In our ‘Freshest Kids’ segment, I always write about a young up and coming bboy to take notice of, however in this case I decided to flip it and write about the biggest, and probably the best, up and coming scene in the USA; The Minnesota bboy community.
You may be saying to yourself, ‘Minnesota??!!’, and if you are from oversees, you may not know much about Minnesota because for years all you’ve known of is New York, California, Florida, and Texas. Well, Minnesota is in the upper mid-west of the United States, and it’s cold there…really cold. It is best known for ice fishing, hunting, ice hockey, football, as well as being home to one of the biggest malls in the world, Mall of America.
What you may not know about St.Paul / Minneapolis, Minnesota is that it is home to one of the biggest underground Hip Hop scenes in the United States. World class underground record label Rhymesayers is based there, repped by MC’s like MF Doom, Aesop Rock, Brother Ali and many others. It is also home to the Soundset Hiphop Festival, which brings together 20,000+ every year making it one of the biggest Hip Hop concerts in the USA. Lots going down in Minnesota in regards to Hip Hop, and the bboy community there is not far behind.
While Minnesota is a very young scene, it does have a history. I decided to reach out to one of it’s community leaders and O.G Bboys, Stepchild, to get a brief history lesson on the scene he came up in during the 90’s.
Mex: Sup Stepchild! Hope all is well brotha, you see what the blog is about. I really want your input on the history of the MN Bboy scene and it’s early roots. Let me know what’s good brotha.
Stepchild: Just a quick and general history up to the early 2000’s…Breaking in Minnesota dates back to 1983-84. Some of the prominent crews back then were the Minneapolis Body Breakers, Romantic Breakers, and Wildstyle Breakers (which preceded the Capitol City Breakers). By the late 80’s, breaking faded out in MN, but re-emerged within the Housing (Not House Dancing)/Freestyle dance and club crews such as Shy Guys/Protege’ (which I became a member of in the early 90’s club scene). Now, the early to mid-90’s breakers in Minnesota set the foundation of the Minnesota scene today. These crews were primarily Battle Cats, Groove Nutz, Buddha Crew, Horizon, Zero Gravity, Mixed Freestyle, Final Fantasy, Definition of Style (DOS), and Eternal Illusions. A special mention to Bboy Jsun for setting actual standards to the game here, and Daylight being the first international Bboy competitor from Minnesota, both putting MN on the map in the 90’s era; Daylight making the biggest bang. Groove Nutz and Battle Cats also traveled to all the Midwest cities back then and made noise, such as: Lawrence Kansas, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Austin..and even Los Angeles. So GrooveNutz gets it’s credit too for spreading Minnesota. I always saw Battle Cats as the first 90’s crew to have complete Bboys/Bgirls, meaning, they had standardized power and ground work,always explored and experimented, then integrated with abstract styles, as well as on-point power tricks and battle focus; as opposed to their primary rival crews like Zero Gravity, which primarily consisted of powermoves without direction or battle focus, and unstructured footwork that was still referred to as “scrambling”. Come early to mid-2000’s bboys, I’ll let the Propaganda Crew take it from there…They were the next generation in line that really made the heavy hits for completing the geographical “Minnesota Mapping” project. All I remember for crew names back then, were still Groove Nutz, Battle Cats and Eternal Illusions; newer crews were ATOM CREW, Hungary Hungary Hippos, Pinoy Flip, Break Bratz, and 651 Crew.
For battles, I don’t know much about the 80’s. From the early 90’s club scene, it was all cypher battles except a few times when the crowd judged. For the 90’s underground scene, they have their own stories of cypher battles, alot of them weren’t old enough to even hit the early clubs yet. But, I consider Hip Hop Olympics to have the first exhibition Breaking battle in the 90’s between Battle Cats and Zero Gravity. The first organized bracketed competition battles that I recall was thrown by Groove Nutz called Big Daddy Comstock Battle followed by the Unity Battles 1-8. These battles are the closest precursors to the type of jams we have today in terms of marketing fliers and promotion, official judge panels, top 16 brackets, hosts, DJ’s, timeline of events, etc. etc… I give props to the Warriors, Optimistic, and Looney Tunes for mastering the art form of throwing jams for Minnesota, and networking well to do it right. Leave it up to the next generation to perfect it!
My name is StepChild, formerly known as “Bboy Scorp-1”, cause most cats don’t remember who I am by face, but by name, cause I changed it. In the past, I represented for Shy Guys/Protege in the 90’s club era, Groove Nutz Crew, and last member of Battle Catz. This is just a quick off the top of my dome history, so check my tumblr account for a more in depth history about if you are interested.
Shout out to the last active breakers of the 90’s in Minnesota: Jsun, Daylight, Scorp-1, Digital, Sequal, Ty, and Slim-Nasty. Shout out to some of the old school 80’s Minnesota Breakers: Bitt, Jonathon Wright, and Jesse Mendoza.
NOTE: Shout outs to Daylight who was the first ever MN bboy to really make a name for himself back in the late 90’s. I remember him killing it at Pro-Am 99 making it to the TOP 8.
I personally first took notice of the MN bboy community back in 2004 when a local up and coming bboy,
known then as Embrio, was flying out a bunch of European bboys to MN for what was supposed to be
a major event. At the time, I knew the scene was not yet ready for such an event and having the jam
only one month apart from what was supposed to be the last Freestyle Session ever was not the smartest of moves. Embrio and I didn’t start off as good friends, but now I’m happy to say I call him a friend and he has a new name, Los Boogie, representing Warriors Crew. I reached out to him to find out more about that experience was like.
Mex:Yo yo, Los, whats good brotha! You read what I wrote about your first jam, tell me the history
and the idea behind it… Lay it all on the line.
Los Boogie: I originally went by “Embrio” in 2001/2002 because it was my take on “a new generation of Hip Hop” in the Twin Cities, it was also my Bboyworld username lol (music moderator ha). I was the youngest member of the Groove Nutz Crew with Step Child (formerly Scorp1) and some other brothers that are now in their 30’s and retired. Fresh out of high school in 2003 I had to cancel a trip to Germany (Battle of The Year) because my crew members that had agreed to go, decided to cancel right before I could buy my ticket (still have my presale BOTY ticket though! lol). This got me heated but really motivated me to make something happen for my own scene. I never saw myself being a world-class competitior or winning all the big battles, but I did want to make noise. Maybe with my crew, maybe with my scene or state. NO ONE from MN had done this, and I saw my opportunity to put MN on the map.
By late 2004 I had contacted Red Bull and a few local entrepreneurs about organizing a battle that would host 10 European bboys and the Red Bull LOTF custom dance floor. It seemed impossible and a dream but it’s all I could think about day and night. FSS was supposed to happen late spring/early summer of 2005 but was suddenly changed (I have the internet flyers to prove it! lol). It came as a shock to me, but you can’t just change $10,000.00 worth of plane tickets! Live and learn! At least I can say “I DID THAT”. 🙂
Now the event was a financial flop, but it did what I’d originally hoped it would. It inspired a generation of new bboys that had never traveled, or had never seen talent of that caliber. Kids and older bboys that had never had the priviledge to attend a FSS, OFF, Bboy Summit, or Pro/Am. They experienced a different cultural take on our dance. Lilou, Brahim, Rudolph, Junior, etc. etc. were in attendance. Even though it took me over a year to pay off my losses, I didn’t regret the choices I made. I would stick to my guns.
Starting fresh in 2006, I finally started traveling and competing with my new crew (MN Joe, Jonny Craze, Ozzy, etc). We’d known each other for a few years at this point, but decided we were a good fit since we were all close friends and had similar goals. We started as The Power Rangers (inside joke), but later decided to change our name as we wanted to be taken seriously, both in the bboy arena and on a professional level. I remember talking to Jonny Craze about the “perfect bboy jam”, and shortly after, we were making plans to host MN’s next big event. We didn’t want to repeat any of my mistakes, and so Falling With Style 1 was born, a success by all standards. We designed a floor, adjusted lighting, promoted like crazy, and collaborated with the right people at the time. This single event marked a new direction for ‘MN bboyism’.
Jonny Craze went on to organize a string of very successful events (Falling With Style 2 thru 4, Unfinished Steps, etc) that helped further establish our scene and spread awareness about the bboy culture in MN & the Midwest. We were known for being welcoming, positive and even after heated battles, we were all friends once everything was said and done.
MN Joe and I traveled to FL, NY. and a few other places to compete and rep MN in late 2005 thru 2007. I took time off from dancing to pursue other things (DJing, girlfriends, work, etc) around 2007, and Joe took off with his bboying career. He trained like a demon and eventually joined the KHCA roster, which further improved his talent, experience, and knowledge. Trust me, I’ve trained with him forever and I can’t think of anyone that is more dedicated/disciplined than MN Joe lol. It’s all hard work, people!
In 2009, I took the initiative to build a MN All-Star team to unify our scene and promote our state in the national scene. We would train for this and eventually make our debut at City VS City (Chicago). We voted on members, and trained together 2-3 times a week so we would be a real/active crew. Of course, we were all friends and we all built lasting relationships throughout our travels and battles. I have, since, taken a new route to support our scene by DJing battles and co-organizing jams again. The War Machine Squad currently still travels and competes, Joe is still repping with the KHCA family, and now Jonny Craze and our entire Warriors family (Joe, Ozzy, Tybierius and I) are hosting “Come Out To Play” on Sept 29th, 2012. Peep it and experience Minnesota. Caaan youuu dig it!!!
Shout outs to my MN Fam and Biggest & Baddest (MexOne & USC) for continued support!
In 2006, I got my first chance to check out the MN bboy scene for myself. I was very curious to see what was going down there. A local up and coming promoter, Jonny Craze, was really hungry and determined to put Minnesota on the map. The event I got flown out to was Falling with Style 2. Falling with Style opened my eyes in so many different ways! First off, I felt like I was at a middle school party!(hahaha) Secondly, it made me realize how incredible it was to see so many young kids devoted to breaking and how much potential the community had. From that event on, I was all in. I went back to Minnesota the next year for Falling with Style 3. This time Jon hired Rox Rite and Spee-D from Squadron to judge the event. When Falling With Style 4 came around, I brought out a large portion of Squadron to come out and represent. Coming back year after year and seeing the kids grow from middle school into high school was a dope experience. One thing I also noticed was that more and more young kids started coming out to the jams, I was amazed.
I hit up my boy Jon to tell me about those first few years, and the ups and downs of working so hard to
get something going in MN…..
Jonny Craze: Trying to develop a sustainable scene was not an easy task. By 2003 – 2004, you could count the bboys in MN on your fingers and toes, it was really small. We just wanted MN to grow. It seemed like such a huge idea at the time, that MN could have its own scene, and we wouldn’t have to always travel to battle and find competition. There’s no doubt building it was hard, my first couple battles I started small, to get a feel for it. But by Falling With Style 2, we had bigger goals, and that’s when it got really hard. There was basically a city wide resistance, led by the police of Maplewood, to shut down our event entirely, on “reliable information” that it was a fact that we would have “gang members, and Asians affiliated with gangs” at our event. Racist, uninformed, idiots. They obviously had no idea what they were talking about, but we lost our venue. Then we lost our backup venue, then we lost another venue we found. The entire Twin Cities Metro police forces had the word out on the event, using scare tactics like – “this event is harboring gangs and promoting violence, do not allow them in your city”. This all started less than 2 weeks before the event was supposed to happen. Finally we found a venue that was willing to support us, despite the negative press we got. It was a church in Brooklyn Park.
The police, of course, saw our posting about another address change (the 6th) and contacted the venue, 2 hours before the doors opened the event was supposed to be shut down. Somehow, what I can only say was by the grace of God, we worked it out, and had the battle. Of course, no gangs showed up, no one was shot, and the vibe was extremely positive. I believe this is where Minnesota turned the corner, everyone locked arms and made a statement that what we are doing is good, positive, and promotes peace, not violence.
Since that time, Minnesota’s scene has at least doubled in size, and there are now after school programs for people to learn how to break. It is fairly common to find classes in the cities to learn breaking from reputable teachers. Most importantly, people are seeing the positive aspects of this dance, that it can give people an outlet, and keep them away from negativity. They have an example in MN Joe, that this dance can literally change your life if you want it to. The skill level has grown and continued to grow so much in Minnesota it’s humbling. I believe any city, any area in the country can do what we did, start from almost nothing, and literally create a huge scene with lots of talent.
If you’ve never been to Minnesota, save up, and keep your eyes open for the right event, it’s a unique experience.
NOTE: Shout out to Power Rangers, aka The Warriors, for laying down a foundation in many ways!!
Since those early years, I’ve seen the kids grow from middle school to high school graduates. MN Joe became the first MN bboy to break through into the international scene with his crew, Knuckle Heads Cali. In recent years, MN created an all-state crew called War Machine that has been making major noise across the USA. Last year they came out to Florida and took out the young Florida squad, filled with some of the best up and coming bboys in our state. War Machine made it to the finals versus Skill Methodz and Squadron at United Styles, and recently won Breaking The Law in Wisconsin; a jam represented year after year by the best Mid-West crews.
I reached out to one of my really great homies and one of the illest young bboys coming out of MN, Mighty Wealthy, to tell me a bit more about the scene now.
Mex:Yo Mighty, sup brotha, hope you doing good!
Mighty Wealthy: Yo what up MEX!! I’m doing good, I hope all is well with you brotha!
Mex: My question or questions to you is, what do you think keeps the MN bboys going? It seems that you guys are mad hungry to battle and get your names out there. Do you feel as if it’s harder for you guys to come up being that you don’t come from a “popular” state or have the famous bboy “mentors” guiding you?
Mighty Wealthy: What keeps us MN bboys going is our sense of community. We’re dedicated to our scene. Connecting and learning from each other has helped us grow stronger as a Hip Hop community. I have realized that if we want to advance as a scene, we need to work together and continue to influence and inspire each other. Our words, actions, and potential is a lot stronger as a whole. To top it off, we even have our own Minnesota Bboys/Bgirls group page on Facebook to stay connected.There will always be hometown rivalry here, but once Minnesota steps outside of our borders, it’s all mad support from back home. We not only rep for ourselves, but for our hometown also.
It might come off as a disadvantage that we have come up from a non “popular” state or that we don’t have “famous bboy mentors”guiding us, but in actuality, it has come to be a bit of our own advantage. We, the MN scene, had to start from scratch and from there on: learn, teach, train, and hone our skills and knowledge…mostly on our own and with hard efforts. However, big shout outs to Zous, Digital, MN Joe, Los Boogie, Jonny Craze, Step Child, J-Sun, Emajyn (even though you don’t live here anymore, you still had an impact on me haha), and Daylight, for being the older brother figures here. These guys contributed so much to the scene in many ways of their own. They have taught me, and many others as well. I am always learning or realizing how to better myself just by talking to them or practicing with them. This is why the MN scene is so dedicated, because we’ve put so much effort into this community. Although, meeting and learning from bboys outside our scene has always been a much appreciated blessing as well. Recently around June 2012, Profo came and did his workshop on footwork concepts, everyone that attended had their minds’ blown. We don’t have that face to face access to these advanced sources like Florida or California might have, so it’s a blessing to have someone like Profo come out and give back to our scene. In my opinion, we’re the underdogs in the Hip Hop community, and right now we’re building ourselves up with what we got and what we can learn on our own, and eventually I hope to see our state be put on the map and be the breeding grounds for these”future famous bboy mentors” as well.
Note: Shout out to White Lightning aka Boogie B, Monsta Matt, Jesse Jess, Roger, Kong, Looney Tunes, Optimistic, and all the young kats repping hard for the new MN squads.
There it is, three different generations of Minnesota bboys laying down the past, present, and what looks to be an incredible future! For all you bboys from across the USA or the world reading this, if you
dont know where MN stands in the USA map, you soon will. If you are looking to test your skills or travel to a guaranteed dope jam, MN is for sure a place to go.