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Rock Steady Crew 32nd Anniversary

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Rock Steady Crew

The Rock Steady Crew was established in 1977 by Bronx b-boys Jimmy D and Jojo. When they started this crew in the streets of the Bronx, they had no idea that someday it would take them all around the world.

As RSC embarks upon their 32nd Anniversary Celebration in New York from July 22-26, it is apparent that some of the most important things about this legendary crew have remained in tact.

Only the best b-boys were down with Rock Steady. They had rivals in all five boroughs of New York and for every rival there were ten kids who wanted to be down with them. However, getting into the original crew was not easy. To get into Rock Steady you had to battle one of the other b-boys in the crew. It was a competition few people won.

In 1979 when the b-boying hype was beginning to die down, Jimmy D put Crazy Legs and Lenny Len down with Rock Steady just in time to add new life to the art form and take it to the next level. This was at a time when Crazy Legs moved to Manhattan. Going back to the Bronx every weekend became too difficult for Crazy Legs’ pockets. He then started to explore the Hip Hop scene in Manhattan more often. This meant losing touch with other members of Rock Steady. Crazy Legs would spend most of his time developing his craft in tenement building hallways and battling b-boys that he would come across and eventually hanging out with the ones that he felt had an original style.

Wanting to start a crew of his own he went back to the Bronx to look for Jimmy D and the rest of the crew to get permission to start a chapter of his own. He was not able to find them. Not knowing what to do, he sought the advice of his cousin Lenny Len. Lenny Len suggested that he join Rockwell Association (another well known crew from the Bronx). Rockwell Association was the crew that had turned Crazy Legs down as a member before he got in to Rock Steady Crew. This time Crazy Legs had a lot more to offer.

They immediately put him in Rockwell Association and gave him a chapter in Manhattan. It was bitter sweet for him. He felt that Rock Steady Crew was the better of the two and wanted to use the Rock Steady Crew name. In the early part of 1981 Crazy Legs had come across Jimmy D and told him about what he was doing in Manhattan. Jimmy D was impressed with the amount of members that Legs had in Rockwell Association. Crazy Legs asked Jimmy D if he can start a chapter and Jimmy D gave him permission. Crazy Legs immediately changed the name of the crew to Rock Steady Crew. Although none of the members that got into Rock Steady Crew by battling, they had already gained the respect of Crazy Legs. Crazy Legs and the new recruits from Manhattan eventually became the motivating forces behind b-boying gaining back its popularity in the streets of New York City.

The turning point for Rock Steady was in 1981 when people began to take notice of all the noise Crazy Legs, Frosty Freeze, Take One, Little Crazy Legs and Ken Swift were making in Manhattan. In August of 1981, photographer/sculptor Henry Chalfant offered them the chance to perform at the Lincoln Center Outdoors Program. This performance, which was also a battle with rival b-boys from The Dynamic Rockers, was crucial not only because it was covered by local television stations, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Daily News, and National Geographic, it would later gain them worldwide exposure. Jimmy D took notice of the buzz that Crazy Legs had started in Manhattan and made him President of the entire Rock Steady Crew. Crazy Legs in turn made Frosty Freeze and Ken Swift Co-Vice Presidents.

In the winter of 1982 the Rock Steady Crew was invited to perform at the original Ritz nightclub. The list of performers that night included the Punk Rock group BOW WOW WOW, Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5. Since Afrika Bambaataa was known by many as the “Godfather of Hip-Hop”, the Rock Steady Crew was honored to be on the same bill. After their performance, Crazy Legs and Frosty Freeze asked Afrika Bambaataa if they could be down with the Zulu Kings, the most highly respected of all b-boy crews. Afrika Bambaataa allowed them as well as the entire Rock Steady Crew to become members of the Zulu Kings, knowing that they would also become an integral part of the Zulu Nation. Soon after that performance the Rock Steady Crew took the downtown club scene by storm. They became caught up in a culture clash of Rastafarians, Punk Rockers and Hip-Hop heads.

As the word spread, Rock Steady expanded into a huge family consisting of women, children, roller skaters, artists and DJ’s. The Crew’s popularity grew bigger than the city of New York and Kool Lady Blue started managing the group. She booked them on the Roxy Tour, sponsored by Europe One Radio. The Roxy Tour took the Rock Steady Crew, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab Five Freddie, The McDonald Double Dutch Girls, DJ’s and graffiti artists straight from the “concrete jungle” to London and Paris. It was the first Hip-Hop tour of it’s kind and it opened the door for many more to follow. The Crew also appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon two years in a row.

In November 1983, they were asked by the Queen of England to perform at the Royal Variety Performance in aid of the Artist’s Benevolent Fund. During these spectacular performances Charisma Records approached the Rock Steady Crew with a record deal. The record “Hey You, The Rock Steady Crew” was in the top ten charts in Great Britain and sold over a million copies. The Crew, however, saw very little of the proceeds. Due to their lack of knowledge of the music industry at such a young age, the company took advantage of the Crew and would not allow them any creative input toward their own project.

When Charisma Records went out of business and was sold to Virgin Records, the group was put on hold indefinitely. During this time, the crew’s management told them not to dance in clubs. They tried to convince them that it was in their best interest not to dance they way they love to. Just for fun. Suddenly the Crew was on the outside looking in. By this time they had lost much of their fame and notoriety. They found themselves at a dead end with no plans for the future. Regardless, the Crew never split up, but they took some time to regroup and they went their separate ways. Some members took an optimistic attitude and went back to school or pursued other interests. Others did not fare so well. However, the Crew kept looking forward and took their anger and disappointment and made something positive.

In 1991 Mr. Wiggles approached Crazy Legs about an idea he and Fabel (Magnificent Force) had for a Hip-Hop musical. Crazy Legs (with the help of Mr. Wiggles) then needed to persuade Ken Swift to start dancing again in order to have Ken involved as well. The musical was called “So, What Happens Now?” Rock Steady member Buck 4 (R.I.P) provided the perfect scenario to base the musical on. He said, “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?” “So, What Happens Now?” was the critics choice in the New York Times and received rave reviews in The Village Voice, The Daily News and El Diario. In 1992, they received a standing ovation lead by Gregory Hines at the Kennedy Center Honors where President George Bush, Gregory Peck and the Nicholas Brothers were all in attendance.

A Rock Steady Crew Anniversary is held annually to symbolize the preservation of the history and evolution of Hip-Hop Culture. This monumental community event brings out DJ’s, b-boys/b-girls, graffiti artists, emcees and thousands of other positive Hip-Hop heads from all around the globe. It also honors members of Rock Steady Crew and members of the Hip-Hop community that have passed away. Since their beginning the Rock Steady Crew has come full circle. Crazy Legs is still president of the crew with Fabel being vice-president. They have added new faces like Teknyc, Venom, Servin’ Ervin, Denote, Heps Fury, Fever One, Jeromeskee, Floor Rock as well as members in Japan, United Kingdom and Italy. The difference this time is that they have total control over their company and their destiny.

“This time we have control over what’s going on”, says Crazy Legs. “We are running it with no one to answer to and that makes everything we do more satisfying”. With the Rock Steady Crew’s 29th anniversary on the horizon, they have plenty more goals in sight. The Rock Steady Crew has bounced back and performs throughout the world. They remain very active in the community and are involved in several different outreach programs as well as holding food drives and donating time and money to non-profit organizations. They hope to set up a Rock Steady foundation for children. This program will provide dance classes and other activities that will help to influence the youth to stay on the right path throughout life. It will also involve maintaining and preserving Hip-Hop culture.

For the full schedule (updated regularly) please go here.

 

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Ken Towler

Reverend Kenneth L. Towler is a part time protestant minister and automotive inventor. He has a BA in Bible and Pastoral Ministries from Columbia International University and an MDiv. from Southwestern Seminary.