Opinion: Breaking down hip-hop

Feature by Daph Karoulla | 11 Aug 2011
  • Funking off commercial hip hop

In recent years - indeed since 2006 when the first Step Up film came out - there appears to have been a rise in the popularity of urban dance, namely breakdance and what is generally known as hip hop.

But hip hop is not a dance of its own; rather it consists of a myriad of styles, such as breakdance, funk, waacking, poppin', lockin' and rockin'. Dancers who have been involved with hip hop for a long time often state that hip hop isn't just a category of dance, but a lifestyle.

Legends of this style of dance, such as Ken Swift, would tell you that hip hop culture and dance can be traced back further than our memories seem to last. It's a means of expression, whether used for taming violent and competitive emotions, being cheeky or just saying hello.

Lately many breaking crews have become more commercial. I do not mean this as a cry of "Sellout!", yet rather as an observation. A 'crew' is the term used for a group of street dancers that train and dance together. This term resonates with the roots of the dance; a crew functions like a second family, and if someone challenges or insults a member of the crew then the whole family steps up to the floor as a matter of honour. Hence, a collision between two crews is called a 'battle'. Consequently, hip hop has become less of a battle and more of a crowdpleaser.

For example, Flawless, as a unified 10-member entity, compliment each other extremely well. However, one could argue that their show Intergalactic Dream is a performance that is not in any way relevant to hip hop culture or its roots, aside from utilising the particular style of dance. It is entirely choreographed, which means that individual attributes dissolve in favour of the synchronicity and precision of the mass. Don't get me wrong - they are amazing at what they do, especially since they are intelligent dancers rather than throwing down power move after power move. Yet what they do to please and be praised is known as 'commercial hip hop', which is actually very far removed from hip hop culture.

Flawless performing @Underbelly from 3-29th August

2faced performing @Zoo Southside from 3-29th August

Castle Rocks performing @City Edinburgh from 12-29th August