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Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop…

Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York

by Joseph G. Schloss

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Extremely readable, absorbing, exciting, and interesting.

I picked this book up in the library at work - always interested to see an actual readable-by-non-academic book there - and tore my way through it in short order. The author develops his thesis about the history, nature, and philosophies of b-boying (what outsiders would think of as breakdancing) in a solid but still lively and understandable way.

(One little quibble that I did have - this book is billed as studying "hip-hop culture". No doubt this is the favoured term, but oh how I wish it had been "hip-hop-ology".)*

* R says this should be "hip-hology" in line with "the disposable heroes of hiphoprisy" but I like my version more better.

The style that the book's written in is great - the academic bits are very well explained and not at all off-putting with cultural studies jargon (he quotes some bits from other authors which you can barely get through, and his own writing is a clear contrast, though that's not why he quotes those bits). He also includes a lot of quotes from his interviewees - "significant figures" of b-boying and b-girling - and enough photos to bring those people to life visually as well as verbally.

There were some specific connections that I was particularly interested in. One was the obvious link to capoeira - which isn't something I know a huge amount about but feel some Brazilian national pride in seeing mentioned or linked to as part of a wider "Afro-diaspora". There's not a huge discussion of capoeira in this book, but it is clearly linked as one of a range of activities that appear in the cross-over between martial arts and dance in the African diaspora.

Another thing I was very interested in was how Schloss writes about a community or subculture that he is involved in but also studying academically. Mostly what I noticed was how good & thorough he was in quoting lots of his interviewees, as mentioned above. Those interviewee quotes are particularly important because Schloss is claiming that b-boying is "a deeply traditional and profoundly expressive art form that has been passed down from teacher to student for almost four decades" - and the wealth of comment in the interviews are a big part of establishing that as a reasonable, or in fact a strongly-supported, claim. In their own words, participants express the importance of tradition and keeping links with the early days ("back in the day") and of the philosophies around their actions. It's not some academic coming from outside and interpreting the "noble savage", it's the individuals and the communities involved showing their own deeply-held and thoroughly-transmitted thoughts and ideas. This is important because it helps to push aside the idea one might have that it is the academy's gaze itself that gives value to b-boying and hip-hop culture.

There's an author blog with extras, including various embedded YouTube videos that you can marvel at. As part of the further reading-type experience I can also recommend getting hold of the canonical b-boy tracks if you don't already have them:
* Incredible Bongo Band, Apache
* The Jimmy Castor Bunch, It's Just Begun
* James Brown, Give It Up Or Turnit a Loose
* Babe Ruth, The Mexican ( )
  comixminx | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 019533406X, Paperback)

B-boying is a form of Afro-diasporic competitive dance that developed in the Bronx, NY in the early 1970s. Widely--though incorrectly--known as "breakdancing," it is often dismissed as urban acrobatics set to music. In reality, b-boying is a traditional and profoundly expressive art form. Some b-boys display their skill at "popping"--rapid movements followed by short freezes. In Foundation, Joseph G. Schloss walks you through the history of b-boying and his personal relationship to the music and the artists who bring hip hop to life.

Meet the B-boys and B-girls of New York's Hip Hop Scene

B-boy and Popper, Geomatrix
relaxing in the South Bronx

Tiny Love popping in Union Square, NY
with boomboxes from his collection

Dancer and teacher, SeoulSonyk, a.k.a. MiRi Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:51 -0400)

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