Breaking in the Archives

Wild Style, 1983Devoted to the history of Virginia’s hip-hop culture, the William & Mary Hip-Hop Collection has documented shared cultural origins with the Bronx and greater New York City. As early as 1979, many of Virginia’s hip-hop pioneers were listening to the earliest commercial rap releases from New York City on Virginia radio stations, most prominently WRAP-AM broadcasting from Norfolk. By the mid-1980s, the release of Hollywood films such as Wild Style and Beat Street featuring hip-hop cultural elements propelled Virginia’s pioneers to begin forming dance crews, similar to the b-boys and b-girls that began dancing at parties throughout the Bronx in the early 1970s.

 

James Allen, aka Dynamite J, in SCRC’s Classroom, 2/17/2013

James Allen, aka Dynamite J, in SCRC’s Classroom, 2/17/2013

 

Collection member Dynamite J, “Virginia’s Original b-boy,” began dancing with his friends in Richmond in the early 1980s, in response to the music he heard on the radio, as well as to the excitement he felt watching his generational peers dancing in the movies. In fact, his dance crew, The Force MCs, would go on to record music in the 1980s and 1990s. Similarly, Larry “Live” Lyons, Timbaland, and Magoo got their start as breakers dancing in their crew, Playboys Express, in the late 1980s. Playboys Express would prove to be a pathway for these hip-hop legends to ultimately reinvent the sound of American popular music over the course of the last twenty years.  Additionally, the Bronx Boys Breaking Crew, established in the Bronx in 1973, maintains a chapter in Virginia Beach.

 

Dance crew performing at Origins II, Commonwealth Auditorium, 11/17/13

Dance crew performing at Origins II, Commonwealth Auditorium, 11/17/13

 

The cultural tradition of hip-hop dance continues throughout Virginia, and at William & Mary. Campus groups including W&M B-Boy Club, SMILES Crew, and Syndicate perform on campus and with national and international crews, from New York to Australia, and beyond.

 

[L] Matt Argao, [R] Alice Yeh, 2012-2013 SMILES Crew co-captains practicing in Tazwell Hall Basement, 9/8/2012

[L] Matt Argao, [R] Alice Yeh, 2012-2013 SMILES Crew co-captains practicing in Tazwell Hall Basement, 9/8/2012

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