Photo: Drew Gurian (Red Bull)
Crazy Legs poses for a portrait at the Red Bull BC One Camp in Houston, TX, USA on 28 April, 2018.

What made you fall in love with music? More specifically, what made you fall in love with hip hop? Was it how it made you feel when you heard the beat drop? Was it the lyrics? For me, it was the dance. Breakdancing was always the most fascinating element of hip hop next to DJing for me, and I would try my best to emulate the moves I saw and have the same attitude I felt from the dancers. Trying to do handstands, headstands, and windmills on my own made me realize the skill and talent it took to be a dancer, and that only furthered my admiration of these counter culture creatures who, for whatever reasons, dedicated their entire lives to movement. I got into the dance scene at an early age, had to stop dancing when I became very ill, and got back into it recently, only to find that I hated every new dance that came out.

I found myself in an abyss where I would look at kids like Ayo and Teo funny because they couldn’t possibly be working up a sweat with those moves. I would look down my nose at people “hittin dem folks” because which folks and why are we hitting them? Why are we making dances out of coughing motions after taking a hit of a dab pen? And MY GAWD, why do people still cheer when someone milly rocks like we don’t ALL do that every time a song comes on? I was at yet another dance class, annoyed to no end because the choreographers I looked up to were actually included those foolish moves into their dances when all at once it hit me: It wasn’t ever supposed to be for me.

The love of my life, as Erykah called it, my best friend, my go-to, my ace had evolved, and I had not allowed myself to evolve with it. Sure, there were some songs and dances that I did not care to entertain, but for most of them, I would look at the artist and decide I wasn’t with it, or look at my nephew doing a dance and roll my eyes because “back in my day blah blah blah,” and if I was going to take up the fight of returning it to whatever glory days I thought existed, there was a definitive MMA Betting Guide that predicted my failure.

Blacka, Crazy Legs, and Marley (Havikoro)

Photo: Drew Gurian (Red Bull)
Blacka, Crazy Legs, and Marley (Havikoro)

I recently got the chance to speak with breaking OG Crazy Legs at the Red Bull BC One Dance Camp and Competition about today’s music and dance. Crazy Legs began breaking when hip hop was new – he lived in the Bronx in the ’70s, went to jams in his neighborhood where his brothers we DJs, and he lived through the war between hip hop and disco, kind of like what music is going through right now. I would have expected him to be a bit understanding when referencing what is happening, but he said, in no uncertain terms, that people who won’t acknowledge today’s sound are “old and bitter.”

“The kids today,” he said, “let’s say they like mumble rap. I say ‘Let them live.’ You’re outnumbered. They’re not doing the same thing as you that’s raising a family right now…give it up. They have to go through their own growing pains. It’s kinda like an ‘each one, teach one.’ Then you have to let them have their own wisdom and what they’re gonna do with that information. I refuse to be against them because that’s when you make yourself irrelevant and start to tear down the bridge to have a dialogue with them. I don’t know why they’re mumbling. But if I did, I might be like, ‘Oh shit, that’s exactly what we were doing back in the day.’ If you don’t talk down to them, you may find yourself dancing to the same songs.”

Afrobeats choreographer Blacka added on, “They were trying to keep (the music how it was), but what if everybody kept everything from us?”

It seems like hip hop fans and purists alike can have a self-righteous attitude toward the genre, which makes complete sense, but is sometimes off base.  We own parts of it in our souls. It was there for us when no one else was. It was the foundation for what we aspired to live out (whether productive or non-productive), and we carry those ideals with us as adults. For that reason, counterfeits are disgusting and offensive to us. While that makes sense, we have to realize that the beginnings of hip hop were not rooted in consciousness – hip hop was about the jams, the parties, and honestly, a lot of shady stuff was going on behind the scenes. As it emerged, people used it more and more often as a means to talk about what was happening in the streets. It came to the forefront, which turned out to be a great thing, but we forget about the parties and playfulness at its inception.

Kids today are doing the same things we remember music doing – talking about what’s happening in the world, but those events are vastly different. As those of us who listened to songs that made us want to better ourselves give our children opportunity, they’re seeing more and doing more, and some of what they are seeing isn’t healthy. What we’re doing to kids today is what adults were trying to do to the founders then – silence them, and tell them to stop talking about what is happening in their real lives. Imagine what would happen if, instead of “canceling” kids for talking about drugs and depression, we would try and understand why the sentiments and behaviors are so widespread. Perhaps there would be one less Lil Peep incident, and a couple more Lil Pumps, Gucci Manes, and Smokepurpps, telling their counterparts that isn’t the way.

Hip hop taught us, but we can’t always expect those same songs to appeal to the new generation. Maybe now it’s our turn.