People around the world listen to hip hop; some even wear those telltale saggy pants and extra-long gold chains. Dressing the part and mimicking the thuggish lyrics of Snoop Dogg are fun to do, but understanding the hip hop culture and its roots is something most people know little about.
So where did it all begin, that bass drum sound that makes you feel like rapping, the deep vibration, and cool dance moves? By all accounts hip hop culture started in the South Bronx, New York City four decades ago.
African American music has either directly or indirectly descended from Africa through its tribal rhythms and chants. The music genre of hip hop, or rap music, formed in the 1970s when block parties became popular with African American youth in the South Bronx.
With the music came the dancing part of the culture - break dancing, a “power move” that requires spinning and/or rotating that can be done in multiple rounds. The originators of this dance were the Rock Steady Crew in 1977, with founders Jimmy D and Jojo.
I learned about hip hop directly from some of the originators when I took an interest in the dance as a way to impress girls at age 12.
It was 2001. My father was a musician playing lead guitar in the musical Godspell, which was about Jesus Christ teaching young followers religious lessons through song and dance. It was a Saturday night and I had nothing to do in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, so I took my father’s invitation to the show. At inter- mission the curtains went down and a young kid glided across the stage doing the Michael Jackson backslide; the audience went crazy and my interest in dance solidified.
I signed up for as many hip hop classes as I could. Urban dance instructor Jake Evans took me under his wing. He also educated me on the hip hop movement. With the Internet at my fingertips I looked up the people he mentioned, like Timothy ‘Popin Pete’ Solomon and Stephan ‘Mr. Wiggles’ Clemente. I asked them directly about the culture and how it started, and they actually took the time to explain it to me. And so, my passion to boogie intensified after meeting these original guys (O.Gs). Now I teach dance to kids and adults alike to awaken their passion just as mine peaked at the age of twelve.