He believes that although the Triad has a great breakdance scene, Charlotte and Fayetteville might be a bit stronger – hinting even that if one crew comes from Fayetteville then it would mean potentially a crew of 40 people.
Bell is 31 now, and although he still keeps an attentive finger on the pulse, his days of competing have become fewer and farther in between than before. He says, “I been dancing for fifteen years…but life happened, and I can’t dance as much anymore.” Life also happened to present him with an opportunity to give back to the community that powered so much of his younger years, and now he judges other battles around the state, and organizes FFNC3 with Andrew Hudgson and Atiba Berkley.
Andrew “Dru” Hudgson has been doing the same thing for almost the same amount of time. At 30-years old, and with half of that time spent practicing footwork and other breakdance elements, Hudgson sees the hip-hop movement in the same humble light as Bell. Both expressed their desire to keep events like FFNC3 moving forward because there are always going to be a new crop of interested dancers who may – much like they were in their impressionable high school years – want to look at this as a potential career.
Hudgson has been competing since around 2006. He still competes, but will also judge and host battles if the situation calls for it. But events like FFNC3 are meant to bring more focus onto the break dance scene, as well as the hip-hop community as a whole. Dru and Bell, along with some coordinators, are expecting upwards of 50 dancers, live artists painting, and then the other two Pillars, emcees and DJs.
“This is running through my veins,” Dru says, “but it’s not like any of us are rich. We don’t go into this with aspirations of acquiring some type of profit.” The prize package includes $400 and other gift certificates for participants. But all the people putting this together are doing so on their own terms with the support of likeminded people.
This is far different than some of the larger, national events going on around the country. Breakdancers, much like patrons of any subculture, started in the underground in the late 70s and early 80s. As it became more popular in the mainstream and breakers were featured in films and flown around the world to put on performances, it gradually began growing out of the urban streets and into the white picket fence communities. Breakdancing became an acceptable pastime worthy of practice.
Now, following years of building and growth in all aspects of hip-hop, there is a lot more corporate money involved. Red Bull, for instance, hosts the Red Bull BC One breakdancing competition, which has helped some dancers earn a very healthy living.
But, again, that money isn’t in Greensboro. Here, the breakdancing community is supported by the same people who keep the true spirit of hip-hop alive in giving youth a place to express themselves. These people are also putting their hearts onto the dance floor, and their wallets on the table to see it through. !
Funky Funky North Carolina 3 gets started at 6 p.m. on Saturday night at Green Bean located at 341 S. Elm St. $10 to dance, $5 to watch the hiphop happen before your eyes.