Breakdance: Rock Steady Crew: History and Noday
Rock Steady Crew is a breakdancing crew and hip hop group that was established in the Bronx borough of New York City in 1977. The New York Times calls the Rock Steady Crew "the foremost breakdancing group in the world today".
The original founders were Jimmy D and Jojo, two early popularizers of breakdancing. Although breakdancing has since become a well-known subculture, in the late 1970s it was little known outside of New York, as such their early rivals were from the other boroughs of New York. In the beginning, membership in the crew was only granted by battling with another Rock Steady member; it was a competition few people won.
In 1979 when b-boying or "breakdancing" was beginning to die down, Jimmy D added Crazy Legs and Lenny Len to the crew. This fresh talent came at a critical time for the crew, if it had not been for these fresh new faces Rock Steady quite possibly would have ended then. Crazy Legs then was living in Manhattan and would return to the Bronx on the weekends to "hang with the boys", but that eventually became too expensive. At that point Crazy Legs began to explore the hip hop scene in Manhattan, this meant losing contact with some of the other members of Rock Steady. Crazy Legs wanted to start a crew of his own and went back to the Bronx to get Jimmy D's permission to start a new Rock Steady chapter in Manhattan. Unable to find Jimmy D he instead joined Rockwell Association (a competitor to Rock Steady) on suggestion of his cousin Lenny Len. They immediately added him to their crew and gave him a chapter in Manhattan.
The Rock Steady Crew circa 1981
It was not until the early part of 1981 that Crazy Legs finally got permission from Jimmy D to start a chapter of the Rock Steady Crew in Manhattan. Crazy Legs immediately switched the affiliation of his crew from the Rockwell Association to Rock Steady Crew. Although none of the current members of his chapter had battled anyone from the Rock Steady Crew they had already gained the respect of Crazy Legs and so were accepted by the Bronx chapter without question. It would be this Manhattan chapter that would eventually rebuild the popularity of breakdance in NYC.
1981 would be the real turning point for Rock Steady, in August photographer Henry Chalfant, from National Geographic offered Mike Holman for a chance for the Rock Steady Crew to perform at the Lincoln Center Outdoors Program. This outdoor performance was covered by local New York City television stations, as well as The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Daily News, and National Geographic. This performance, a battle against rival crew The Dynamic Rockers, would later gain them worldwide exposure. Founder Jimmy D saw the broadcast on television and was so impressed with the buzz that Crazy Legs had created for the crew he made him President of the entire Rock Steady Crew. Crazy Legs then made two members of the Manhattan chapter Frosty Freeze and Ken Swift Co-Vice Presidents.
Rock Steady Crew performs a show.
In winter 1982 the RSC was invited to perform at the Ritz nightclub, the list of other performers that night included the punk group Bow Wow Wow, Afrika Bambaataa, and the Jazzy 5. After this performance, Crazy Legs and Frosty Freeze asked Afrika Bambaataa if they could join the Zulu Kings, considered then to be the most highly respected of the b-boy crews. Bambaataa allowed them to join, and included the entire RSC as members of his "Zulu Nation". Soon after that performance the RSC became caught up in the diverse 1980s NYC club culture, which at the time was a mix of Rastafarians, Punk Rockers, New Wave listeners, and, of course, hip hop fans. The Rock Steady Crew expanded at this time into a large family like group consisting of women, children, roller skaters, graffiti artists, and DJs. This would also be the year the group, and breakdance in general, became bigger than NYC.
In early 1983, the Rock Steady Crew became managed by Kool Lady Blue, who booked them on the Roxy Tour sponsored by Europe One Radio. This tour took the Rock Steady Crew, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab Five Freddie, the McDonalds Double Dutch girls, various DJs and graffiti artists from the rubble of the projects to London and Paris, and was the first international hip hop music tour. The Crew also appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon for the second time that year. In November of that same year the Elizabeth II asked them to perform at the Royal Variety Performance in aid of the Artists Benevolent Fund.
The tour would lead to a short record deal with UK record label Charisma Records. Their release "Hey You, The Rock Steady Crew" went gold and was a top ten charted hit in Great Britain. The RSC saw little of the proceeds however, due to their lack of understanding the music industry and their poor contract negotiations. The RSC alleges they were taken advantage of by Charisma Records who would not allow them any creative input. When Charisma Records went out of business they were sold to Virgin Records who indefinitely shelved the deal. This deal caused friction among the members of the group who decided to put RSC on hold for a while and concentrate on other projects.
In 1989 an up and coming rapper Q-Unique gave Crazy Legs a demo tape and lobbied for the revival of Rock Steady. Crazy Legs also had been receiving pressure to restart Rock Steady from martial artist Jerry "Fast Feet" Fontanez. Persuaded, Crazy Legs restarted the group; along with Q-Unique, Crazy Legs went back into the club scene and started reassociating the Rock Steady Crew with the hip-hop scene.
Rock Steady Crew - Uprock
In 1991 Mr. Wiggles approached Crazy Legs about an idea he and Fable (from Magnificent Force) had for a hip-hop musical called "So, What Happens Now?". Ken Swift and Buck 4 came on board and helped provide a scenario for the musical:
"You don't know what it feels like to go fill out a job application ... where it says, ‘what do you do?' what do I write? I spin on my head?" - Buck 4
"So, What Happens Now?" was a critics choice in The New York Times and received rave reviews in The Village Voice, The Daily News and El Diario.
In a 1992 performance, they received a standing ovation lead by Gregory Hines at the Kennedy Center Honors where United States President George H. W. Bush, and Gregory Peck were in attendance.
As of 2005 Crazy Legs is still president of the crew, with Fabel as vice presidents. There are now Las Vegas, Orlando and Los Angeles chapters in the United States, as well as members in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Currently approaching their 28th anniversary, they have more goals in sight. They remain active in the community and are involved in several different outreach programs, having held several food drives for NYC pantries. One of their goals for 2005 is to start a Rock Steady foundation for children, which will provide dance classes and other after school activities.
Rock Steady Crew promotes the movie Wild Style.
Rock Steady Crew anniversaries
The RSC holds an annual anniversary party in the Bronx, to "symbolize the preservation of the history and the evolution of Hip-Hop Culture." This party is a community event which brings out many local DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, MCs, and hip hop fans from all over the world. It is also a time where the current members honor the past members who have retired, and those who have died.
List of members
- Jimmy D
- Crazy Legs
- Lenny Len
- Frosty Freeze
- Mr. Wiggles
- Tuff Tim Twist
- DJ JS1
- Bonz Malone
- Bobbito Garcia
- Double T
- Quit Riot
- Flea Rock
- Easy Roc
- Tony Touch
- Fever 1
- Heps Fury
- Floor Rock
- Mr. Freeze
- DJ Eclipse
- DJ Evil Dee
- Kool Ski
- Servin' Ervin
- Suga Pop
- Shon Boog
- Charlie Rock
- Fast Feet
Rock Steady Crew at a battle in California circa 2002.