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.
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.
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