There’s a buzz that goes through the London hip hop dance scene when the UK B‑BOY CHAMPIONSHIPS comes around for its yearly event. A Hip-Hop dance competition created by DJ and Promoter, Hooch James, over the course of two days, B‑boys, B‑girls, Poppers, Lockers, Freestyle Hip Hop and House dancers, from all over the UK and aboard, compete to see who will be crowned champion of their style.
This year Day 1 of Champs started on Saturday April 7th in Peckham. Going down in Block A of the Bussey Building’s CLF Art Café, Champs took over 3 floors of the warehouse, blasting music that rumbled up and down the staircase and marking the areas where the battles would take place with the lino of their partners, Relentless Energy Drink.
The Breaking Solo battle took place on the second floor, with DJ’s Khan Fu and Jam Fu spinning the beats, and MC Swifty on the Mic. On the third floor Damien Anyasi was MC and DJ’s D.bo, Mr Blue and Rob Manga played the music for the dancers competing in the stand up styles of Popping, House, Freestyle Hip Hop and Locking.
With some styles having over 100 competitors signed up to compete, judges picked the best 16 Breakers, Poppers, House and Freestyle Hip-Hop dancers, from showcase battles. In the 2on2 Locking they picked the top 4 pairs to go immediately through to Day 2. The styles with 16 dancers then battled down to the top 4, in a knockout competition, to see who would also go through to Day 2, and battle on the main stage.
Competition qualification days are never easy, and Day 1 was no different. It was a long, packed, hot affair, with spectators standing on speakers and chairs, and vying, shoulder to shoulder, for good spots from which to see all the dance action. It felt like a packed rave at times, with all the body heat causing the temperature to rise in each room. Competitor’s skills, stamina and endurance were all put to the test in having to compete in the hot competition circles formed by the spectators. But if you know the Hip-Hop culture then you know that it was born in packed clubs and underground parties, and cyphers (circles) are the traditional place in which the dancers have always gotten down. An empty room is death to a jam because it’s a sign that no one cares about the competition that you are putting on. So even with the place being as stuffy as it was, the rooms being packed was a good thing that brought a hype energy. And when the heat got too much for individuals they either chilled and practiced in the staircase or simply went outside, refreshed their lungs, and then dived back in to see more dance skills on display.
In the end the dancers who qualified for Day 2 were:
Sunni (UK) the 2016 champion.
Kid Karam (UK)
Frankie J (UK)
FREESTYLE HIP HOP:
Vovan and Funk y J (Russia and France)
Critical Mass (Korea)
Pancake Bros (France)
The Break crews qualification was the last competition of the day. Legendary B‑boy, Crazy Legs (Rock Steady crew) and Afrika Islam (Universal Zulu Nation) took up their yearly UK Champs hosting duties, as crews of up to 10 breakers went head-to-head in more showcase battles. The judges picked the best 8 to go through to Day 2 and the main stage:
Monster Energy Drink (USA)
Soul Mavericks (UK)
The Italians (Italy)
Freestyle Idiota (worldwide)
Everyone Else (worldwide)
On Day 2 the buzz of Champs took on a different air. It took place in north London’s Kentish Town O2 Forum. In the much bigger, concert venue, no longer was space an issue, with theatre like seating upstairs and a massive open floor for the audience to spread out in. Competitors also scattered over the whole building, practising and warming up everywhere from the private room for competitors only, to the carpeted area in front of the second floor bar, and on an open lino put out on the main floor. No matter where you were, dance was happening! But the competition itself went off on the main stage, and every time a dancer displayed a high level of skill and musical ability a ripple of energy vibrated in cheers and screams throughout the arena.
Tamara won House, beating Frankie J in the finals.
Brooke won the Popping, beating Sacha.
Dedson won Freestyle Hip Hop, beating Kofi.
Vovan and Funky J won the 2on2 Locking, beating Critical Point.
And defending champion, Sunni, won the B‑boy solo battle for the second year in a row, beating Kid Karam.
Then, before the crew battles kicked off, legendary rapper, Talib Kweli, hit the stage and performed a concert. The power of his music reversed the energy for a while, and a crowd whom had come to watch dancers, became the dancers themselves.
The finals of the crew battle ended with Monsters Energy Drink crew beating Soul Mavericks in the finals, and with that the 2017 UK B‑boy Championships came to a close.
The event, itself, has changed a lot over the years. It’s been held in Brixton, Islington, Birmingham and now Kentish Town and Peckham. It went from a two day stage event to making Day 1 a smaller more dancer focused, cypher affair, and then moving onto the bigger, spectator focused, Day 2. It went from being in partnership with Sony, to now being in partnership with Relentless Energy Drink. But no matter how much it changes, it still continues to bring that buzz to London every year.
Keep it lock on I Am Hip Hop Magazine for our exclusive footage and interviews from the finals coming soon with GlobalFaction.