Crazy Legs Reminds All That Latinos Were Also “At the Root” of Hip-Hop (Video)
Last week, the globally respected breakdancing icon Crazy Legs took to his Instagram page to express his opinion about “The Getdown,” a new series which documents the 1970s New York City street culture in which Hip-Hop was first developed. In his video statement, the Bronx native shared that he felt there were not enough Latinos playing the roles of early pioneers, namely “the kids who helped create this culture.”
Crazy Legs is speaking from experience. The man born Richard Colón is not only one of the world’s most recognized b-boys, but he is quite literally one of the first to bring the burgeoning style of dance to a mainstream audience. An original member of the Rock Steady Crew (formed in 1977), he’s been a part of seminal film representations of early Hip-Hop culture like 1982’s Wild Style, Style Wars the following year, and Beat Street a year after that. As a teenager, he helped make breakdancing a global phenomenon, making him a pre-eminent figure in what is now the world’s most influential cultural movement.
But despite all of his infinitely important accomplishments and contributions, he represents a group of people who, far too often, are not as visible in recreations of early Hip-Hop as are African Americans. The sentiment Crazy Legs expressed in his Instagram video he echoed in an interview with MSNBC earlier this week. In a one-on-one conversation with the network’s Latino-American focused “Cafecito” segment, he speaks to not only his fellow Puerto Ricans, but to the millions of Americans of Latin descent, particularly those who feel their contributions to civil rights are undervalued, and those reticent to claim their Hip-Hop history.
“People have to keep in mind that Latinos also came out of the civil rights movement, as well. We were even lower at the totem pole back then, and not even a thought,” he says at the 1:43 mark. “The music that came out of the civil rights movement not only affected the African-American community, but the Latino community, ’cause you had boogaloo, you had the Latin Soul.” Eventually, he says, that “flavor” began to make its presence known in a culture that was to become known as Hip-Hop. “I think sometimes our people need to know that we are at the root of something great. And don’t get it twisted, you have every right to be proud of Hip-Hop just as you’re proud of Tejano, Salsa, and all these other things,” he argues.
Colón also shares some remarks on is 1970s childhood, his earliest memories of breaking, and his work teaching youth around the world. Also included are some vintage clips of his early days as a dancer.
Heads can learn more about Crazy Legs’s educational endeavors by visiting the official website of his CrazyLegsWorkshop.