The baby freeze. A signature power-style move. Basically, according to Gift, the newest member of the Lead B-Boy Crew UBUNTU, all you need to do is lift yourself off the ground, then, by balancing all your weight onto your one hand, lift your free hand and touch the foot of your extended leg.
Uhm, excuse me? Yeah, I’m probably not going to attempt that. It’s just that, over the years, I’ve grown rather attached to my spine, you know? Moves like these are better left in the hands of Hip-Hop connoisseurs, brothers Jed and Duane Lawrence, the founders of the exclusive crew.I sat down with three members of Ubuntu crew, the Number one B-boy champs in South Africa and secretly scrutinized every aspect of their appearance.
I suppose entering their flat I had psyched myself up to see mounds of narcotics and loud gangster rap flaring, the occasional scantily clad woman making a cameo in the lounge, fetching a cigarette on the coffee table, ignoring my presence. A twighlight zone created by sensationalist media about the extravagant lifestyle. But these boys make me feel at home, no flashy gimmicks or accents; these guys ooze genuine passion and excitement to educate the world about breaking. Yes, that’s what it’s called.
On previous excursions through the streets of Cape Town I was asked the Stupid question: “What was the difference between hip-hop and b-boying?” So stupid, mind you, that I didn’t have the answer.
So I asked Duane to explain it to me in full. What was this all about? Behind the music and recognition, did it all root from being considered “dope” to “kicking it old school” and “serving” people,( note: Google ghetto Lingo), or was there depth to these peak capped, muscle topped, gorgeous (yes, gorgeous) guys from the Mitchell’s Plain B-Boy world?
“Bboying is only an element of Hip-Hop. There are five elements to hip-hop as a whole. Mc-ing, b-boying, graffiti artists, deejays and “Knowledge of self”. I stare at him quizzically. So hip hop isn’t just a sub-culture governed by hot beats. Hip-hop was designed to educate. It makes you somewhat of an entrepreneur. They all agree. “Don’t just focus on the dance. Make the dance your nine to five.”
Right now UBUNTU crew is training for the upcoming Red bull battle. This sees 8 of the best crews head to head. In true B-boy swagger they tell me that their only competition is the judges. “South African crews are good, but they aren’t on that international level yet. We are bringing it hard this year, pulling out all the magic”. But that’s all they’ll say. The smirk on Jed’s face tells me their mission is not to win, their mission is to annihilate.
However, it’s not just about the competition. These guys believe in the higher purpose of what they are doing. They have conquered the rough streets of Mitchell’s Plain and know that they are lucky to have beaten the odds and succeeded in a world that wasn’t prominent or accepted until very recently. Now they strive to take that message back to the streets with workshops teaching dance and motivating youth that don’t know what opportunities are right at their fingertips.
“We are not doing it for fun, or the glitz and glamour. We are here to expand the culture. B-boying is slowly dying, and if we don’t do it, who is? Kids don’t just look up to anyone; they want to see you succeed before they put their faith in you. So we claim to be the best, and we are proud of ourselves.” With international battles, a book deal and an Upcoming CD release, (Duane’s Debut as a singer and producer), they have every right to be.
Like their name suggests, we are not alone in this world. The way I see it, these boys are telling us that we are all products of the places we’ve experienced and the people that we have encountered.
UBUNTU, “I am me, because of you”.
WORDS: Shana Genever
Images: Craig Kolesky