The B-Boy Mercenaries: How STN Brought the British Break Back to Life

Posted by on Mar. 31, 2015

Looking forward to the release of The B-Boy Mercenaries, a documentary that probes a vital time in British B-Boy history, it’s important to carefully look back at when the scene had its toe tag. The year was 1986, and breaking was D-E-A-D. Lonestar, DOC, Cazal, Dazzle Fresh, MidAir and I were among the last of a dying breed in London. The only other breakers we saw at that time were King B and Pervez. Everyone else had given up or moved on.

We used to dance for a promoter, named Urban Revenge, who used to throw park jams and small club nights and we'd do some breaking and get a lil’ bit of pocket money for performing. He was like a UK version of Kool Herc at the time. Looking back, people sniggered at the nostalgic novelty we had become. The so-called new Hip Hop Freestyle was in vogue and we looked like a throwback. Time seemed to move so quickly then.

The B-Boy Mercinaries: A Documentary on Second To None (STN) Crew

After a while, I can't actually remember why, it just faded out and I became more focused on DJing and the other guys just moved on with their lives. The Boys from Bournemouth… Hahaha.  I have to laugh. Bournemouth is, or at least was, a sleepy town on the south coast of the UK. It's the type of place that has a lot of old, retired people living (and dying) there. It's also the home of one of the most incredible B-Boy crews to come out of the UK, and possibly the world. When we speak of legends, they fulfill all the criteria.

It’s hard to know where to begin with the innovations they brought to the dance and the effect they had on the scene. They were a group of people who were dead serious about their passion. There was no stopping them.

I first met members of Second To None (STN) around 1987. My rapper, Blade, and I were still pretty green in our music careers and were doing a gig down in a place called Tunbridge Wells, just outside of London. We were quite well known in the underground scene, and some breakers had turned up to see us, doing their thing as we performed.

Having only just recently stopped practicing hardcore myself – and carrying a decent kitbag of moves with me– I thought I'd have a go with the breakers. Lonestar was down, and we went at it a few times. They chewed us up! They were light years ahead of anything we were doing, or I'd seen up to that point. Being from London, I'd seen almost everything and everyone out there. The moves and combos they threw were insane. In the context of the time, it was pretty unbelievable. Regrettably, I lost contact with them.

The B-Boy Mercinaries: A Documentary on Second To None (STN) Crew

A year or two later, I was working with another rap group, named Most Dominant (Cel One and DJ First Rate), and they had some footage of what was going on in Europe. STN came up again. The scene was still active in mainland Europe, and there were videos floating around of what was growing back of the culture. Again, the level was ridiculous. I knew I needed to get out there. I had to see what was up.

Flash forward a few years to 1991/92 to the Uppsala Jam in Uppsala. Sweden. I couldn't believe it!  STN (Nick, Darrell), Battle Squad (Storm, Swiftrock, Maurizio, Speedy, Emilio), Out Of Control (Steen, Special FX, WildKatz), Throwdown Rockers (Freeze, Nicos, Stamos, Jesper), Damon Frost and a few others were there, and I was blown away. It was such a breath of fresh air. I felt like I was connected again.

I was at the jam to DJ with Blade, but most of the time I was chilling and jamming with the dancers.   The venue had carpet everywhere, but there was a tiny area with wood on it where we all got down. Take a look.

But back to my story… There was no way I was gonna lose contact this time. We exchanged information, and over the next few years I met all the members of the STN. If I was booked for a performance near them, I'd make sure they were there and vice versa held true.  If anyone asked for breakers for an event or video, I would immediately recommend them.

Later, when I was in another rap group called Son of Noise, we threw two parties and both times they came down and blew everyone away. We also shot a music video for one of our releases and they featured in it.

That was in 1994 and 1995. A year later, the UK BBoy Championships began and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today it’s 2015, and a documentary that has been in the works for quite a number of years is now ready to be unleashed on the world. Charlie Marbles, of UK's Born To Rock Crew (who were also active in the dark times when everyone had given up on breaking), has undertaken what must be a labor of love to produce a piece of work that I feel is essential in telling the story of one of the most respected underground crews in the world. Starting as an idea with Tony, aka The Pencil, and Nathan Losado, it has grown into a piece of art that really captures the essence of that era. There is so much rare footage and interviews with key characters in the scene.

The B-Boy Mercenaries is a must see for anyone who is interested in a learning the story of what was going on at the time. It will be available for free online, and will be released some time next in May 2015. Please do me a favor and take the time out to watch it. So much hard work and time has been taken to bring it to you.

These guys deserve all the accolades and recognition for keeping it going when it was no longer a cool thing to do. Along with Tuff Tim Twist, TC Breaks and later Evo, they kept it alive and are definitely one of the reasons we still have global scene today.

We're talking about an unbroken history, from the first generation 'til the present. Everywhere I go, they get name checked. Their achievements speak for themselves. Their passion and love for breaking are unquestionable.

A BIG shout out to Adam, Asa, Darrell, Junk, Nick and The Pencil, with a special mention for Paul and Nathan.

Photos courtesy of DJ Renegade, cover photo by I Shot Hip Hop

#BCONE Instagram of the Week

Video Break: The Week's Top 3

Posted by on Mar. 27, 2015

Lilou Underground Cypher by TVLilou

Follow Lilou as he vibes in the pouring rain at Singapore's Radikal Force Jam 2015. 

Radikal Forze 17th Anniversary Jam 2015 Recap by Imaginasion

Congrats to Radikal Forze as they celebrate their 17th year, in Singapore!

Menno vs Benji @ Next Urban Legend 2015 by NextUrbanLegend

Red Bull BC One All Star Menno holds his own during a callout at France's Next Urban Legend.

Photo by William K/ Red Bull BC One Content Pool

#TBT Breaking Battles: Raw Circles: Morris & Gravity vs MN Joe & Flexum, 2011

Posted by on Mar. 26, 2015

Raw Circles started in 2005 as a jam session that travelled around different cities in Belgium, but in a decade had grown to become one of the world’s premiere, global two-on-two breaking battles. Alexander Dziri, the event’s organizer and a B-Boy himself, hopes to inspire others with the event, showing that hard work, dedication and passion can take you around the world. The last edition of Raw Circles happened a year ago, and there are no plans to bring it back for now. 

But with around 300,000 YouTube views, one of the most memorable moments in Raw Circles History took place when two USA duos met up in 2011: Flexum & MN Joe versus Gravity & Morris.

“We always tried to mix our line up with well known B-Boys and upcoming dancers,” said Dziri.  “And I feel this is one of the reasons for the success as we had dancers really striving to prove themselves.”   

Raw Circles was born from a Belgian B-Boy initiative to organize what were called “City Breaks.” The country’s biggest cities would host a jam and invite B-Boys from different towns. Dziri grew fond of organizing jams and bringing the community together. As he tells the story, the Belgian scene a decade ago was more or less dancers who sat in the circle, performing mainly tricks. He began traveling to countries, such as The Netherlands, to gain battle experience. At that time, the countries he visited were heavily focused foundation and flow, and Dziri felt that most of the Belgian B-Boys were not aware of that fact.

“That motivated me to bring these kind of Cyphers to Belgium. We changed the name of City Breaks to Raw Circles to let people know this jam would be about jamming and great vibes,” explains Dziri. “The first [wave of] organizing was with my former crew, Raw Material, and later, after a short break, I met up with DJ Jebel and we decided to put Raw Circles on the international B-Boy map. It became known for it’s raw vibe and at the time, around 2010, it was possible with the help of the City of Antwerp to make it internationally known. The first editions knew only exhibition battles and jam sessions. When we noticed to growth of visitors, we started doing battles with judges.”

It was the 2011 edition of Raw Circles that saw the epic battle go down.

“When we organized [it], MN Joe was one of the B-Boys I really wanted to bring over. Not a lot of people in Europe knew him then and it was great I was able to bring he and Flexum over to represent Knucklehead Cali. Another B-Boy was Gravity, mainly for his double backflip, which had yet to be seen live in Europe. It might sound cheesy, but looking back it was worth that 1000€ on a flight ticket,” said Dziri. “Back then, Morris and Gravity were sponsored by BBoyworld and I’m still grateful for that. Without both duos this battle wouldn't have happened and especially these moments can bring your event to another level. Of course you can’t control the outcome prior to a battle, but what I spent a lot of time on was to come up with a bracket that had the most potential of great results. Sometimes you want to see well known B-Boys head up against each other than to leave it to a coincidence and see if they will meet up in the battles or not.”

There are no plans to bring Raw Circles back. It started as a love for the scene and a means to bring the community together. Dziri said that if he can find the right people and possibilities, he would consider hosting another edition.

Next to annual events, such as Unbreakable and BOTY Benelux, Raw Circles managed to keep itself alive and relevant in the scene.

“It was the most globally-minded event in terms of the worldwide qualifiers we hosted as we did in more than 15 different countries, including three times in Brazil and one time in the USA,” added Dziri. “Especially the one in the USA is special for me, since not a lot of events have qualifiers in the USA and it made me realize what we achieved with the event. I had a great time with Raw Circles, and hope to have people inspired to create something that is bigger than yourself, because before you know you might end up on the other side of the world.”

Photo courtesy of Alexander Dziri/Raw Circles

How To B-Boy: Break Advice Season 4 - B-Boy Cheerito

Posted by on Mar. 26, 2015

Check out Episode Four of the all-new season of Break Advice, as 2014 Red Bull BC One World Finalist Cheerito reveals the secret behind transitioning from an airchair to your elbows and hands. Season Four of Break Advice was shot in Nantes, France, during Hip OPsession 2015. 

The Break Advice online breaking school features some of the world’s best B-Boys, including 2014 Red Bull BC One World Champion Menno, 2014 World Finalists Cheerito and Thesis, Pluto, C-lil Bruce Almighty many more. Each element of the dance is broken down in these online tutorials, from toprock and downrock, to tricks, transitions and power moves. Watch and learn as these international champions discuss techniques, personal styles, training tips, how to behave in battles and so much more.

Check out Break Advice's Instagram here.

Cover photo by Pitt Nasty