Angel Lewis’s Hip Hop Time Machine pt.2

From the UK to the US and back these are the reflections of one man’s travels and experiences outside of the boundaries of time.

Thrown back and forth in hip hop’s colourful history. Enjoy the ride

…Its 1983 I’m on the cobblestoned streets of Covent Garden London, the stomping ground of opportunists and the training ground of many entertainers. Ozzie’s crew are popping in the background, its not new to me although at this time people don’t quite know how to place body popping and break dancing. It’sjust starting to blend in with the juggler, the unicycle rider and the clown. Absent from this type of street scene is the attitude of the street.

There’s a Carousel set up just as you enter the square. On one of the wooden horses right ahead is a girl that looks like baby love, it is baby love! Hey you the Rocksteady crew is playing on a turntable in my head.  The crowd’s star struck eyes supported my hunch then crazy legs, coming into view, made it a fact. At this point in time I saw them as competition. I had ambitions to one day take over their spot.

Fast forward a few years and My ego’s expanded beyond control. I won first prize in a breakdance competition held and hosted in wormwood scrubs by Mastermind Roadshow.  These all day events are held in summer this is a time when ragga, rare groove and hip hop are just beginning to blend. Mastermind roadshow made a name for themselves in the Notting hill carnival and played a variety of musical genres, so they were, at the time, the most likely medium to introduce the hood to this different flavour. Because hip hop was still new in London breaking was misunderstood by most, by rolling around on the floor, I risked my credibility yet who cares when I got my crew with me, besides the Lisa lisa and Cult Jam album I had won was like a trophy testifying to my skills making it well worth it.

Yet I blame all of this on Malcolm McLaren and his Buffalo Gals. See them here.  Who told him to show us body’s twist, spin and lock like that?  It took exactly 3 minutes and 40 seconds, the length of the video to get me over Jeffrey Daniel’s moon walk on Top of the Pops.  But this wasn’t gonna be as easy to get. As a kid all things are impulsive so to me, concentrate in maths class or use those smooth polished floors to figure out this backspin thing wasn’t even a real question. Some believe aspects of the dance came from sailors in the 50s, some believe it came out of lindy hop dancing from the 1920s and others believe its from Brazilian capoeira, to me it didn’t matter I just needed to be spinning.

Freestyle 85

The Crew came together like magnetism as all five of us had seen that video. We somehow found clips of most of the Rocksteady’s
performances, they circulated around the area, our addiction was obvious, Alf broke his wrist in Maths class.  I didn’t have much of an idea where this would take us yet at the same time I didn’t quite picture my future in this doing forward flips through the carriage of the A train uptown before it reaches Manhattan.  Impressive as it seemed, I couldn’t quite write home about that. This aspect of the art form just wasn’t me. This was often the scene on the train to Manhattan to be exposed to even more entertainment as the train pulled in to Times square, it always felt to me like it carried the same air as Covent garden, it’s the street without the street thing, that I couldn’t quite understand. Although the break dancers and poppers had often made a few extra bucks on the train journey back to the hood, you’d think it was legal, I could never quite imagine them doing those maneuvers in the hood, its like they were permanently attached to 42nd street.  Maybe that’s because the lino only came out between 4th avenue and 110th which, for the most part, was the safe, commercial district of Manhattan, tourists and all.

It’s 1998 I’m standing on Broadway outside MacDonald’s in Times square, looking at duke spinning on his neck I realise that I had succeeded in leaving my break dancing addiction back in London. After my crew buried The London Allstars, our adversaries, at Hammersmith’s Riverside studios way back then, I had all the justification I needed to go on to bigger and badder adventures in Hip hop, It was goodbye breaking hello scratching.…..

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