Best Hip Hop Dance Video of the Year Goes to…Brother Ali!
By B-Boy J-Sun
Best Hip Hop Dance Video of the Year? The winner is Brother Ali’s Mourning in America with tutting choreography by Amirah SugaMama Sackett. Without a doubt, Mourning is the only Hip Hop video that features a choreographer interpreting the content of a rapper’s song. Ali and Sackett combined forces to tell a powerful message about misconceptions and realities of war and hate. It’s probably the last song any DJ would select to get the dancers hype but, just play it and watch me kill that beat.
Dance music. Recently, I have had some discussions with DJs and emcees that make me feel as if they are unaware or uninformed about the songs traditional Hip Hop dancers prefer, and it’s not Planet Rock! Don’t get me wrong, we love Bambataa, after all, he is the Amen-Ra (leader) of the Universal Zulu Nation and the Twin Cities Omega Zulus are a strong force in our community. It’s just that Planet Rock is electro and b-boys break to soul music. We can dance to anything but, remember, we are discussing traditional dance music. Before I go too far, let’s talk about the traditional Hip Hop dance forms.
The New York rock dance is the pre-Hip Hop dance of the 1960s, which gave birth to b-boying/b-girling. Rocking originated with street gangs as a form of ritual war dance and is mostly upright. Here are some traditional rock dance songs:
Expansions by Lonnie Liston Smith
Listen to Me by Baby Huey and the Babysitters
Melting Pot by Booker T. & The M.G.’s
Sex Machine by James Brown
We the People by The Soul Searchers
And esteemed rocker, Rob Nasty’s blog
AnnieUp & J-Sun - Rocking:
AnnieUp, StepChild, Suga Mama & J-Sun - Rocking:
Breaking is the first dance done to the first Hip Hop music and is the result of a give-and-take relationship between DJ and dancer (See my last article, B-Boyalty). We are breakers or b-boys/b-girls, not breakdancers because that’s like saying “Porshe car”, but the original formula was to get down during the break, or drum break, in the music. The reason that some dancers may get offended by the term “breakdancer” is because they equate it to a beginner status. Here are some traditional b-boy/b-girl songs:
Apache by The Incredible Bongo Band
Give it up or Turn it A-Loose by James Brown
I Believe in Miracles by the Jackson Sisters
It’s Just Begun by Jimmy Castor
The Mexican by Babe Ruth
And respected b-boy/b-girl website More Than a Stance
Kong 2 - Breaking:
Jesse Jess 2 - Breaking:
In California during the late 1960s to mid-1970s, Don “Campbellock” Campbell (still alive!) created locking, an acrobatic and animated dance form with finger points and wrist rolls, while the Electric Boogaloos were pioneering other funkstyles known as popping and boogaloo. There is no traditional form of Hip Hop dance known as pop-locking. Don’t get mad, get educated. Popping consists of over thirty different styles of hitting (rhythmically contracting and releasing groups of muscles) including tutting, waving and the robot. Boogaloo is a complex dance form that combines hitting with large joint-rolling movements. Here are some traditional funkstyle songs:
More Bounce to the Ounce by Zapp & Roger
Get up Offa of that Thing by James Brown
Flashlight by Parliament
Fantastic Voyage by Lakeside
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) by Sly and The Family Stone
And the Hip Hop dance historian/documentarian, Popmaster Fabel
Dancin Dave VI - Popping (Funkstyle):
Suga Mama V - Tutting (Funkstyle):
To review, the fundamental Hip Hop dance forms were pioneered during the 1960s-1970s on both coasts and consist of rocking, breaking and the many funkstyles. Breaking is the first dance done to the first Hip Hop music, which sampled heavily from rock dance music (notice that James Brown is in every category of dance music that I name above). Funk music is another major source of sampling and funkstylists became part of Hip Hop dance by association, although some dancers consider their origin story separate from Hip Hop history. Krumping, turfing and jerking are all newer forms with fundamental movements taken from the traditional Hip Hop dance forms and interpreted to different music.
Now, I was raised on late 1980s and early 1990s Hip Hop, also known as the Golden Age, and many b-boys/b-girls from our generation dance to music from this era or find it inspiring and nostalgic. I love all the traditional music but breaking is an element of Hip Hop and we must also dance to the music of the culture. Here are some of the songs that make me want to cypher:
The Bridge is Over by KRS-ONE
One for All by Brand Nubian
Reminisce Over You by Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth
Scenario by A Tribe Called Quest
Welcome to the Terrordome by Public Enemy
Now consider what is labeled ” Hip Hop dance” in American mainstream popular culture. The mutant forms of pop dance have appropriated little pieces of the traditional forms of Hip Hop dance to construct FrankenWack’s monster. It could have been a productive process if the focus had stayed on spreading knowledge (See Queen Latifah), but instead the music industry concentrated on asses and money (See Foxy Brown).
Look back at the rock dance, breaking and funkstyle songs that I cited above and think about the content of each one. Think about the history that was happening at that moment…
Traditional Hip Hop dance is done to music that is uplifting, empowering and resistant to dominant culture.
The dancers are the guardians of the spirit of Hip Hop because we still live so close to the origins of the culture through the music, the technique and the battle. Whatever form it takes, retaining the strength of the spirit through traditions and history reminds practitioners of the foundations of the culture and the significance of the art forms. So…
”Let’s dance! Dance to the drummer’s beat!"
– Dance to the Drummer’s Beat by Herman Kelly & Life
All Photos Courtesy Adam Emajyn Adolphus (from B-Boy J-Sun's last show at The Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts, Hip Hop! (Don't miss the next one!!)