Crazy Legs isn’t one to boast. So leave it up to us: the Puerto Rican b-boy legend is one of the most iconic Latino figures in hip-hop history. ‘Nuff said. Long before Big Pun, Cypress Hill, Kid Frost, The Beatnuts, and, yes, ladies, even before Pitbull, Crazy Legs (Richard Colón) was holding it (probably spinning on his head while doing so) down. With the Red Bull BC One North America Final, the highly lauded one-on-one b-boy competition, takes place this Friday (8/15) at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, its ambassador Crazy Legs talks about the early days of hip-hop, staying in shape, and what’s next for b-boying.
What is your involvement with the Red Bull BC?
I’m an ambassador for it this year and I’m just adding my two cents where I can in terms of what to do or if I have an idea. Being involved with Red Bull can make you involved in almost anything they do especially on the culture side. Red Bull has done a lot more than just one-offs. They really got deep into the scene. They stayed beyond the seasonal scene and have supported events and created their own events when it comes to hip-hop, as well as b-boy on its own.
What do you look for in an aspiring b-boy/b-girl? Should they follow in your footsteps?
I think everybody should create their own lane. I would definitely suggest that if they’re going to follow in my footsteps, then pick the right steps to follow because not everything that I’ve done has been the best decision. I would say that if you are going to follow any of my footsteps, then take on dance form as an art first. If you take it on as an art first, then it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life and you’ll have a true appreciation for it. You’ll understand that it isn’t just about the moves, but it’s about the very DNA of it, which is the music, the response to the music and love for the preservation of dance as well.
You’re one of the Latino pioneers of hip-hop culture. What do you remember most about those early days?
For me, going to my first jam is always going to be my first memory. It was the first time that I witnessed all of the elements happening at the same time. It was summertime in 1977 and you had a lot of things going on in the midst of the Blackout of ’77, the Son of Sam, and the Yankees winning the World Series. I was being introduced to what eventually became known as hip-hop culture and becoming part of hip-hop was like me being born again because it gave me an opportunity to have a voice. It wasn’t something that was thought out, but I knew that I was very shy when I was a kid and as I became a b-boy and became involved with things, my confidence developed. That’s very important to me.
Are you miffed that mainstream media appropriated hip-hop as a solely African American creation rather than something created by both African Americans and Latinos?
When you’re growing up around Afrika Bambaataa and black people and Afrika Bambaataa says, “You know you got black too man, we all together” then it doesn’t really bother you as much. But then you look at it as you grow up and you realize that white America at that time decided that you’re either black or white no matter what you are, in terms of Latino, Asian or anything other than that. I’ve started to feel more slighted now than back then because back then we weren’t on any kind of conscious tip like self-awareness or self-empowerment. We were just kids having fun. You have to think about how old we were. As a 10, 12, 13-year-old person, I’m not going to rise up against the system, especially when I live in the Bronx and it’s just survival mode. This was our way of having some sort of recreation. It just didn’t affect me on that level because I don’t think I knew enough about myself to fight for myself, or my people. That was something that I learned later on.
I have a sense of responsibility because I know that my name carries a certain amount of weight and if I can do something that inspires other Latinos to say, “Hey, that’s one of my people and he’s doing this, and I admire that. I’m going to do that too and I know I can do it because there’s one of us doing it right there.” If I can serve in that manner then I think I’d be foolish to just not do it.
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