Organised by Hooch in collaboration with G‑Shock it was a another hugely successful year of the sold-out UK B‑Boy Championships. Amongst its many changes including a new venue — Islington Assembly hall, the tradition of keeping its charismatic and humorous host the legendary Crazy Legs (Rock Steady Crew) remained. Legs has become a familiar ambassador for Puerto Rico leading several relief efforts in collaboration with Red Bull after hurricane Maria devastated the island. Legs is also organiser of Puerto Rock Steady on the island which will this year feature South Bronx rapper Fat Joe. This year Legs was joined on stage with the UK’s very own host — Sir Swifty. I caught up with Swifty to see how he felt about this opportunity, “It’s a dream come true. I wouldn’t have thought all them years ago I’d be hosting with Legs at Champs”. This is not an isolated feeling, the UK B‑Boy Championships now in its 22nd year is one of the most well recognised and respected competitions for breakin worldwide. Attracting some of the highest level of dancers, the championship title demands respect and for this reason it is a dream for many to be up on this stage in any aspect. Why is this event so renowned? As Swifty put it, its simply, “Historic and iconic. Simple. It’s a part of not just breaking history but UK and worldwide Hip-Hop history”. With open qualifiers for both solos and crews anyone was welcome to enter.
Breakin’ is a discipline which takes dedication and determination to succeed, I’ve seen many of the dancers here grow and progress. I’ve seen them conquer personal setbacks and still thrive fuelled by their passion. B‑Boy Spin from UK’s Soul Mavericks features on the official Champs G‑Shock video, the concept — ‘Never Give Up’. Beakin’ is highly demanding. The video features Spin’s advice to new dancers on the scene, “to anyone getting into any sort of art or discipline will be to remember it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon. Do not give up at the first hurdle as there are many more to come. So make sure you do something that you love because you’re going to have to be persistent over an extensive period of time”. His words could not have more truth to them.
As the Champs began I was personally handling the battle registrations. I was overwhelmed by the 27 crews who signed up, 27 B‑Girls and around 130 B‑Boys for the Undisputed solo battles. This could have turned into a logistical nightmare for Tyrone (IBE) and the team hosting the Undisputed solo battles but everyone pulled together to get through with perfect timing, multiple rounds took place simultaneously through three different circles in order to decipher the top sixteen and move to the finals. Fellow writer Manny even took to hosting one of the cyphers, yet another one of his talents. Speaking to Hooch who was gleaming with joy, he was proud of this achievement, “it can’t get better than this, the event was sold out and we even had to cap the entrants. Whenever you have a new venue to work with there is going to be a learning curve. Getting through the numbers took great organisation. There is a great vibe in here”. He was not wrong there, everyone was having fun.
As the first round of the crew battles commenced with the simple rules in the interest of time, ‘no routines or commandoes’. I saw many familiar faces including my crew Natural Selections take to the floor, we’d first met several years ago at our University society Breakin’ KCL. Earlier that day I had seen members of the newer generation participating in the cyphers, the longevity felt right. I took a walk around the venue to see people of all ages and nationalities, getting down to the finest music provided by DJ Dbo also from the UK. The bounce in the floor really brought out the bass.
I took the opportunity before the finals to speak with Gun Smoke Breakers from Osaka, Japan who had won the qualifier in Japan of around 30 crews. Yosh told me “There are less old-school bboys entering now so it has opened it up more to newer generations”. This notion was reinforced seeing young Hiro from their crew, only 14 years old make the top 16 in the Undisputed solo bboy battle. Gun Smoke Breakers have been together for 7 years, but this is the first time they had the opportunity to come together and battle in the UK, “This is a dream come true”. When I asked them their highlight, they told me “we love seeing bboys from all over the world here having fun”. It had been a long journey for them to arrive at this point and I was sure regardless of the outcome they would be proud of their achievements.
I wanted to get a feel for what the event was like for those not in the scene, speaking to spectators Wayne, Darwin and Phil from Bournemouth who were at this event for the first time I asked if it lived up to their expectations. For Darwin a graffiti writer he said, “it has surpassed my expectations to be honest. I didn’t think breakin was big anymore, I thought it had fizzled out but it’s been wicked”. These fans of Hip Hop had little exposure to this element so I was glad they found this event. Phil told me, “the highlight for me was seeing those kids battle and all the international dancers in one place”. I left them praising the event and looking forward to returning next year.
The kids crew they mentioned which stole a lot of hearts that day were — Ill Drillerz, consisting of members aged 10 – 15, McLane, Jetzai, Gustas, Mega, Finn and Lewi. Having travelled from all over the UK to battle as a crew, they were excited and they were ready for this moment. I asked them how they dealt with their nerves on a big stage, “we are always nervous, but you can’t show it, once we hit the dance floor all the nerves disappear”. I could clearly see their crew spirit and they have a lot of fun training together, even recently at a trampoline park they told me! Their next stop will be to battle at the world’s biggest under 18 crew competition at Unbreakable in Belgium. The best of luck to them.
The world finals began at the evening event. Legs took a moment to educate the audience, ‘how many people here are not from the scene?’ he asked as he went on clarify it is not called ‘breakdance’ but actually ‘breakin’ or ‘B‑Boying and B‑Girling’. Also clearing up the myth of ‘pop-locking’ which does not exist as it’s an incorrect term for either ‘popping’ or ‘locking’ both individual dance styles. Then the judges took to the stage to perform their showcases.
All internationally recognised for their skills and records for winning numerous titles. Renegade (UK) was unable to throwdown because of a broken toe. Roxrite (USA) came out with super clean moves and effortless transitions at various levels. Menno (Netherlands) with his intricate flowing footwork and transitions was mesmerising. Then came out the superhero ‘Thanos’ of B‑Boys – Neguin (Brazil) master of many styles his showcase was explosive and really excited the crowd. Last but not at all least was Machine (USA), the B‑Boy everyone wanted to be for his serious flava and powerful style. These dancers are at the level all dancers aspire to be, so it was a great way to open the competition and a reminder of why they were chosen to be judges. Manchester’s finest DJ Khan Fu was holding it down on the decks providing the soundtrack to the battles. Red Bull filmed the finals to contribute to their 36 hours of live bboy streaming, which could be been enjoyed by anyone around the world. This did mean a restrictive playlist for Khan Fu but he still came through with the right tracks to energize the dancers battling.
The solo battles began, followed by the seven2smoke all styles battle hosted by, ‘in da House’. Qualifiers for this had already taken place and it consisted of multiple dance styles from voguing, hip hop to krump and house. This competition was won by Ice with Hip Hop style.
There was also a showcase by The Beatbox Collective who performed various styles of music through only using their vocal cords. As it was revealed MC Zany was named so as he used to be a UK garage MC as they went into performing some classics from the days of UK garage such as 21 seconds by So Solid Crew and a little bit of luck by DJ Luck and MC neat had people jumping up on the balcony in nostalgia with a modern twist.
Another short interlude saw a showcase by Magical Bones fusing together two of his passions B‑Boying and magic he had created a new concept. He performed a card trick integrating a backflip which took some of the audience by surprise.
Undisputed Solo Battles B‑Boy and B‑Girl
Huge congratulations to B‑Girl Terra (Soul Mavericks) from the UK for winning the Solo B‑Girl battle! She’s been putting in that work. Now aged 12 years old she has improved massively since I first saw her enter the scene with her evident potential. After being presented with the title, Terra took a hold of the mic to let the judges know she deserved this win, “thank you to the judges, I’ve been getting robbed lately”, the crowd wailed not expecting such sassiness from a young B‑Girl but in complete agreement with what she had to say. She owed it, there were no easy props here. I caught up with Terra’s family to see how she is doing since her win, “Terra is feeling great. She is really happy that she won and is excited at where this will take her next. Terra has been working hard for a long time and hopes that this is one of many competitions that she will succeed in”. No doubt. Terra is an inspiration.
Big congratulations to Karam (SMAC 19) for winning the title of solo B‑Boy! Also from the UK and another dancer I remember from an early age. He’d certainly been training hard for the win, making us proud as he’ll be going to the Undisputed finals in Sweden to represent the UK. I found out how he was feeling about it all? He told me, “this win personally is a huge one for me!
When I was young, a UK champs win was everybody’s dream before anything else. I first stepped on the world finals stage in 2008 with my crew and it’s always been a special event from that year. For many years people told me I should do the solos and I said when I’m a little older and more ready I’d go for it. 2017 I finished 2nd place and this year 1st. It feels like my hard work over the last few years has paid off. I’m still in shock a little, super emotional but overall I’m sooo happy!!!” Asking him how he thought his win was going to help his breakin’ journey he said, “This is going to help my breaking journey so much especially throughout the near future because I now get a spot at undisputed which is something I’ve been training for, for a while now! It means I can rest a little bit more when it comes to Undisputed events and it means that I have something big to aim for at end the year! It will also open up doors to work with more companies and get more invites and opportunities at other events. Most importantly, it gives me new motivation! I feel so motivated and hungry to go again and I now believe in myself completely”. I couldn’t be happier for such a humble and talented young B‑Boy.
UK B‑Boy Championship 2019 World Crew Battles
The crew battles began with Gun Smoke Breakers (Japan) Vs Soul Mavericks (UK), considered as the strongest crews this could have been the final but it was the first battle. Gun Smoke Crew had routines for days I wondered if they got through how many more they would have left, but they clearly came prepared. Soul Mavericks came back with routines and strong solo rounds of their own and took the win. The battle timer on a G‑Shock watch face on the main screen was a nice touch as bboys battled it out some having impressively evolved moves to the next level such as one-handed swipes. This is how the battles went down:
Gun Smoke Breakers (Japan) Vs Soul Mavericks (UK)
Ormus (Italy) Vs SMAC 19 (UK)
The Italians (Italy) Vs Ill Eagles (Italy)
Battalions (UK) Vs The Tribe (Germany)
Soul Mavericks (UK) Vs SMAC19 (UK)
The Italians (Italy) VS The Tribe (Germany)
SMAC19 (UK) Vs The Italians (Italy)
The final crew battle between ‘The Italians’ from all different parts of Italy and ‘SMAC 19’ representing the UK was a great battle. Karam who won the solo B‑Boy battle less than an hours ago was also a part of this crew, stamina was high. Razzle Roc from SMAC 19 also showed no signed of tiredness as he had battled the night before at the Red Bull BC One Cypher as one of its invitees. Several others had also entered various battles hungry for the win, but there could only be one winner and Italians took it making Italy proud. We in the UK were also very proud to see a UK crew in the finals.
Massive congratulations to ‘The Italians’ for battling their way through to win the World Crew title, it’s never an easy win. Speaking with Gabriele Omed from the Italians crew after their victory I got their thoughts, “Winning the UK B‑Boy Championships means a very important milestone for us. We all had the same goal in mind, we knew that the chances of making it were concrete and giving the maximum we did it. Surely the fact of firmly believing in ourselves and in all the members of the gang has made all this possible. Let’s take this victory as a starting point. We have made it clear that Italy is there and rock hard. See you at the next battle!”. Keep an eye out for this crew, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.
After the event I spoke to John G from G‑shock, the collaboration on the event seemed to have naturally developed into the perfect collaboration, ‘we started by hosting cyphers at the London store’. This was a nice little spot I had experienced at the launch party. How did he think it went? “I think it went really well I’m pleased”. There was an inkling of more to come. Hooch was equally happy, with the biggest smile on his face he expressed how proud he was of the UK. Then going onto already thinking about next year’s format he hinted, “we might take it back to two days again next year”. I know I can’t wait.
It was encouraging to see so much promise from the future generations of B‑Boys and B‑Girls, especially from the UK. It was also a great indication for the future to see so many crews sign up, and individual B‑Girls all whom showed great skills. There was immense pride seeing the UK take both the B‑Girl and B‑Boy solo titles and make it to the crew finals on our home ground. I was in absolute awe of the international community spirit in general and that it was always love after the battles. There was mutual respect for one another and a vibe of wanting to help push each other closer to the limit. The event left me feeling inspired with a great admiration of the continuous determination and creativity that every single dancer showed that night. It takes a lot to make it through the UK B‑Boy Championships and if you didn’t make it this year, just remember one thing…
Never Give Up.
Photos courtesy of Nicola Wen, Cyanide and UK B‑Boy Championships.