I haven't done a Neighborhood Legends in a while and it's one of my favorite columns to write for so many reasons. One, it's a reflection of the exciting and fortunate history I've had in this Culture. Secondly, it gives me a chance to share the stories, music and/or contributions of some great talents that never got heard beyond their limited fan base.
Today's story is about the first real crew* that I was involved with, The 3D Crew a.k.a 3rd Dimension.
The crew consisted of; the man who I first knew as Burning Hot T.N.T a.k.a Calvin Barber. Beyond his great skill as a Popper and MC, he is also one of my all-time best friends/favorite people in the world. The road to that friendship started off "intimidatingly", but we'll get to that later. However, my first recruit was MC Capri a.k.a Warren Curry, a super talented dude who continued on with music and writing for many years to beyond 3D Crew. He has an interesting story that I need to reach out to him for an interview to get recorded for the Hip Hop History books.
When I first moved to Kansas in the Mid 80s, we had to stay in Manhattan while we waited for housing to be available on the Army Base of Ft Riley. I was only at the Manhattan Middle School for a brief time, but it was pretty awesome for me. I was pretty much instantly a "school celebrity" upon arrival. As I know I've previously stated on this blog, Hip Hop was still new enough in these smaller towns that although there were a lot of people who loved Hip Hop, there weren't a whole lot of people DOING Hip Hop. So when I arrived, teeming with confidence, showing off with my Rapping, Popping and Breaking...people were a bit mystified. I was immediately being asked to teach people how to break and asked to perform in the hallways. I remember teaching someone how to do a freeze before Math class on my first or second week there. As I was in full freeze position and he tried to duplicate the move, he immediately fell down with his legs crashing on my face, leaving me with a black eye. The next day the school paper took a picture of me to show that I "wore one glove for breakdancing!"...so there I was waving my gloved-hand, black eye and all in the School Newspaper. Ah, the good ole days..
One day in the lunch room I noticed a new face in the lunch line that intrigued me; black guy, jheri curl, spiked belt, and one glove...we were like fashion twins...ha. I went to him and started some dialog.. I found out he had just moved there from Germany, like myself, and he was into Hip Hop, which was obvious from the get-up. However, he wasn't rhyming yet and he was trying to learn to break. We decided to team up so I could help teach him how to break. Honestly, I don't think I really offered much beyond giving him some added confidence to break out of his shy shell. His gymnastics experience made him a natural and within a few weeks he was the best Breakdancer around and mastering all the staple power moves, combined with an assortment of flips, tumbles and the like.
His family got selected for housing in Ft Riley before us, so he moved away pretty quickly. One day in the Summer he called me and told me that the Youth Center on the base had a breaking team called the Ft Riley Breaking Patrol. He had auditioned and made the team. He told me I should come audition because they traveled around doing shows/competitions. Plus there was a lot of talented people there.
The problem was Ft Riley was several miles away from Manhattan and my 15 old self didn't have a easy means of getting there for practice sessions. The only way I could make it was to get up at 4 AM with my Dad and go to work with him on the base. As rough as that was, I did it for the love of Hip Hop! Yep, I learned early on you have to often make sacrifices to do what you love.
I did my audition with a combination of my Popping and Breaking skills. Truthfully, I was never that great of a B-boy. I just had a few moves that I could do rather well. I had an impressive hand-spin that I would jump into and hit the ground spinning...probably the reason for my damaged wrist today. Plus I had a pretty nice Tick on the Popping tip. In any event, I was invited into the family and I was super-excited about that. There was a wealth of talent. Probably about 30-50 of us. All varying ages, races, regional backgrounds, and skill levels.
TNT With the Popping Skills:
TNT'S crew (he's 2nd from left) and on far right our homeboy, Eddie Love, later a crew beatbox:
Gizmo a.k.a JP = TNT's little brother and the youngest of the Ft Riley Breaking Patrol!:
Me doing some sort of sweep that looks like I'm waving to the crowd or maybe I was doing that too...ha:
My crew, The Action Crew doing a routine; Jamie Jackson up front, me at 2nd, MC Capri in the back!
Jamie Jackson of Action Crew and one of the best Breakers/Poppers I seen in the 80s! That includes anyone on Breakin', Beat Street, or whatever. This guy was the truth!:
TNT's family interviewed in local paper for supporting the Ft Riley Breaking Patrol! RIP to Mr Eduardo Barber! You were that dude!:
It just so happens that the day after my audition the crew was going down to a huge breaking battle in Kansas City that was taking place in the Kansas City Chiefs Football Stadium, as I recall. There were crews from all over Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and probably more spots representing. I joined too late to participate, but was able to ride down on the bus to check it out. On the way, some of the older cats (who all happened to be originally from the East Coast) were on the back of the bus MCing and had the whole bus going crazy. I felt this was my chance to make an impression on everyone. I made my way to the back and when I saw an open opportunity I kicked the best rhyme I had. It caught people totally off guard, being the new kid and just coming out blazing. It went over well and made me feel more confident and comfortable to connect with people.
Once we made it to the spot and people were getting ready to rock, I was taking this new found comfortability and going thru to each person to meet them and I would just ask, "What do you specialize in, popping or breaking?" That was my best idea for a ice-breaker...ha. It went very smoothly, until I hit one particular guy. When I dropped my "Popping or Breaking" line out there he promptly responded, "I guess you'll see when I get out there", not even looking at me as memory serves...ouch! However, I wasn't even offended, I was more humbled and intrigued. That was the Hip Hop attitude, just always in battle mode, every man is the competition on the field...even your own team. It was the 'we can be friends when the battle is done' mentality. I knew right then and there me and that guy would be great friends.
That indeed came true as he was Mr Burning Hot TNT himself. On the Breaking Patrol we were in different groups, but TNT, Capri, and myself, The Amazing MC Coolie, starting hanging around together and I was getting them more inspired to sharpen their MC skills. First Capri and I made tapes on my infamous Sharp GF-575 Double Cassette Deck with a toy mic that had a shorted wire in it under the name Devastating 2, my old crew from Germany's name. Perhaps ironically, we made our own reworded version of the Double Trouble Stoop Rap from Wildstyle and recorded on my outside front steps. That lead to several routines that Capri & I put together thru out '84.
MC Capri & MC Coolie performing the original "Stoop Rap". It's how we learned to do routines:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/3D-Crew-Stoop-Rap.mp3|titles=3D Crew-Stoop Rap]
Then one day, some time after the release of U.T.F.O "Roxanne Roxanne", TNT came to us with the idea of doing a similar song based loosely on a girl he had a "crush" on around the way who didn't/wouldn't date anybody or maybe it was just him...ha. We named that routine "Shante" and I swear that was before we even knew about Roxanne Shante, but I could be tripping. We wrote that in early '85.
Then one day we were in front of my house just chilling and my Sister comes outside to say I had a phone call and it was some lady. I was trying to be cool on some, "I'm not taking any calls right now, I'm with my crew. Who is it?". She comes back and says, "She says her name is Roxanne". We all look at each other like "WHAT!" With that sort of, 'She must have heard our song!' look in our eyes, mind you were hadnt' even recorded it yet, but you know how those young minds think...ha. Anyway, I go to the phone and it is indeed a lady named Roxanne, who runs the Youth Program at the neighborhood Church. She tells me they have their special Youth Program service coming up and they were looking for something special to do and they knew the rising popularity of Rap Music and she was informed that I could Rap. I confirmed this information and then she asked if I would be willing to perform a Rap in Church about the Youth Program and kids getting involved in the Church. It was my first time being "booked" for a Rap show so of course I took the gig, the first in a full career of unpaid Rap gigs...ha.
I remember when I told they crew they were super nervous about the idea and did NOT want to Rap in Church. There might have even been talk of a fear of being struck by lightning for being wack or something...ha. Capri wasn't having it and could not be convinced. After repeated pushing I was able to talk TNT into just going up there with me so I wasn't alone, but he didn't have to Rap at all. I basically wrote a routine about the importance of going to Church and how it can help you stay out of trouble. On the day of the performance here's how it went down. The Church was as packed as I had ever seen it!! People were forced to stand in the aisles. They introduced us as the 3D Crew and Me and TNT went up front to do our thing. We had arranged a little skit to start it off, which in hindsight probably seemed weird... Anyway, we entered from opposite ends of the Church as to simulate running into each other on the street. We exchanged hellos and I asked TNT what he did that weekend. He told me about party, roller-skating, hanging out with girls and things like that. When he finished, I asked him if he went to Church and he replied, "No, I never go to Church, there's nothing for me there" or something like that. Then I proceeded to let the young brother know that he was wrong and all the things that Church could offer...all kicked on the Acapella tip. When we were done it was dead silent, I thought I was going to just die right there...or be stuck by lightning for being wack, but then the place erupted in a standing ovation. It was beyond awesome!!
I remember later that day, at the liquor store none-the-less, one of the Church Deacons was there and he said something to the effect of, 'Great job rapping today!' I was flying on a cloud for months! Even several months later on Halloween, I was passing out candy and TNT was with me and this young White kid, probably about 9-11 years old, was with his Mom and was acting super nervous to come up to us. In my mind, I was thinking, "We're just Black, not alien"...ha, but as he walked away I heard him excitedly say in a loud whisper, "Mom, that was the 3D Crew!" We were just getting started and already we felt like "Neighborhood Legends"...
Check back tomorrow for Part 2! It will contain a bunch more photos, recorded practice sessions (at the potential dismay of my partners...ha), and a breakdown of the 3D Crew "career" Post-Church Rap!!
9th Grade Spanish Class Fieldtrip-Coolie & TNT Showing off for the ladies:
9th Grade Spanish Class Fieldtrip-TNT w/Name Belt Buckle, Box and on some girls lap!:
9th Grade Spanish Class Fieldtrip-Coolie with the Head Freeze while TNT adjusts the Box:
TNT & Coolie with the "3D Girls", our biggest supporters & best friends! Carolina and Leesa (R.I.P! We miss and love you forever!!):
3D Crew is about the ladies per always
TNT's Artwork! Yep, Breaking Skills, Mic Skills, & some Graf skills a lil sumpin sumpin:
*Previous to the 3D Crew, living in Stuttgart, Germany (Pattonville Army Base) I had formed a crew with Brain Hairiston a.k.a Little B. His older brother was Trace, who was a Neighborhood Legend around the way, circa '82. That partnership was short-lived as I believe at 12 years old we were both to much of ego-maniacs to get anything done...ha. Then my best friend at the time, Rubens Matos a.k.a DJ Jam, and I formed the Devastating 2 and recorded one tape together in '82 and that was our "career" as a group.
Devastating Two-Practice Session (featuring a 12 Year Old Kevin Beacham a.k.a Mr Magic) 1982:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Devastating-Two-Practice-Session.mp3|titles=Devastating Two Practice Session]
Original Devastating 2: Little B and Mr Magic (a.k.a Kevin Beacham, pre-MC Coolie) '82:
Devastating 2 Reborn: DJ Jam & Mr Magic '82:
It sucks our only photo together I have we are looking mad sloppy...ha. Had to make it up for it with the GQ solo flicks to show we had style...
Written, amiss frequent flashbacks souped up on Vicodin, by Kevin Beacham