Did you burn CD’s? Did you have a Walkman?
Let me see, I had over, maybe 50 Walkmans. Cause every time the new Walkman came out and got more advanced Sony, I had it.
Do you remember the silver Sony one?
Oh now, that’s a new, new era. My favorite Sony was with the 4 little buttons on the side that you could record. Yeah, fast forward, rewind, and you could record. So I used to record Marley Mar. Yeah, so, a lot of people don’t know, when, like P. Diddy gets “We invented the remix.” No, Marley Mar invented the remix.
Give us your name, basic introduction, where you’re from, years of dancing and what styles
Oh well, basically where I’m from, Brooklyn, New York. First grew up, in Fort Greene Projects and then moved with my grandmother to Canarsie Projects, and then I end up, when I get older, I moved back to Fort Greene area.
You’re still living there now?
Yeah, I live right across the street from Fort Greene Park. Yeah, so when Soul Summit happens, I’m outside. I don’t even go outside, I just check and say “Uh no, they not ready yet… Nope, not yet. No crowd, music.” And then when it’s crowded, I go right outside, then when I get sweaty and go upstairs, take a shower, come back and “Aye, where you, where you went?- Home, right there.”
How many years have you been dancing?
Wooh! Approximately 45 years, yeah.
What kind of styles would you say you dance?
What kind of styles would I say I dance? It’s almost like a hard question to say because I like Dance. I put style second. If I like it, I’m gonna try it and I’m gonna try til I get it. You know, get some type of understanding of it. Like people say they want to perfect something, I don’t want to perfect it because once you perfect it, you get that sense that you “there” and then once you get there, there’s only one place to go, downhill, cause you done blocked yourself from learning more, cause you feel you at the top. For me, there is no top. So every style, but the main style; Dance. Style, second.
When you were growing up, what kind of music did you gravitate toward?
When I was growing up, I grew up to mostly R&B/Soul, what they call Rhythm & Blues. You know, my mother used to play music every time we had to clean the house, so there was a lot of songs that I know only because I had to clean the house. So there was a lot of like, you know, when you hear Marvin Gaye “Let’s Get It On” or Al Agreen’s, when you go *mimics song*. Like today, I’m like just, but when I was younger, I was on the wall like, moppin’ floors. I heard these songs all the time, never liked them at the time. But only time I did like music is when my family would dance and you hear them laughin’ “Oh, go girl, yeah! Wooh” and I used to sneak out when I was a little kid. I’m supposed to be sleep, I get out the bed, get out the room, and I run out and look runnin’ “You better get back in that bed!” And I’m in the bed but I’m not sleep and just trying to dance like them.
So where is your family from?
My family’s from, they say South Carolina, South and North Carolina, yeah. But when we came up here, I’m from here, they from there. So even when most of them don’t have that South Carolina, you know, the South accent “Where you goin’ boy!? Goin’ down south like they do.” None of us have this accent.
When were you first exposed to Hip-Hop?
Ooh, hmm, when was I first exposed to Hip Hop? Hmm… 1983. Reason why I say that because before that word, I was exposed to block parties, park jams, you know, freestyle. I didn’t know no term called “B-Boy”, I didn’t know this term. Up in the Bronx, there was a B-Boy, they had the term. In Brooklyn, we had it, it was called “Freestyle.” Didn’t know no term called “B-Boy”. I knew “Fly Guy, Fly Girl” What they call? Back in the days, if you left somebody flatleaver. I knew all the other slang and I knew these terms but I didn’t know “B-Boy” and I didn’t know it was called “Hip-Hop” until 83’. Everything back then was called “The Jam.” So, I was part of “The Jam” era.
Let’s have you define, if you could, Hip Hop
How do i define Hip Hop? Hmm… For me, what is Hip Hop?… Hip Hop is the government that we should have. Because it’s more like, Marjory said it, we have events, and these events, it’s like, almost like the United Nations but nobody’s trying to take over and control the whole event circuit. Like the government, they over here, everybody trying to control the world. But the jams, the events, we all come together and laugh, enjoy, and then exchange numbers, exchange contacts, and keep in touch, without any hiccup. But, the government? No, it’s not like that. So, that’s what Hip Hop is to me. It’s the, you know, it should be the United Culture. It should, it’s something that brings everybody together.
What made you start dancing? When was that moment when you were like “I got to take this seriously”?
I haven’t had that moment yet. Yeah, so, that’s the crazy part. When, you know, when there’s “Oh, I got to do this.. Ah, oh, I’ma take this serious.. My goal is..” I haven’t had this moment and I don’t want it. Cause when I take this serious, that’s when I’ma quit. Because there’s no fun for it, there’s no fun in it for me. I’m doing this because it brings me joy, and laughter, and fun. You know, I’m inspiring people that cry, that feel bad. So when I take it serious, it’s gonna become like a complete 9-5, where I’m bored, and I’m tired of it. So, no, I don’t have that moment, what take it serious? And the problem is, if this is your life, why take it serious? Cause you could walk outside and your life could be ended in a hot second, and you missed all the joy in it taking it serious, when you should’ve been just having fun and living life.
So, today we have Hip-Hop all over the internet, dance studios, and schools worldwide. How was Hip-Hop before all these changes?
Well, today, we have confusion. That’s what we have today. We have confusion today. We don’t have Hip Hop that we have Hip Hop from back then, today we have confusion. Because everybody say “It’s the evolution of Hip Hop.” I’m sorry? I’m confused? I know the evolution of rap music, Hip Hop music. It doesn’t sound like the same as it sound before but I know it’s Hip Hop music. When it comes to the dance, when you lack foundation, how is there evolution? You’re not doing it. It’s like, you put 10 bottles up, 10 different type of bottles standing together, what are they? The evolution of glass, that holds water. They don’t look the same but they all have the same foundation. They all have the same purpose, to hold water. So when you look at Hip Hop dancing, you don’t see the Bounce, the Rock, the Groove. You don’t see there’s enjoyment in it. How is there evolution of it? It’s something different. So that’s why I say it’s confusion.
What about Jams? Difference from a Jam back in your day to now?
Oh, what’s the difference between a Jam, back in my day, and a Jam today!? You don’t have Jams today. That’s the biggest difference, you don’t have Jams today. You don’t have nobody bringing out out they sound-system, they turntables, plugging up to a light pole, and making a party happen, and making everybody have fun. You don’t have that today. Today, you have “I gotta get a permit, I gotta go over here and then I gotta set up and then if I play too loud, I got somebody to come and tell me it’s too much noise.” You don’t have Jams today, except Soul Summit and even Soul Summit is being almost chopped down to nothin’. You have conservative today. People want peace & quiet. The crazy thing is, how you want peace & quiet in a city that never sleep!? It’s strange. You taking everything out that made this culture, you taking everything away, and that’s why I say a lot of events need to have parties before the event. Cause you taking everything away. I understand the business aspect of it, but if you only see the business aspect, it’s dying, faster.
Take on music, battles, & jams? (Wack music, participate or not?)
It all depends. The battles today is not battles, they’re dance contests, they’re not battles. That’s the main thing. They’re not battles, they’re dance contests. Some people, like when you watch Red Bull BC One, when you watch B-Boy battles, you see BATTLES. You see RAW, like, they going at each other. When you watch battles today, like there’s stand-up Hip Hop battles today, you see competition, dance competition. They never interact with each other. There’s never nothing like rawness, like “Yeah, you!” and dirt. There’s none of that, unless they have a problem, unless they have a attitude problem, they don’t come to battle, they come to win a dance contest. And the battles back then, they didn’t end in 1 round, they didn’t end in 2 rounds, and most of the time, you had to judge, the crowd judged. But when it actually happened, it was a reason for the battle. There’s a BIG reason for the battle. One, somebody had somebody else’s name, that’s a no-go. We gotta battle for the name. Two, you was in the wrong area, “You can’t come over and try to take over my hood, I rep this here, I hold this place down.” Three was like number 1 & 2, cause all the battles was about respect.
It wasn’t about winning. It wasn’t about, really, like destroying somebody. No, it’s about if you had their respect, you was “good-to-gut”, you was “good-money”. That’s an old-school term, “you was good-money.” So you wouldn’t hear “The battle is over.” You would hear this, “Yo, you got this round. We’ll meet again, I’ll see you”, you hear this. You don’t hear that “Yo, I respect you. Trust me, that’s round one.” I’ll always tell this story, we battled for like four years, me and Mr. Wiggles. And literally, he walked up to me and whispered in my ear “Yo you know it’s on tonight” and me like “Yeah, bring it.” It wasn’t until we shook hands, like “Yo, I respect you.” It’s always the battle, the person you think is dope. If we didn’t think you was dope, and you say, “I don’t think you dope and you wanna battle me!?” I just laugh at you and like “You good. Peace.” Until you kept doing somethin’ that you tryin’ to embarrass me “un-uh, uh”. Then when I battle you, you’ll see the difference, I’m not gonna smile, I’m not gonna laugh, I’m not gonna talk to you, I’ma talk about everything you doing “oh yeah, really? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Oh no.” Cause even when I battled Wiggles, I knew Wiggles for Tutting, like incredible, and my Tut, not that great. And I was, within that battle, I’m saying to myself “Please don’t tut!” You know you’ll flaw, you’re like “Please don’t tut. Don’t tut.” I looked up and he start Tutting, I was like “Shit! Damn!” I was like “Oh well, let me go ahead” and I did a Tut, and I got STUCK in my tut, and he was like “No, no, no, no, no.” And I was like “Shit. Oh aight, well that’s round one, let’s go, let’s go!” Like that.
So, it was fun, but it was always out of respect, it always to gain respect. So we respect each other, after that, we became, he’s in Electric Boogaloos, and we in Elite Force, we became the Electric Force. Yeah, we joined together, we became Electric Force. That’s why a lot of times, you see me and Pete doing showcase together. Yeah, me and Poppin’ Pete. If you look on YouTube, you’ll see me and Pete dancing a lot together. I even have a video when me and Pete is bugging out, freestylin’, just bugging out, to a song, and this one girl, named Yoda, she pointed out things that we was doing at the same time but we didn’t even know. In the video, we both look at each other and go like this at the same time! And then there’s another time we turn away, we turn away from me, not even looking at each other, while we turning back and go like this at the same time. And it’s all to the music, it’s crazy! When Pete told me, I was like “Nahh”, and I look back at the video, I was like “Oh shit! Woahhh!” It was crazy.
You guys were on the same wavelength.
Well that’s why we’re Electric Force, we connected.
What do you look for as a Judge for competitions?
Oh, as a judge, what I look for? Creativity. Bounce, rock, and groove, if I’m judging Hip Hop, bounce, rock, and groove. If I’m judging Popping, I’m looking for the Popping, I’m not concerned with your wavin’, tickin’, tuttin’, I’m lookin’ for your Popping. I’m looking for your creativity, your bounce, rock, and groove, your connection with you and the music, and your battle aspect with you and the dancer, that you’re dancing. If you’re first, I’m looking for you to raise the bar, set a level. If you second, I’m looking for you to answer everything that person just did. But your main thing, I’m looking for, if you’re on beat. If you are not on beat, I’m gonna show you exactly right now, you will see me tapping the table, or my leg, or my knee *taps knee* and I’m going through different metronomes to see which one you dancing to *continues to tap knee at different paces* and I’m sitting there going “Nope, not that one. Hm, hm, not that one. Maybe he’s mixing it up… nnnope.” And then once I get all of them out, and you still off, “Hm, okay. I’ll watch you, but at the end of the day, if somebody come out doing the Running Man, I’m picking the Running Man.” You could’ve did a whole bunch of things the crowd screamed and went crazy for “Ahhh, ooohhh, ahh” Me? No, I’m judging. Mmhhmm, yeah, yeah. And something like this happened, and everybody boo’d. And I was like “Why you booing?” “Ahh” and people was like “Ahhh, he should’ve won!” “Cause he your friend?” And they’re like “Yeah… No, no, he was just much better than him!” “Really? SO, am I supposed to pick the person who’s off beat or the one who’s on?” “The one that’s on beat!” “Then… yeah.”
What are your favorite aspects about the dance? (community, sessions, battles, partying)
My favorite aspects about the dance? About the Jam? About the whole whole scene? My favorite thing about the whole scene, the whole scene. Let’s get this “favorite”, cause I always have to get this out of there, cause everybody asks me a lot of things about favorite. Let’s get the “favorite” out of there. My favorite is what it is. It will never change. If you ask somebody “What’s your favorite song?”, they’ll give you a song. Come back a month later, ask them what’s they’re favorite song, they’ll give you a new, another song. My favorite will never change cause my favorite, my favorite music is Music, my favorite style of dance is Dance. So my favorite aspect of this whole thing isn’t the whole thing because it’s here. And when it dies, you’ll miss it. So, my favorite is everything about it.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Ice Cream, yeah.
When do you feel that separation happened between categories? (This is Popping, this Breaking, etc.)
Well, the reason why there’s no connection cause they wanted to make it, some people only like to do step, like Popping. Some people only like to do Hip Hop, some people only like to do Waacking, only like to do this, and we call them “Style Dancers.” They not Dancers, they’re Style Dancers. They only like to do this type of dance, that’s it. So, you have to set it aside cause if you put them in a different battle, you can’t judge it. When people judge a all-style battle, you’re not judging the style, you’re not judging style versus style, you’re judging creativity against creativity. You’re not judging style against style, cause if you’re judging style against style, there would be a tie because both styles is good.
It’s a style, even if they not doing it great, it’s a style. You’re judging creativity, how good somebody is creative with that style, you’re not judging the style, you’re judging their creativity. So, the only way to judge the style is make it a style-battle, where they have to do that style, they have to. Like, all-styles is, well, it should be called freestyle. It shouldn’t be called all styles because most of the people, it’s not, they can’t do all styles. All styles, like we have it in Step Ya Game Up, we have a wheel with all the styles on it. Spin the wheel, land on the style, battle with Vogueing, you gotta Vogue. You signed up for All-Styles. Free-Style is what it should be called, you free to do any style you choose but you must do a style, that’s what those all-styles should be called.
Was there copying, before YouTube or internet, and was it because it was what available or seen to them based on their area?
No, and we had eras where people did Locking, cause it was a style that was right there in front of your face, and then when Popping came out, people did Locking & Popping. Then when Breaking came out, you did Locking, Popping, and Breaking. See, we had different eras, different time-frames for each style. Ya have every style, ya would have, what I would call, “gumbo.” Ya got everything thrown up in the pot and ya taking this pot, put it on the plate, put it in the bowl, and ya just eatin’ it. Ya not taking ya time to have, just chicken. I’ma eat just chicken for a week, I’m gonna eat just fish for a week. Ya not doing that. Everybody’s trying to be, what they call it, “Ironman”, in battles, where you go in, you do Locking, you do Popping, you do this, you do that, you do that.
It’s a movie that explains this and it explains it so good. It’s called “7 Grand Masters”. This movie explains this really good, “7 Grand Masters”, because there’s a guy in the battle, in the fight, and he switches to every style cause every time he switch his style, the guy beats him. He switch to another style, the guy beats him. He switch to another style, the guy beats him. He switch to another style, the guy beats him. Why does he keep losing? He had known so many styles, why’d he keep losing? And the guy tells him, he knows many styles, he haven’t perfected one. That’s why he keep losing. Yeah, you know many styles but you haven’t perfected one, and that’s what’s happening today. Y’all know, y’all learning everything. Instead of taking one week of just this, and then the next week of just this. So where you have your focus is just this.
Was there ever a time where you never saw a style before and was “Oh, what is this?”
Yeah, when I first saw Vogueing, it was almost like a nightmare. It was, literally, it was almost like a nightmare. Because when I went to the club, Marjory told me, I had met Marjory in Studio 54. We talked for weeks and days on the phone, and she’s like “Yo, you have to come to The Tunnel, you have to come to The Tunnel!” So, I took Caleaf with me to The Tunnel, and we go into The Tunnel and walking up the block, and all we hear is “Hello, hello, hello, oh, hello!” And Caleaf look at me, and he goes “Yo, where are we goin’!?” And I was like “Oh, I have no idea. Marjory told me to come here.” So, we standing in front of the door and the door-guy’s name is Charles. Charles is the guy at the door. So, you know it’s the song that goes something “people” and the girl says, in the House song, she says “Excuse me Charles, excuse me Charles! Uhm” And he’s like “Yes” and she goes “Uh, I’m on the Guest List.” And he goes “What list”, “The DJ’s list”, and he says “Miss thing! There is no guest list tonight!” This guy really exists, he stood in front of the door at The Tunnel.
So, we was there, and the guy was standing there, so this is The Tunnel, say it’s like, this is The Tunnel, the entrance is this way, me and Caleaf are standing over here, he’s standing here, and he’s looking at us, and there’s the people here, and we’re freezing! I mean, it’s brick-cold, and you know by, closer you get to water, it gets colder, and we’re standing on 28th Street, or 23rd, one of them, and 12th Avenue. We standing there freezin’, we’re looking like this but FREEZIN’ inside. Inside is shakin’, but we standing there still as nails. So the guy is standing there and he’s looking at me, looking at Caleaf, looking at me, looking at Caleaf, and he picks up, he asks some other guy that just get out the taxi, and the guy walks up and he goes, he see a whole bunch of people in front, he points over the people and says “You!” And the guy’s like “Me?” He says “Yeah. Lose the shirt and you could come in.” I just told you it’s freezin’. It’s brick! The guy takes off his shirt and holds it, and walked in. He said “No, no, no. I said lose the shirt.” The guy throws the shirt in the street, on the floor, and he says “Yes miss thing, now you can come in. Ah, looking gorgeous!” And me, I’m standing there like this, I look at Caleaf “I ain’t taking off shit!” But we freezing, standing there, and this happens, and, next thing you know, Charles see us, and he see Caleaf getting angrier and angrier. So, every time he see Caleaf get angry, he just turns and “Hm” just like that, “Hm.” And then he says, some other people come up and go “Oh, uh, yes, yes, yes..” They behind us, it’s a high pitched voice now, it’s like being in Japan where he’s like “Somimasen!” It’s a high pitched voice behind us right now and all I know, the guy turned, Charles turns and goes “Okay, you!” And Caleaf start moving and he says “No miss thing, not you. You.” He talking to the people behind us and they walk in front of us and walk in the club, and Caleaf is like “Argghh” and I said “He sees us, he’s fuckin’ with you cause you are angry. Chill! We’ll get in, chill!”
So Caleaf still angry, still angry, and he looks at Caleaf, he’s like “Okay, come on miss thing.” And we start to walk inside, right, we walk inside and it is the flavor of the month up in there! It’s sweeter than a cotton candy store, it is sugar to the next level, and all we hear is “Oh, hello! Oh, hello! Hello! Hello!” I told Caleaf “Yo, you with me, we stick together this whole night.” He’s like “What!? Yo!” I had to turn to him and say “Yo, I hope Marjory don’t think I’m gay!? Oh shit. Did she? I hope she don’t think I’m gay? This is crazy?” And he’s like “Yo, yo, let’s find Marj… Yo where’s Marj!?” “I don’t know.” And like “Hello, hello!” And I find Marjory and I said “Marj, Marj, aye, aye, aye, Marj. I’m not gay!” *laughs* And Marj goes “No, come over here stupid! All the trick dancers is down here, everybody, you stay in this area.” So we walk down, that’s where I meet, God rest the dead, we meet Voodoo for the first time. Voodoo Ray, Frankie, Blue, Chris, Asha, Porsha, Joyce, we meet all of them for the first time, and even Jossie Thacker, we meet everybody in The Tunnel for the first time. Not Jossie Thacker, we meet her at The Whirl through Voodoo, but we meet all of them in this club, at this time. So we sitting there, and I’m like, we dancing, and I’m looking around cause, on the dance floor, we all straight people. It’s like walking around, like, it’s sweeter than sweet walking around. So, we sitting there, dancing, that’s when, if you look at the video “Johnny Kim Just Got Paid”, you will see what The Tunnel used to look like. Original tunnel, flaw, with the pillars in the middle of the floor, the steps going down, you’d see the original tunnel, with the steps going all the way up. “Johnny Kim Just Got Paid” you see the real tunnel.
So, we standing there, we dancing, we’re bugging, and all of a sudden the lights go down, and these speakers come down, in the middle of the floor, these speakers come down like almost in the middle of the floor, like head-level, and while the speakers come down, you hear the sound of a train going through the speaker and this sound is passing you, like they have the sound on like a fader that. So the sound is like going past you and then you hear “Wooh, wooh!” like a train is coming. You look back and there’s a big light in the middle of The Tunnel, and while it’s going like that, a fan comes on, and air blows past you. And you’re dancing on the dance floor like “Oh wow, this is crazy!” And all of a sudden, the lights went out and you heard the sound to “Love is the Message” I’m standing there, looking at Caleaf like this “What the hell is going on!?” Right? And Marj says “No, just relax.” I’m like “Okay.” “Duhn, duhn”, now when the lights went blink, blink, like that, you look, cause that’s where the lights was coming from, all the way up the stairs. We talking about, maybe 30 steps straight down and the lights went straight up, and they were like “duhn, duhn.” At the top of the stairs was every House you ever heard of, at the top of the stairs. We talking about House of Laveisha, Magnifeek, Omnewnous, Ninja, all of them was up at the top of the stairs. And when it said “duhn, duhn” like the 3rd time, “duhn, duhn”, you just saw everybody go “duhn, duhn” and pose, and I was like “what the hell is this?” And they start coming down the stairs on the base, “doom doom dadoom” and Vogueing down on the base sound, and I’m looking at “Oh, wow!” Marjory’s like “Aye, aye, move, move over here, move over here.” So we move over, they took over the entire dance floor. They was on the pillars, doing all this Vogueing, and going and pose and what not. I watched this entire thing and was like “That shit was dope!”
So we leave The Tunnel and Marj is like “Yo, are y’all coming back next week?” “FUCK yeah!” But we like “but it’s expensive.” She’s like “No, no, no. I’ll tell you where to go and get the comp passes.” Now, back then, Tower Records used to be over here on, right up 3rd, and on, no, Bleecker, and Broadway. And Tower Records, inside Tower Records, you walk inside, on the side of the window, there was comps for every club. Free tickets to get, it’s stacked, and you can just take a stack and go to the club, and get there before, go in the club, club start at 10, go in before 10, you was free. Just gave the comp pass. They was sittin’ in Tower Records. So when Marj told us that, we was there all the time, getting every time a new comp pass, we was going to the club for free. So, yeah, Vogueing would be, would be the one that I saw. When I saw Waacking, I thought Waacking was Locking done wrong. That’s why I thought they was calling it Waacking cause it was Locking done wrong, and that’s why I was like “Oh, he’s, uh, Waacking? Fake Locking.” That’s what I would used to think til I found out it was actually a different dance.
What was the chronology of all these styles? What was first, what was last?
Hmm, as I seen what was first, Tap, what I seen, Tap, Lindy, Jitterbug. I don’t know which one, in which order they was but Tap, Lindy, Jitterbug.
Where did you see those?
T.V. Yeah, back then, we talking about no VCR, no videotape, no press Play, Rewind. You learned in seconds and you prayed you had it cause when you went outside, you prayed somebody else had it a little better than you, yeah. So, then I saw Locking, Soul Train. On Soul Train you saw Locking, then I saw Popping, that was Electric Boogaloos, I saw them on Soul Train. Then, when Breaking came, didn’t know it was called Breaking cause we was already doin’ it at the jams. And then when I learned it was called Breaking, like “B-Boy”, was later. Then the term Hip-Hop came, 83’. Then, when the clubs closed 85’, around 85’, Hip Hop clubs closed, “Too dangerous.” Went to the House club and that’s when I saw Vogueing, and then later, came Waacking. And then now, after Waacking, came Harlem-Shake, the beginning of Lite Feet. And then after Harlem-Shake, came Krumpin’. After Krumping, came Lite Feet; light Harlem-Shake evolved into Lite Feet because first it was called “Get Lite” and then Lite Feet, and that’s it. Oh, wait, wait, wait, missing a style. Put a style in the mix of it, before Lite Feet, we have Chicago Footwork before Lite Feet, and Jukin’ (Memphis Jukin’). All of these were before the whole Lite Feet Nation, and then Lite Feet, Lite Feet is like the last.
When did you first meet Stretch?
Ohhh, great story! I first see Stretch in the club, The Whirl. I’m off in the corner, dancing with this girl, and then Caleaf runs and gets me, and says “Yo! Stretch is here” I said “okay..?” When I first see Stretch is Video Music Box, in the music video called Whodini – “Be Yourself”, this song, and I see Stretch and Clifflaw, but I don’t know he Stretch and I don’t know he Clifflaw. I just know that this guy dance good and this guy “hmm”, like that. So when I see Stretch is in The Whirl, when Caleaf come get me and says “Yo, Stretch is here.” And when we walked over to the circle, he’s like “Yo, if you want to make your name!? You gotta battle Stretch, right now, tonight, he’s here!” And I said “Okay, who’s Stretch?” And I walk over to the cypher and I see is the guy who I saw on Whodini’s video, and I said “Oh, that’s the guy from Whodini’s video.” And he said “Yeah, that’s Stretch.” And I said “Yeah, he’s good.” And Ca’s like “Yo, yo! You gotta battle him!” Some reason, Caleaf pissed me off this night and I said, I turned to Caleaf and say “Yo, you battle him!?” And Caleaf’s brother, Rameer, turns and “Yeah! You battle him! You always getting somebody to battle somebody, you battle Stretch!”, and I walked away.
We went to The Tunnel, three days later, we go to The Tunnel, I meet Rosie Perez, she can tell you this story. I meet Rosie Perez, I’m dancing, I stop, I sit on the stage of The Tunnel, yeah the stage. There’s the steps here, all the way down, and then there’s a stage where we saw most of the House singers perform, and I’m sitting on the stage, just sitting there chillin’, and Rosie, who’s a Spanish lady, she sits next to me, and I’m sitting there and she said “Hello, excuse me.” And I said “Hey, how ya doin’.” She’s like “Yeah, I’m fine. I saw you dancing. You’re pretty good.” I said “Oh, thank you.” And she said “Yeah, so, um, would you like to do a music video?” In my head, literally, and I told her this story, in my head, I’m like “Who is this little Spanish lady trying to pick me up?” I said “Yeah, sure.” And she said “Okay, um, do you have a number?” And I was like “Hmmmm, no.” And she’s like “Oh, uh, you have a beeper? A number I can reach you?” And I said “I can give you my job number.” And this is when I worked in a law office, yeah, exactly. “I can give you my job number” and she says “Okay, sure.”
I give her the job number, I walk away, I go to work, next day, and they like, my uncle, me, Caleaf, and my uncle, all worked at the same law office and my uncle said “Aye, Link. Pick up, line 2, you have a phone call, Line 2. Make it quick.” And I pick up and I said “Hello” and she’s like “Do you remember me?” I said “Maybe, if you tell me your name? Who is this?” She says “Oh, I’m the, I’m Rosie. I met you the night before and I asked you about doing a music video.” On the phone, I said to her “You were serious!?”, and she said “Yeah, what did you think?”, “I will fill you in, I’ll tell you one day.” And she said “Yeah, could you come down today?”, “Yeah, can I bring some friends?” She’s like “Yeah, bring a lot of people!”, and I called Caleaf, I told Caleaf, Caleaf told his brother Rameer, I asked my uncle, who was my supervisor at the time “Can I get off?” And he’s like “Yeah” and I told him where we was going, and he’s like “Yeah? Good luck.” Like that “Yeah, good luck.” So, we walked into the room, like how my back is sitting here, the door is here. So we walk into the room, I see Marjory, Voodoo, I see everybody in the room. I’m like “Oh!” Like the Tunnel feeling, like the whole gang’s here, we cool. Walk in the room and I hear her, Rosie said “Oh, could you, could you go now? Could you dance now?” I said “Yeah, yeah, sure, sure.” And I take off my jacket – – –
Caleaf knew Buddha Stretch? Or not yet?
No, Caleaf knew Stretch already. Yeah, no, Caleaf knew Stretch already. Me, I didn’t. – – – so as soon I start to, I turn around, who do I see!? Stretch is sitting right there! And I see Stretch, and she go “Oh, everybody, this is Stretch. He’s my assistant.” He’s helping her pick the people. I turn and look at Caleaf like this. So I start dancing and they pick us! They pick me, Caleaf, and Rameer, almost everybody in the room cause everybody was like the high dancers then, the top dancers then. So she picked everybody in the room. Now, after, on the video set, we dancing, we get picked to go do Diana Ross, work with Diana Ross in London. Me, Stretch, Cliff (the guy who was dancing with Stretch in the Whodini video), Caleaf, and a guy named Tron, another guy. Later, after we come back from London, Stretch calls, we exchange numbers, info, and everything. Stretch called me and he’s like “Yo, my Pop, my Pops liked the way you dance, and you and Caleaf, and we want to put y’all down in the crew.” And I said “Aight, cool, sure!”, “Could you come and meet us?” And I said “Yeah, I can come and meet. Yeah, we can come.”
We went and met Stretch, and this is the first time we hearing Stretch’s real name. So we went to meet Stretch and his Father’s like “Emilio!” And we was like “Stretch is Spanish!?” *laughs*. He’s like, first he’s like “Junior! Junior!” We was like “Stretch is a Junior!?” Oh, wow!” So me and Caleaf is dying and then when he says “Emilio”, we was like “Stretch is Spanish!? Holy shit!” And so, he comes down and we talk and from then on, we join Stretch’s crew. Stretch’s crew was called Wise Guys, cause Stretch was in a rap crew at the time, so we joined the crew called Wise Guys and my name comes from Stretch’s father. Link comes from Stretch’s father. So when I was dancing, we was doing a routine and we was practicing up in the Bronx, Stretch’s father was like “Aye, you guys sit down!” He’s like “Junior! You and that boy, do it together!” So we starting to do the routine and Stretch’s father just says “God damn it! That’s the link I was looking for.” And everybody turned and was like “We calling you Link now. From now on, you Link. Killer of a name. Everybody calling you Link.” And that’s how I met Stretch. I met Stretch cause of Caleaf forcing me to battle him and then later we becoming a crew.
What did they call you before?
What did they call me before? They called me Henry. My real name. I didn’t have no dance name yet. Henry’s my real name. But now I’m called Henry Link for a reason. In Japan, they thought Henry and Link was two different people. I’m dead serious. I had to do interviews in Japan and explain to them, Henry and Link is the same person. Cause one guy was talking to me and he was like “You, Henry-san, dance together, so great!” And I’m looking at the artist, the name’s Sam, TRF, and we look at each other and we was like “Huh? Nani-what?” Like nani, meaning what. I’m like “What?” And he’s like “No, no, no. Link, if you and Henry-san dance together, woah! Crazy!” I’m like “What!?” And Sam says to him in Japanese “ You stupid- baka. He’s Link.” He says “No, no, no. He’s Henry, he is Link. I’m talking Henry-san, Henry-san so good! Oh my god!” I was like, I couldn’t believe it and I heard it 3 times. So after that, I had start telling them in Japan, I am Henry and Link. It’s the same person, so I start calling myself Henry Link. Cause people was thinking I was two different people, all because I look like another guy, and this guy is famous.
Me and Pete Rock look like twins. No, wait, I’ll show you. No, no, deadass, I even got stopped on a plane because we was on the same plane and the stewardess thought I got off, cause you know you can’t get off the plane and get back on the plane. We was on the same plane, and I don’t know he’s on the plane. So when he get off the plane, I’m going to get off the plane, and the stewardess is “Aye, aye, did you forget something?” I said “No? I’m, no first time getting off the plane.” She said “No, you got off this plane already.” I said “No, I never got off this plane.” She said “No, no, no. I saw you. You, wait here!” And I have to wait, police come get me off the plane, and I get off the plane, and I’m getting my luggage, and I look, as I’m picking up my luggage, I see Pete Rock and Premiere, and I’m like “Officer, she thinks I’m him.” And the officer look and said “Oh, shit. He’s your brother?”I said “No, he’s not my real brother but I know him.” And I walk over to him, about to shake his hand, and Premiere turn around and go “Yo Pete, you forgot your bag?” I said “Premiere, I am Link, I’m not Pete.” And he said “Oh, shit!” And Pete turns around and go “Yo whaddup Link.” And I was like “Yo whaddup Pete.” So I’m happy Pete Rock is an entertainer, he’s not a killer, he’s not in some trouble. I’ma show you a picture. Cause I would have a lot of problems. Wait, I’ll show you this picture.
You can’t make it up.
Yeah, cause I posted it on Facebook and everybody thought he was my brother, like literally my brother. We went to DC one time, me, Caleaf, Stretch, and Rameer. We all went to DC and hanged out with Puffy, P Diddy, that’s when P Diddy was dancing, we all danced together. So we went to DC and everybody was like “Yo Pete! Your song is dope!” And I’m “Yo who’s Pete?” And girls was coming up to me, “Oh, yo Pete, I loved your song!” I was like “I’m sorry, I’m not Pete.” “Fuck you! You know, it’s just a good song, you ain’t all that yet!” And people across the field, across the grass at Howard University “Yo whaddup Pete!” And I was like “Yo! Watch my back. Pete might have beef. Who the hell is Pete!?” So we come back home and we got to choreograph Heavy D, and we walk in the room, Heav’ says “Yo whaddup Pete.” And me, all at the same time, said “Who is Pete?” And we say to everything “Who is Pete?” And Heav turns around and said “Oh shit! You look just like my cousin. Woah! You look just like Pete.” “Yeah but who is Pete?” And he’s like “Pete Rock!” “Pete Rock The Creator?” He’s like “Yeah!” I was like “Word!?” And then his brother walked in, Grap, and Grap was like “Yo you look just like my brother.”
So everybody, so Dio, the manager of Heavy D, takes me to Pete’s office where Pete had his company. I had my baseball hat, same blue Yankee hat, and we go to the office and Dio says “Just sit there. Don’t say a word, don’t say nothin’.” Now there’s Pete’s brother there and Pete’s sister there, so I sit down on the same couch, I sit down and put my hat down, and his brother’s say “Yo Pete, you working today?” I don’t say a word, and his sister’s like “Pete, you good?” And she gets angrier, she’s like “It’s your fuckin’ company but don’t mean you gotta act like that towards us!” She’s like “Aight! We’ll talk later.” And then Pete walks in the room and he goes “Yo whaddup Link” and I was like “Yo whaddup Pete.” And his brother, literally turns to me, and say “Who the fuck are you!?” And I say “Aye, my name is Link.” He says “Yeah, I told y’all, there’s someone that looked exactly like me. He will confuse y’all.” And then his sister is like “What’s your father’s name?” I was like “It’s Henry.” “You sure his name ain’t Phillips!?” I’m like “I’m positive. It’s not.” And she’s like “I’m telling Mom.” So we have this problem but we good with each other.
You mentioned you used to work in a law office. How was that transition from working to just dancing?
Yeah, I had three jobs, no four. Well, where I worked at the law office, the boss was really cool, named Paul S. Merman. His son was an idiot, dick, sorry, but he was. Yeah, me and his son got into it, and his son fired me, and father rehired me and told his son to apologize. Yeah, his father was cool. Cause right after Diana Ross, I start my first video was an extra, on the scene of the video I went from an extra to a principal dancer. I didn’t know none of these of terms, “extra”, “principal”, none of these. When I asked Stretch, I was like “Yo Stretch, what’s a principal?” He said “Oh, you getting paid like us. You getting PAID.” I said “Word?” He said “Yeah. What you was getting before?” I was like “Oh, only $75.” He said “Now you gettin’ like $300.” “Word!?”
Cause the director was like “Yeah, you’re a principal dancer.” I was like “Okay, cool!” So, you know, my pay raise went up on the video set. That same director asked me to choreograph the next video. So, it was jobs coming back to back, back to back, back to back, like that for me. So, I kept having to take off work and the boss was like, he was cool, he’s like “Yeah, if this is what you want to do, it seems like this is really calling you for what you should be doing. So you should do it. But if it don’t go good, you could always come back here, you have a job here.” And I was like “Oh, thanks, thanks!” And I never went back, I never went back to work.
Any backlash from anyone?
EVERYONE. What? Anyone? Everyone. Literally, my mom was like “No! You gotta get a job! You gotta…” My grandmother wanted me to open a barbershop, cause before a lawyer, I was cutting hair, braiding, I was doing all of that. So she wanted me to open a barbershop, join the army, my mother wanted me to work for transit, and I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it like they saw it. So I just kept doing work and jobs, this job, that job, this job. Like when we tell people “Oh, you gotta pay dues”, people think like you do one battle, you pay the due. No. No, no, no, no, that’s not what we talking about. You gotta REALLY pay dues and a lot people think it’s a overnight sensation. No, it’s not, it’s a lot you gotta deal with, a lot you gotta put up with, and a lot you gotta lose, and they think it’s easy. So, you know, it’s not, at all.
How was that when you went to the “Remember the Time” video?
I believe Stretch told y’all this story. “Remember the Time” was the video that told me… you can do anything. It was the video that told me you can do anything because when I went to do that video, I was sick, I had the flu to the next level. I know what that pain is like, when your body is weak and you lift your arms and they hurt, and everything, yeah. I had the flu to that level, cause we didn’t go to the audition, we went to the callback, we crashed the callback, me and Loose Joint. So when we got there, I had to learn the routine on the spot, and mind you, the fever, the sweating, I’m coughing, nose running, eyes tearing, I was done! And every time I did the routine, not good. And see, that’s why I said people like to know y’all answers, y’all questions, so they “Mmm, I can’t answer this one.” Me, no, not good. So, Loose Joint turned to me, Stretch is walking like on the side of this wall and he’s walking back & forth, cause Stretch can’t pick me, he cannot. And he’s shaking his head, Loose Joint is sitting next to me, he’s like “Yo, you’re not gonna make it.” And I was like “Yeah, I know. I’m sick, but if you make it, you and Stretch is there, kill it, represent.” And he’s like “Yeah, aight, we will.” And then, while we sitting down and more people went & did the routine.
Out of nowhere, John Singleton goes “You know what!? I’m tired of seeing just the choreography. I want to see you solo, I want to see why you belong here. What’s the purpose of you being in this video!? I want to see why you belong here!?” Stretch is walking back & forth and Stretch goes and just throws up his hair. Loose Joint turns to me and goes “You made it! Yo, you made it! Yo, save all your energy for when you gotta KILL it when you gotta do solo.” And I was like “Yeah, sure.” So I’m in the back, we have 2 times to do it, so first row, it was Jossie Thacker and Travis Payne, who becomes Michael’s choreographer, main choreographer. So Jossie, Travis, Thacker, Big Lez (Leslie Segar), and me. So we doing the routine, boom, I’m holding energy, not doing it good it at all. I’m sloppy to the next level and then we gotta switch lines. We gotta solo, I don’t solo, I just sit & watch, stand, look at everybody. So we gotta switch lines, when we switch lines, now I’m in the front, so I’m like in the front like this and I’m looking directly at John Singleton, sitting at the desk. This part comes up, I pull every spit of energy I got, put my arms up, BAM! Like hard, BAM! Do the routine, much, WAY better! Much, much, much better, and when it came time to solo, I solo, and I stop everybody in the room from dancing. Jossie, Travis, Big Lez, everybody’s like, literally stopped, and just was watching, and John Singleton SLAMS his hands on the table and goes “God damn!” And his phone goes off, he picks up the phone, he runs out the room.
I pass out on the floor, like literally lay down and he’s like “You okay?” I was like “Yeah, I just need water, I just need water.” And I’m laying on the floor, EVERYBODY’s walking over like “Yo! Your solo was… Yo, you KILLED that! That solo was crazy!” John SIngleton runs directly over to me and he says “That was the sickest shit I ever seen in my life! That shit was crazy! Yo, I got ideas! I got ideas! I’ma connect your body to Michael Jackson’s body! Man, I got many ideas, I have many plans, and many things to do with you! Many! Yeah, yeah!” And then he’s “Hey, you okay?” And I was like “Yeah, I’m just sick. I have the flu, I’m sick.” And he’s like “Well, you gon’ get better? Get better cause I got ideas for you!” And after me, he left. So, when he’s telling me he got ideas for me, he gonna connect my body to Michael Jackson’s body, I was the first one to get picked out of 8,000 dancers and that’s a lot of people. But we don’t know yet that I’m picked but I already know cause John wanna do something with me and Michael, so I didn’t care, really, I really didn’t care if I was doing the routine in the video or anything, I’m doing something with Michael, solo, I was great. So I was like “Okay, cool.” Everyday I kept practicing, practicing, practicing, and when we got, the next day, well, the next day we went back to the rehearsal day.
Fatima said “If I say you ‘Skin’, you dancing with us, with Michael. If I say you ‘Shirt’, you somewhere in the video.” So she’s walking passed all the guys, and she was like “Okay, Shirt, Shirt, Shirt, Skin, Shirt, Skin, Skin, Shirt, Shirt.” She got to me and looked at me with a little smirk like “Skin… Shirt, Shirt.” And I was like “Okay. Oh, cool, cool.” But the look she gave me, it’s like she didn’t want to pick me but since what John said, she had no choice but to pick me. So, we doing the routine, she put me in the back, I was not in the front, nowhere near the front. It’s four rows, I was way in the back.
How did you know Fatima Robinson? Didn’t you introduce her to Stretch?
I knew Fatima since 1990 cause I had to go out there and choreograph a video, and I had to choreograph her and Tish (Tish Oliver) for the video, for Rich Nice. So I had to go into LA and I had to pick 2 girl dancers, I picked Tish and Fatima, and had to choreograph them for the video. From there, we kept in touch, kept it talking, and then when I met them again later, I introduced her to Stretch, and they got to start to talking and then that’s why she picked Stretch. So when we kept doing the routine, it was a part of the video where we turning and we slide, and our hands are out like this. That was not part of the routine, that was just part of me going to the toilet, going to get something to drink, like, every time we do the end-beginning of the routine, I would spin-turn, go get something to drink.
So there’s a guy named Frank Gaston (Frank Gaston Jr.), he says “Who is snappin’?” And it’s me in the back like this. He’s like “Come to the front. I wanna see whatchu doin’, why you keep snapping!?” And I was like “Okay.” And we do the routine, and as soon as it’s about to end, I spin off, snap, “Okay.” And I start to walk and he says “Aye Fatima… that was hot. You need to put that in the routine.” So, she, then “Okay, do it again.” I do it again and everybody’s like “You got, you got it? Yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody got it. Okay, everybody got it.” I’m starting to walk way in the back again. I look at Loose Joint, Loose Joint is waving, and I’m going “Ughh, I don’t belong back here, I belong in the lead, I don’t belong back here.” Another part comes, Fatima put this one move in there, I have a problem with shit being off-beat. If it’s not in sync, it’s not gonna feel right. So I’m sitting there trying to do, like when you see us do this, this wasn’t the move, it was some-like head-up thing, and I called it, I called it out.
So I’m practicing, she comes over and she says “Link! It goes like.” I said “Fatima, you can explain to me until the sky falls. If it don’t rhythmically sync up with me, it’s not gonna happen. I need to fix it with the music. I’ma get it, I get your move, I’ma get it.” So I’m still trying it, I’m still trying it, not getting it. It’s not, it’s like it’s rushing, and then you gotta rush back to get on beat, and I’m like “Ughh, ughh” and she’s about to come again. Stretch comes and get her, and heads her off, and he goes and grab her and take her away, and I’m like “Oh God.” So now, she comes again! And she’s yelling at me, and she’s like “Link! You gotta get it!” And I’m looking at her like she’s crazy, and she “The move fucking goes like” and she’s cursing and I’m looking at her like she’s really nuts. And she’s like “Yeah!” And I lose it. I was like “You know what!? This unicorn shit is wack! This unicorn shit right here is wack! Everybody here thinks so but they scared to tell you cause they scared to lose this job! Fuck this job! This shit is wack!” And Stretch says “Yo, so what you think we should do?” I said “Wouldn’t it be easier if we roll, roll, and clap, and done!” And everybody was like “Yeah, it works for me. It flows. It’s good. I’m cool.”
Cause when I said everybody thinks so, everybody turned around, nobody wanted to lose the job, so we put it in there and I go to the front and show everybody again. I’m walking away and Frank Gaston “Aye, aye, aye. Where you going?” I said “Oh, to my spot in the back.” And he said “Wait, wait, wait. Stretch, isn’t that your partner?” And Stretch says “Yeah.” Frank- “Why he in the back?” And Stretch goes “She put him back there.” And he says “Fatima, can I?” She says “Yes Frank. Um, hey you. You, you, you, go in the back, and you come here.” And I get in the front, to the front line, and I look at Loose Joint and he goes “Elite. Hey, welcome back. Nice to see you.” That’s how that video went and that’s the start of Elite Force, that said the word “Elite.” That video was the determination for me cause I always said, when I saw “Smooth Criminal”, I said that day I’m going to dance with Michael Jackson. I’m going to do a video with Michael Jackson. You know, any determination ever, was dancing with Michael Jackson.
Who was your favorite person that you ever danced for, as an artist?
My favorite person I ever danced for? Everyone.
So, you have 45 Years dancing, as a dancer with a wealth of knowledge / experiences, what will you and your peers do to keep this momentum going and help the youth seize these new opportunities you all worked hard for?
What I’ma do to help the youth? The newer generation?… Hmm, that’s a hard one. That’s like, got to be the hardest question ever. Reason I say that’s the hardest question ever, it’s hard to help somebody that don’t want to listen. That’s why I said it’s the hardest question ever, and it’s also hard to help somebody who only want to be famous. Cause you gotta tell them “What if you don’t get to that point that you wanted to be famous? What if you don’t win these battles?” My advice to any new generation is really figure out why you dance. What is the purpose for you to dance. Cause if everything taken away, will you still have that same fight and power and love, just to dance. Cause we danced cause we just wanted to dance.
We lived in a club, without work. We went to the club almost a month, 3 months straight everyday. Our routine was go to work, go to sleep, go to the club, go to work, go to sleep, go to the club, go to work, go to sleep, go to the beach, have a BBQ, go home, shower, go to work. That was our routine and it was never about being popular, never about chasing the job, it was never that. It was just that we was loving to dance with each other and getting together with each other. So I tell them, my advice to them is to figure out why you dance because if that’s your goal to be popular? You don’t get there, you’re heartbroken. You gon’ feel like you ain’t shit, you wasn’t worth it. That’s my advice.
It’s hard finding individuals like that in this day and age
No, no, it’s hard. I had to school Fire Lock one day cause he lost the battle and BAM, and he was pissed! And I was like “Yo, where you goin’?” He’s like “Yo, I’m going back to the hotel.” I’m like “Why?” He’s like “Yeah, cause, yo, I lost. I’m pissed!” I said “Yeah?” He said “Yeah.” I tapped him and I said “Then you lost before you got here.” And he’s like “What?” And I said “Yeah, you lost before you got here. Look back in the room, and when you look back in the room, everybody’s having a ball and enjoying it. You came for the win, you lost before you got here. There’s your win! How many people in there, dancing, and vibing, and learning from each other. You going back to the room to talk to who?” “Shit, you’re right.” See, that’s my advice to them, figure out why. Cause if all this shit goes away, will you still dance? Remember, I told you I worked and I danced everyday.
It was never about being in Juste Debout, I didn’t think about Juste Debout because there was no Juste Debout. We went on tour with artists, we went to the club without the artists. You got to think about it, why you dance, and I asked one guy in Germany, cause he said “ I want you to mentor me. I want you to, you know, be my mentor and, you know, school me, and teach me about dancing.” I said “Yeah, sure, no problem. But before I do that, I got a question to ask you.” And he’s like “What?” And I said “If there was no Juste Debout, you couldn’t do Juste Debout, there’s no Juste Debout, there’s no Funky Styles, there’s no I.B.E., there’s no dance camps, there’s no teaching class, there’s no traveling to other countries, battle guest, there’s none of this, no movies, no nothing. Would you still dance?” And he said “Hmm, not so much.” And I said “I can’t teach you. I can’t mentor you.” See, his only thing was to be popular.