RYUGI INTERVIEWS EPISODE 3 (2/2)
Q. Please tell us about your crew.
It’s always a difficult thing for me to talk about myself and our crew, but for me the Fresh Sox are my kindred spirit. We were all once Ronin whose individual crews stopped for whatever reasons where we then combined together meeting like-minded individuals from all around the world who had the same Warrior spirit and love for Hiphop. Fresh Sox’s home base is Melbourne, but has members from Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Yugoslavia and New York.
Individually we all brought an important aspect of ourselves into a greater whole and the world witnessed and felt our energy during that time (2004- 2010)
The then Myti Mouse (who evolved into Mousa) pulled me up after a battle at a club in Fitzroy and asked whether I would like to be a part of his new group to become the “ultimate crew.” and at the time he was one of the strongest characters in our scene and I had my reservations about him because of what I thought of him in battles in our small competition circuit in Melbourne at the time. Luckily, I took a leap of faith because what it attracted in me was the same competitive fighting spirit that I always wanted to get from martial arts but couldn’t afford. If it weren’t for the merging of the remnants of our two rival crews, we would not have been able to make our mark on the scene we loved in our twenties.
Our legacy is that we challenged the then status quo of only power moves and tricks and aligned ourselves with the then isolated knowledge of b-boying as being first and foremost, a dance. Despite having a background in those areas, in our early days, we copped a lot of criticism for what people perceived we did as a crew. Little did they know that we only danced on concrete at the State Library because we couldn’t afford to hire a studio and our garage spaces were way too small and too far from each other to congregate as a crew.
People thought we were trying to emulate a New York Rocksteady Crew style (and then in later years them ignorantly calling it a Zulu Style) Traditional Breaking, when the real reason came out of necessity rather than vanity. We were already catching wind of the new school moves and blow-ups we saw from videos like b-boy Summit, Freestyle Session 3, 4 & 5 etc but where we danced couldn’t allow for such big moves to be executed. Except for when we got there early or it was a quiet night. I still have a vivid image of Mousa, rocking it hard to the beats with his Toprock, doing a bit of footwork straight into a Hurricane (what we call a Windmill to Headspin combo here in Melbourne) and doing the longest Headspin I’d seen with my own eyes in the middle of the club. I also remember him doing 3 slow but slick 90s in a packed bar where people tried to move back because they thought they were going to get hit but it was that crowded they leaned back like it was a moshpit. He didn’t hit anyone and the crowd went off. What a legend!
Laundry Bar on a Monday night was our weekly stomping ground in the early 2000’s. It was so small and so packed, that the traditional Breaking- style was the most efficient way to dance both leisurely and practically under such circumstances... and for us it also made the most sense. We also had crew members that focused on having a completely different style from the traditional one and used these social nights as a way to test out their repertoire before bringing it to battles.
That was the foundation we were taught by our Elders and it was the style that was en vogue internationally at the time. Old School or New School, we were complemented by other Hiphoppers around us to be rocking True School, which was our Truth but maybe not for others.
Fresh Sox was a part of a larger diaspora of Hiphoppers in Victoria. We made our name as individuals and as a crew by being the b-boys that represented Hiphop, Funk & Soul. It was at places like Laundry Bar, First Floor, Lounge, Honky Tonks, Cherry Bar, Soulclap, Scubar and a few other bars and clubs around Melbourne where we built our clout, we also knew a lot of these people outside of Breaking, having friends from different Hiphop scenes that all came together to appreciate the same music and vibe.
We brought the Rock to a lot of these nights and were able to become regulars, skip lines and get free drink cards for the entertainment we brought to other bar goers. We went out during the early part of the week, usually from Monday to Wednesday which was kind of the Industry weekend. People in hospitality, bartending, event organizing and various other occupations would go out and party. It had also become a part of Melbourne’s nightlife culture attracting alternative crowds, artists, hippies, tourists and uni students and was the beginning of my interaction with the greater community. That was the network base of people we were blessed to interact with that got us into places, parties and gig opportunities that were happening at the time.
We used to battle ignorant event organisers that told us to stop taking the attention away from international DJ’s who in a few circumstances would later come up to us after the night was finished and thank us for bringing the vibe and keeping the floor pumping during the set. We knew not to hog the dancefloor and scare the average punter away from dancing, so we would come in short bursts, let the floor fill up and then occupy a dark corner of the club where we would continue to jam with each other, one-upping the vibe not by battling each other but by letting our energy loose because we inspired each other to do so. That made other dancers from overseas feel welcome around us and was part of how we lived our lives at the time. There were times though when call-outs would happen and the main guy to do that in our crew was b-boy Katsu but he would call us all out individually! The commitment to each other as a crew meant we almost spent whole weeks with each other, training and then going out to dance in a social setting that elevated our original Fresh Sox style.
The ultimate recognition we got as a crew was when Alien Ness spoke to Mousa and invited us to become a part of his new chapter of the Zulu Kings. In true form, Mousa flipped the question on our uncle and asked if he would be down with Fresh Sox. By him saying yes, and us battling him at the Redfern Block Party held by the Australian b-boy Championships, officiated the blood, sweat and tears we had having fun and granted us the accolade of being part of the lineage of a First Generation b-boy crew from the Bronx formed at the genesis of Hiphop Culture.
That vibe continued right up until 2010 where we won our last and 5th title as Australian b-boy Champions at the Australian b-boy Championships and slowly dissipated as we moved onto new things individually in our own respective careers and personal lives.
Q. Which battle of yours or your crew was the most exciting/favorite one for you?
That would have to have been the 2006 Australian b-boy Championships in Ultimo, Sydney. We’d just lost an important member of the crew who was like our senior most member, but for whatever reason, the lead up to his departure had the crew feeling segregated in a toxic environment. As a blessing in disguise, it brought the whole crew closer together to become an even stronger family unit. One of our lesser active members El Jax, came back harder and recommitted to his love of b-boying after being plagued with neck injuries and rehab. He was also our main house dancer. Every member was on point during that time and in great physical shape. Members who felt like they were pushed to the back, returned 10 times harder and the energy can still be felt when I watch the footage 13 years later. The speed, the necessary aggression, the execution, the reaction of the judges and the crowd, the controversy of the final battle... a few careers could have been ended that day, but I’m glad crews like SKB, the cast of Skill@Will and the other crews we battled at that time still continue to dance today. On a sidenote: even our defeat of the Japanese crew brings about a sense of patriotism that showed internationals back then that we as a nation had strong crews that would put up a good fight regardless of our own home court audience not supporting us.
Q. What is your next goal? What do you want to do for future through Hip Hop?
My next goal is to extend what I learnt in the 20 years of appropriating and acculturating Hiphop in the direction of my own Filipino roots and cultural heritage. I can tell you a lot of things about Hiphop and am still learning a lot about it, but I couldn’t tell you much about the Philippines, my genealogy, or our traditional dances etc.
Having been so engrossed in Hiphop culture gave me an identity and the tools to express myself in multiple ways during my youth. It helped me express my
ego and completed what some psychologists say is the first half of a particular journey people go through. After having to go through some really heavy mental health issues that is an ongoing healing process, this next goal will help me complete a second-half of a journey which hopefully I can share to others if the need arises. I feel Hiphop will continue to be a tool for me to express myself and as it always has been: a tool to celebrate Life and empower myself and others.
Q. Message to new gen bboys and bgirls?
“Nothing Seek. Nothing Find” is a phrase I learnt from a Ragland sleeved shirt that my ex’s mother gave to me as a gift from Tennoji. Surface level information is abundant, and these days somewhat a kind of distraction because of its filler and fodder quality we pick up without good filters online. If you really want to be about Breaking, dig deep, whether through the literature (yes there are Hiphop books), the music (the breaks are a reservoir of inspiration) and wherever the crumbs lead you down the rabbit hole of it’s rich history. More importantly though, I think it is really important to dig deep within yourself.
Trust and enjoy the process and express yourself. Don’t let anyone put your fire out and don’t discredit your own efforts. There is more to this than what is being presented to you right now, so know where you come from so you can get a clearer view of where you can potentially go. Look to your peers and look to what wisdom your elders can communicate from their stories. Don’t expect that by just asking though. Unfortunately, some Old School traditions protect itself by undergoing a process of tough love just like an old kung-fu movie where the student needs to really prove themselves first before the first lesson is even taught. I guess that’s just a survival mechanism of certain cultures, that must be rooted in the other cultures of the diaspora that created Hiphop. I guess nothing comes easy, and so hopefully with the right mindset you can eventually draw that out of someone you might meet that may hold the keys to the questions you ask.
Know that b-boys and b-girls were the party starters of the first generation of Hiphoppers and were also the life of the party along with the vibe contributed by the Emcees, DJ’s and other people of its community. Communal spirit brought out the best of the pioneers despite their bleak surroundings and allowed them to invent something completely new and fresh that are the building blocks to what you do today. That wisdom is there to use for your own benefit if you would like to engage in it that way.
At the same time be present with what you and your peers are pioneering for yourselves and if something lacks, seek what you may need to enhance that area. When I was younger they used to say everything has already been done. I would like to think that there are still new patterns, new concepts, new characters, new variations, new combinations and so many things brand new because when you look outside of Breaking, music, art and fashion is so vibrant and thriving I believe the same can exist for us.
The future of this art and culture is in your hands.
Generation gaps are a part of any culture and it’s the job of those still active on both sides to find a mutual middle ground to bridge that gap. Like most things that stand the test of time, they can also change and evolve and adapt in different ways. Inspiration can be found everywhere past, present and future... positive and negative.
Tap into that well and maybe you can bring something new to the table.
Just like we didn’t grow up in the 70’s during the first generation, those of us who explored that era; through our own methods, revived an essential part of the Art of Breaking during the years of 1998 – 2010 for the rest of Australia. We made that concept of the past our lifestyle. It’s probably why we became recognized by Alien Ness and were invited to join MZK. It’s also why I am a part of 7$ crew... Our understanding is the same despite living in different parts of the world.
What we brought back after learning and studying that knowledge was the Dance itself: the essence of Style and the essence of Party. We learnt a language that our OG’s spoke on the dance floor and added to the Breaking Lexicon in our own way. That fulfilled our youthful egos and made us resilient in our own version of hard times, gaining the props and recognition from the people we respected through the tradition of paying our dues. Biting was frowned upon because we respected the intellectual property of those before us and around us and that mutual respect forced us to use our imagination and take our dance to the next level.
Top tier b-boys and b-girls are doing that now for the culture and as new gen, you can contribute to that, just as we did, just as our OG’s did and their forefathers did by “Breaking Out.” Letting go allows us to express freely with no inhibitions and for a time that taught us the game of being strong headed, witty and gutsy –yet respectful (for the most part).
That taught us resilience and drew out the energy deep within to really be a way we could channel our anger, aggression and all the negative emotions in a positive way. Sledging at battles was just as normal for our generation of b- boys and b-girls as it was normal for Aussie Rules football. On the flipside, it was also a way to go in and raise the bar when everyone was already lit.
But the times have changed.
I’m excited to see what legacy you will leave behind. Keep it Rocking.
LAMAROC – FSX/7$/MZK