Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.
Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, where we explore the ways music makes our lives better. We are starting to hear more about next summer’s Olympics. And as a child of the 80s, I was really intrigued when I first heard that breakdancing or breaking was going to be an Olympic sport at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Breaking exploded in popularity in the 80s, but it’s also had a resurgence recently and is more popular than ever. I’m thrilled to have today’s guest with us to tell us about Breaking’s journey to the Olympics. London Reyes, also known as B-Boy London, is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Hip-Hop exhibit. London began his entertainment career as a member of the New York City Breakers in the early 1980s, and his career has fused urban entertainment with the sports world. His experiences have included television and film work, hosting professional basketball events, running a non-profit for underprivileged youth, running for political office, and managing the internationally famous New York City breakers. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, London.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:01:13] Hi, Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure. It’s an honor. And I’m looking forward to this.
Mindy Peterson: [00:01:17] Well, I’m thrilled to have you here. Tell us about Breaking’s journey to being recognized as an Olympic sport. When and how did this process start of inclusion in the Olympics?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:01:29] Woof. So let, let, let let’s let’s take it back way back, back into time. So what happens is, is that we have to start from the very beginning. Like what is the actual seed that’s planted that allowed this to grow into something that took over the world? What I realized is that this really takes place back in the 1900s, 1898, when the Spanish-American War takes place and America goes under the pretext that they would free Puerto Rico and allowed them to be an independent country. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out and they become a territory of the United States. And this is what leads to the Great Migration, where Puerto Ricans come and migrate to New York City, specifically the Bronx, Brooklyn, Spanish Harlem. And in this time, this is like the 40s and the 50s. All of these Puerto Ricans that come from the island that come into the Bronx, because that’s where I’m from. They kind of take over and they becomes like little Puerto Rico. They bring their culture with them the music, clothing, food. And what happens is, is that like every other ethnic group, whether you’re Italian, Irish, Puerto Rican, Dominican, you’re going to go through some growing pains. So they, through the Puerto Ricans in the projects with the African Americans. And that’s where everything starts to co-mingle. That’s where you start the blending. And when you start to blend those cultures together, something came out of that that was called Latin soul. So my grandparents didn’t speak any English. My parents spoke both English and Spanish.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:03:07] Us kids wanted to get away from the Spanish. And because we were in New York living that New York lifestyle, in that culture, we added that New York flavor to what was happening. And this is where the rock dance, some people call it Uprocking, some people call it Brooklyn rocking, but it’s really called a rock dance. And that was done mostly to rock music. So everything in those early 70s, late 60s was really like Sly and the Family Stone, you know, that’s like progressive rock. There’s Jimi Hendrix, you know, everything was about the rock, Rock that person rock the party, rock the floor, rock the house. Now. Somebody starts doing the rock dance and they touch the floor and they get back up. Eventually somebody just stays on the floor. So now when someone touches the floor and then someone decides, you know what, I’m going to stay on the floor. But that mentality is still there. I want to burn my opponent. I want to disrespect them. So as they’re staying on the floor, that creates a whole new dance which is now called breaking. And with breaking, you’re not supposed to technically do flips. You’re not supposed to do spins. So my group, the New York City Breakers, as we start to add head spins and windmills and backspins and flips and add all this acrobatic, crazy stuff that people were like, Whoa. People will make fun of us. Oh, you guys are not breaking. You’re not B-boys. You’re gymnasts. Okay.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:04:44] And we embraced it. Okay. Well, gymnasts. So in 1983, there was an interview where one of our members, action, Chino Lopez, is speaking and he says, We, the New York City breakers, challenged the 1984 gold medal American gymnastics team to a competition on the floor routine. Oh, wow. That was the first time that that connection was made. Then we take a picture that states I’m going to try to say it off the top of my head. We, the New York City breakers, see the Olympic Games as our future. We see breaking as the future Olympic sport and ourselves as pioneers in making this dream a reality. Now, we all signed that. There’s a photo.
Mindy Peterson: [00:05:36] That was back in the 80s?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:05:38] That’s dated 1-15-1984.
Mindy Peterson: [00:05:42] Wow. So this challenge to the Olympic gymnastics team, did that come to fruition? Did you actually have this challenge?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:05:50] No, I don’t think they wanted to be embarrassed by a bunch of street kids. You know, you spend like ten years of your life training, eating Wheaties, you know, chomping down gold medals, and then you’re going to lose a competition to some 15 year old kid. No, I don’t think.
Mindy Peterson: [00:06:07] So. What happened between 1984 and 2024 when this will actually happen?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:06:13] So what happens is, is that, you know, in my view, you know, there were a few things that opened up the door. You know, obviously the movie Beat Street, that’s probably like the Bible for all B-boys. Flashdance, which featured some of the members from Rocksteady. Krush Groove. There’s Wildstyle. So there’s a few things. But in my opinion, the thing that really opened up the floodgates was the performance for Katherine Dunham in Washington, D.C. Every year they do the Kennedy Center’s honors and they honor a historic, monumental American super duper pioneer. And that year, they were honoring a phenomenal dancer named Katherine Dunham. And they invited the New York City breakers to do a performance in her honor. And at that performance, Ronald Reagan was present. And that what people need to understand is that when we go to D.C., the New York City breakers we’re performing for, not the 1%. We’re performing for the 1% of the 1%, the elite of the elite. This is the super elite. These are the people that are really running the world, not even the country. So now when they see this, this is, you know, 83. This is something unheard of. And in the footage, you see it like Ronald Reagan is like, whoa, hey, you know, I mean, it’s just everybody standing ovation. Wow. Standing ovation. It’s covered all over the world. So that to me is what really opens the door to America saying, well, maybe this is not a fad. Maybe this is something serious. We still think it’s a fad, but we’re not sure. But man, if they can get up here, well, maybe this is something more to it.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:58] Yeah, it really catapulted the exposure of breaking to the country, to the world, and really gave it a lot of legitimacy to people who weren’t familiar with it already.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:08:09] Oh, absolutely. Not to mention that, you know, to me, it saved millions of lives, including myself. You know, people need to understand what’s happening. We’re in the 70s. The Bronx is burning. It’s a war zone. Drugs, gangs. There are photos. And I lived through this where you can go two, three blocks and there’s nothing there. It’s like a war zone. This is this is what we’re going through. So us kids were a bunch of nobodies. We’re flying under the radar. We have no respect. There’s no love. We come from dysfunctional families. Backgrounds don’t have the greatest education. So now. A bunch of us kids find this art form and we gravitate to it because it makes us feel special. It makes me feel like I’m a somebody. I’m not a nobody. I’m a somebody. And I know I’m a somebody. Because when I get in that circle and I dance and I’m finished, they clap for me like they love me. And I love that feeling. I love feeling loved. And it becomes an addiction. And then you want to feel it again and again and again and again. So at one point, this is all you’re thinking about. And that’s what happened. It was the breakers that made people say, Whoa, what are they doing? Whoa, Yo, get the cameras. Let’s record this. Whoa. What is this guy doing with the record? He’s scratching it. He’s messing it up. Oh, no, that’s. That’s a technique. Oh. Oh, this guy rhyming. What? So it opened up everything. It saved lives, and it became an economic engine that now is the number one economic force on the planet.
Mindy Peterson: [00:09:52] Is it really?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:09:53] There’s nothing that generates more money than hip hop? Nothing.
Mindy Peterson: [00:09:56] Wow. Oh, wow.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:09:57] Well, maybe the government, when they collect the taxes, maybe that generates more money.
Mindy Peterson: [00:10:02] Well, you’ve mentioned a few times the art of breaking. And it really is an art and it’s also a sport. And your whole career is sort of fuse those and blended those two things. So bring us back to that time period between 84 and 2024, a year from now as we’re recording this, how did this art form slash sport become seen as an Olympic sport?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:10:30] So what happens is in the 80s, we’re promoting all of this trying to say like, Hey, this is going to be an Olympic sport. Everybody’s like, okay, whatever. Now we retire, I go to college, I get married, come back, start working for Michael Bloomberg, become his production manager. And then out of the blue, I get a call in the early 90s, mid 90s. We should try to get back together. I’m like, Are you crazy? I’m married, I got kids, I got a mortgage breaking. Like, come on, we’re not 15 anymore. Come on, Older bones. Right, right. You know, but long story short, I was convinced. So I call up the old members, bring them all back together, dust off the cobwebs, and now we start getting back into saying, okay, let’s finish what we started. So what happens is, is I create a three day hip hop conference and I call it back to Mecca. New York City is the Mecca of hip hop culture. So if you’re really a hip hop person, then at least once in your lifetime, you have to come to New York City and pay homage to all these pioneers and look at all the future stars that are about to come up. And it went out. It turned out to be a historic event. And in this process, the argument comes up again Why are you guys doing windmills and head spins? That’s not breaking. Y’all are gymnasts. Okay. So let’s take it to that next level. So we kept promoting, we kept talking about it. We kept reminding people about our history. Hey, we’re the New York City breakers. We’re the ones that said this is going to be an Olympic sport. We’re the ones that did B Street. We’re the ones that did the first hip hop TV show. We’re the ones that performed for Ronald Reagan in 1985 for his inaugural gala. We’re the ones that danced Ben Vereen. You know, we’re the ones that and then people started to respond and listen. So all these publications came to New York to cover this because.
Mindy Peterson: [00:12:20] This is mid 90s?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:12:21] This is 1998, September 1998. And now the scene has changed. Before 1998, breaking in New York really didn’t exist. There was a handful of people doing it. There were street hitters, performers that in the subways that were still doing it. But for the most part, it wasn’t like in the early 80s where every block, every corner you can go to, you see somebody dancing. It was pretty much like a ghost town. And so I felt like, how do we rebuild this? How do we get this thing going? So I said to myself, We got to have schools. We got to start teaching. We got to recruit like young people. We have to do events. We have to educate. So I started putting things together, shows. I started teaching at Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, holding open practices, and then eventually put together back to Mecca, had the award show, had a fashion show, had breaking competitions and all that footage that I recorded from back then, I showed somebody recently and they just about fainted because a lot of those people in that footage are the people that are on the Olympic team, whether they’re coaches, participants, organizers like these are all the big people, and I have them all when they were little kids competing when they first started.
Mindy Peterson: [00:13:36] Wow. So that 1998 was really a turning point for breaking. And would you say that’s sort of the start of the resurgence?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:13:44] I would say really what happens is, is that when breaking starts to die out, I’d say in 86, it’s already on its last legs. But in Europe it’s exploding and we don’t know it because we’re not dancing anymore. We’re not involved. So it’s exploding in Europe like like like it was in the early 80s in New York. Every corner, everywhere you go, it’s a phenomenon in Europe. Then on the West Coast, in La, California, they’re killing it over there. So in California, on the West Coast, they’re killing it. In Europe, they’re dominating like they’re they are the machine in Europe. They’re doing events, breaking events, and they’re pulling in like. To 3000 people.
Mindy Peterson: [00:14:28] Okay. And this is pre-Internet. And so people in New York weren’t necessarily aware of what was going on. Right. Yeah. Other parts of the world are even on the other side of our country. Yeah. So it’s kind of spreading then throughout the world in popularity and just people becoming aware of it too, throughout the rest of the 80s early 90s. And then 98 is when it sort of resurged in popularity in New York.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:14:53] Well, almost; what happens is, is that in about 93, there’s a European guy named Storm. He is a phenomenal dancer. He comes to New York thinking that breaking is big like it is in Europe. He comes here and finds out there’s nobody dancing. It’s a ghost town. It’s a handful of people. So he’s like, Holy snap, What happened? I thought it was going to be like Beach Street. Everybody’s dancing. I see these movies, I see the videos. Like I’m thinking like. So he stunned. He runs into a couple of people that are that are dancing to make money in the street. They’re called street hitters. And he links up with them and he starts practicing with them and then they start taking them around to some of the old school people. And then that’s really, in my opinion, what starts the resurgence in New York, because what happens now is that now we wake up like, what? You guys are still dancing over there. Wait, wait.
Mindy Peterson: [00:15:48] This is huge.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:15:49] We were shocked. And they were like, Yeah, but it’s not not just in Europe. In California, it’s big, too. I’m like, Really? So I started making phone calls and sure enough, they were right. So now we start getting back into shape 93, 94, 95, we start performing. We put together back to Mecca, and then that’s when the Europeans come out, the French come out, the Germans come out, the Americans come out. I have five, six international articles covering the event pictures. And then from that point on, it’s in my opinion, the scene change because in 1998 there was like pre back to Mecca. It was wack, weak at best. Okay. Then after back to Mecca, it seemed like the scene exploded. So I think that the resurgence started between I would say the meat of this is from 95 to 2005. Those dancers from 95 to 2005 are the reason why it’s going to the Olympics, because those were the kids that were up and coming that turned out to take this dance to a whole new level. In particular, a guy named Kamal and a guy named El Nino. Those two in particular took this off form. It’s a whole different level. They are now considered super legends and will always be regarded as two of the all time greatest ever to do this.
Mindy Peterson: [00:17:17] Wow. So we have the early 80s where breaking takes off and explodes in New York City. Then we have sort of mid 80s to mid 90s where it’s weakening in New York City in terms of the involvement, but it’s exploding in other parts of the country and other parts of the world. And then 95 to 2005 is really where there’s this resurgence that lays the ground for the Olympics.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:17:41] Right? Because what happens is after I do back to Mecca, there’s like three other promoters, organizers that are doing something similar. And what happens is, is that now corporate America starts to take interest. They’re not investing yet, but they’re looking okay. So now they see that breaking has a cult following. And when people do these events, they’re pulling in thousands. And when they do stuff in Europe, they’re pulling in tens of thousands. So they reach out. They said, you know what? Let’s try it. Let’s try it. I don’t know if it’s going to work. Let’s try something. Okay. So they said, let’s work with the little kids. We’re going to say the Junior Olympics.
Mindy Peterson: [00:18:17] Okay.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:18:18] All those little kids participated in trying to be a part of the Olympic program. Unfortunately, the Americans were not included because, again, the arrogance we started here, we don’t have to do the paperwork. We’re there. You know, like that. You can’t do it without us. Well, guess what happened. They did it without us.
Mindy Peterson: [00:18:37] Okay.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:18:38] So that’s and I tell people that goes to show you that even though this started in New York, even though this is an American product, American culture, look, they did it without us. So don’t think that now that’s it’s for the adults. Now it’s a quote unquote official that they can do the Olympics. They can do the Olympics without the New York City breakers, even though it was our idea.
Mindy Peterson: [00:19:03] So when did when did breaking become a part of the Junior Olympics?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:19:07] Four years ago. I guess it’s the first time they did it. And then that worked out very, very well. So then they said, All right, let’s step it up. Let’s make it now official. And this is going to be the 2024 games. It’ll be the first time that people will get to compete on a world stage. Every country, anybody for a gold medal. And. Breaking category of the Olympics.
Mindy Peterson: [00:19:28] Okay. So let’s back up just a little bit to the Junior Olympics, because I’m still interested in how that leap was made to include breaking, starting with a junior Olympics. Was that the International Olympic Committee, that sort of their attention was caught by the popularity of breaking.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:19:44] So this whole thing is kind of like a little bit confusing in a sense, right? Because what happens is, is that the IOC, the USA dance, like you see again, we don’t have it together. We’re not organized.
Mindy Peterson: [00:20:00] When you say we, are you talking about the IOC?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:20:04] I’m talking about the breaking community.
Mindy Peterson: [00:20:05] The breaking community. Got it.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:20:06] Right, because I personally feel that you cannot be looked upon as a credible organization if you do not include the people that came up with the concept and the idea and promoted it and not have them involved.
Mindy Peterson: [00:20:28] Well, that goes back to the fact that respect is such a core element of hip hop and hip hop culture. Would you agree?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:20:36] No question about it. But when it comes to money, it changes everything.
Mindy Peterson: [00:20:40] Okay. The popularity of breaking caught the attention of the IOC enough that they were motivated to include it in the Junior Olympics like four years ago.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:20:49] Right. And they wanted to try to get together with an organization that kind of had this together. And what they found out was that there were three organizations that were non-profits that were applying to get the status so that they can get the funding and start the training and start to build up these events to get these people qualified. Unfortunately, none of these organizations met the criteria that the IOC was looking for. So what they did was they went and brought in a company called USA Dance, which do the ballroom dancing, tap and tango and stuff like that.
Mindy Peterson: [00:21:26] And what criteria did the IOC have that these other organizations weren’t meeting?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:21:32] I’m not sure, because, you know, now you’re talking about they have to meet like certain monies, practice facilities, like it’s all like a whole, you know, now you’re getting into the weeds because now it’s, you know, it’s like a whole bunch of things. How many hours can someone, you know, it’s like a whole bunch of stuff. Okay. But at the end of the day, you know, it’s like, think of it like this. You want to open up a charter school and there’s certain procedures and protocols and certain things that you have to do. Well, none of these organizations were meeting those criteria, so they were not going to release any real funding.
Mindy Peterson: [00:22:03] So now they turned to USA Dance and did that sort of become an overarching umbrella that could encompass breaking?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:22:11] Well, that set a fire in the community because all of the B-boys, my phone started ringing off the hook like, yeah, we can’t let these outsiders come take over. They don’t know what this is. So it became like a war, kind of sort of like. And I think at the end of the day, there’s a misunderstanding because I feel like these companies are trying to find the answers and are trying to find people they can work with because they don’t really know and they’re going to keep trying. But if they don’t run into the right people, then you’re going to keep bumping your head into the wall. And that’s what I feel is happening. And then, of course, you got politics right. So if I’m not billed as the first, then I may not be able to work as much. So even though I might be the second, I’m going to say I’m the first because I want to work and the guy who’s really before me, I’m not going to talk about him. I’m going to put him in a closet because if he comes out, they might hire him instead of me. So there’s a lot of things that go on, you know, jealousy, envy, money, prestige, position. So you have to go through and fight through all of that stuff. Again, this is still very early, even though we’ve been talking about this since 81, 82 or whatever. But this is still young. There are no real rules there still. It’s not it’s not really set in concrete yet.
Mindy Peterson: [00:23:25] So it’s sort of like a beta test run, right?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:23:30] Right. It’s clay. We’re molding it and we’re trying to figure out what’s going to work, How is this going to work? Why is it going to work? We’re trying to figure those things out.
Mindy Peterson: [00:23:40] And as part of that, I think there isn’t actually like a Team USA, is it? Just one man, one woman and maybe a backup who are eligible to compete from each country.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:23:51] So yeah, I believe the way it works is it’s going to be, I think, five in total, but ultimately one one male, one female.
Mindy Peterson: [00:23:59] And from each country.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:24:02] Yes. Right. And then you have to go through a series of events to qualify because you’re on a point system. So you have to generate enough points to to have your ranking. And then let’s say you rank in the top, I don’t know, maybe six, then those are the six that are going to compete for the 4 or 5 open spots. So let’s just say for argument’s sake, everybody that scores a thousand plus, we’ll be able to. And then from that, we’re going to select our four or possibly five members to be on the team of which only two will actually compete.
Mindy Peterson: [00:24:36] Okay. And I want to talk some more about that. But first, I just want to circle back and kind of close out what we were talking about. So Junior Olympics happens because organizers attention is caught by the popularity of breaking with the younger community. Their attention is probably caught by some of the corporate funding that’s starting to be poured into breaking. And I’ve got to believe that breaking is really inexpensive to add to the Olympics and just to produce. I mean, you think about some of these other Olympic sports, it’s really a big production to come up with luge runs and ice skating rinks and all of that stuff. I’ve got to believe breaking is pretty inexpensive.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:25:18] You hit the nail on the head. I mean, think about it. What do breakers really need? It’s not like they need and as you…
Mindy Peterson: [00:25:24] A box to, you know, to play the music.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:25:27] A wooden floor or just a smooth surface space. That’s it. What do we need? We don’t need helmets. We don’t need shoulder pads. We don’t need baseball pads.
Mindy Peterson: [00:25:36] Right.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:25:37] This is the most this is the most less. There’s nothing to spend. What are you spending money on? Shorts.
Mindy Peterson: [00:25:46] The breaking community is probably way more low maintenance than some of these other elite athletes in terms of their personal chefs and their personal like mental trainers, mental psychological coaches. And, you know, I imagine they’re pretty low maintenance in terms of that, too.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:26:05] It’s embarrassing, to be honest with you, because it’s like, you know, when you when you really look at it, you know, it gets me a little see, there are a lot of B-boys that are not happy about this being an Olympic sport for 1 or 2 reasons. Number one, they don’t feel like it’s a sport, period.
Mindy Peterson: [00:26:21] So they view their talents more as art than sport. Correct?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:26:27] They hate the fact that it’s a sport. And I disagree with that.
Mindy Peterson: [00:26:31] Probably one reason, too, that it took so long to become an Olympic sport is within the community. There’s mixed opinions and emotions and feelings about whether it should be included or not.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:26:41] Yeah, but I think it’s more that it’s a street art form. It’s not credible in their eyes. You know, if it was ballet or modern or tap, then yeah, they would jump on it. But because it’s a hood rat South Bronx culture, who wants that?
Mindy Peterson: [00:26:54] But you can’t watch somebody breaking without being struck by the athleticism that’s involved. I mean, I watch those. I watch people, you know, YouTube videos or whatever, and I’m like, my wrists hurt just watching what they’re doing. I mean, there’s so much athleticism involved in it, but it’s it’s completely an art form also, see?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:27:15] And, you know, so that’s what’s interesting, right? Because to me, again, I cannot say this enough. We are being teased because they’re saying that we’re not dancing, we’re just doing tricks and spins. But look what got us into the Olympics, the tricks, the spins that we advocated for. Right? Yeah.
Mindy Peterson: [00:27:37] A little vindication there.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:27:40] So, like, you can’t come back 40 years later after disrespecting us and the fact that it’s a sport and the fact that we feel like it could be part of the Olympics and then say, Oh, yeah, we want to be a part of it after we make fun of you all these years and thought that it was wack and thought that you guys don’t know what you’re doing, it’s not. And now you want to be a part of it. I mean, cool. But let’s, let’s, let’s make sure that we tell the story accurately, sir.
Mindy Peterson: [00:28:03] Well, there’s a lot more complexity to this whole process of breaking becoming an Olympic sport than what I realized. I mean, you’re talking about politics and money and attention and popularity, corporate funding. You know, there’s so many different pieces that go into it and just hip hop culture and and their opinions and perspectives on if it’s sport, if it’s art, is our culture going to be taken away if this gets pushed into the sports box? I imagine so. There’s there’s really a lot of layers there.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:28:36] Sure. That’s what’s happening. So the music. Right. Look at the music when you go to these events that Red Bull produces, they don’t play real music because they don’t want to pay for the for the publishing, I guess, or for the marketing or whatever it is. They have to pay for it. So they don’t want to do that. So they rather pay a DJ to come up with a bunch of produced beats. Like no music just beats, you know, boom, boom, bop, bop, boom, boom, bop. Just like the beats. Rhythm. There’s no bass line. It’s just, you know, so the music is not the same. So a lot of today’s B-boys are like, the music is wack. So this is what I’m saying. So you have to do this and blend the culture and the sport together. It can’t be 100% sport and it can’t be 100% culture. There has to be a blend. And. To me. What I try to explain to people is when I started coaching basketball, that’s when I realized basketball in New York is a culture. These parents, these kids, these trainers, the whole it’s from the time you’re a little kid, you go into a system until the time you get to the NBA or college or you do something else with your life. They eat basketball, they drink basketball, they dress, they walk. They do everything different than everybody else because they’re in their own bubble. They’re in their own world, and they take it like a religion. It’s serious, like sometimes violent, serious. So when I saw that, I said, Man, this is like breaking like they really take this. This is a culture. It’s a way of life. So if basketball is a culture in New York, then how the heck is breaking not a sport? You could be both. You could be a sport and it could be art, a culture, because that’s what basketball is. So when I started making that argument, people began to more warm up because New York knows basketball. They know it’s a culture. So when I made that argument, it clicked like, Oh, okay.
Mindy Peterson: [00:30:27] Well, you touched on the role of music in breaking. Tell us some more about the role that music plays in breaking and what kind of music is being used now. It sounds like that’s changed.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:30:37] Well, think about it. In the beginning, all we did was dance to funk grooves, disco grooves and rock grooves for the most part. And then when the 80s come. Now rapping is becoming popular, right? 1979, they released the first rap record and then, you know, 80, 81 comes. Now we’re not dancing just to funk, rock and soul. Now we’re also dancing to rap. And now we’re getting away from more of the disco sound. Disco is a huge part of hip hop, not just soul and not just Latin. It’s all hip hop is everything. It took everything and mashed it together like a soup. We took the onions, the peppers, the potatoes, the cat. We put everything in and it tastes all right to me. And in fact, everybody likes this soup. So much so that this soup is the number one selling soup in the world now. So that’s how I see it. You know.
Mindy Peterson: [00:31:37] Would you say that the dominant form of music that’s being used today for breaking is more the beatboxing or is it hip hop music? Or how would you describe the music that’s most dominant now?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:31:48] I think it’s still being figured out because if you go to like a club, then they’re going to play the music. If you go to an event that’s sanctioned by like the Olympic Committee or something like that, then you’re going to get the kick and the snare. You’re not going to get those real beats unless they change their policy. And now they’re going to put money towards the music element. And think about it, you know, the Olympics, they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a team, on a sport or whatever it is that they’re doing. That’s part of this whole thing. You’re telling me you don’t need that much money for breaking again, even if the rights to use some of these music, you had to pay for it. It’s still going to be cheaper than any other sport that you’re going to be involved in because we don’t need anything.
Mindy Peterson: [00:32:30] Well, I would think there would be a really big difference between breaking to beatboxing and breaking to more what we traditionally consider music, because there’s such an improv element to breaking. And so really the music is kind of a source of inspiration. It’s just the breakers interpreting the music through their movements and kind of incorporating elements of the music into the dance, whether they’re hitting accents or, you know, things like that. So am I wrong that that would be a really big difference to try to improv and have these battles and competitions to beatboxing versus more of a what would consider traditional music?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:33:12] I would say yes. But you know, again, you know, it’s the power structure, right? So one of the things is we’ve lost the B-Boy community has lost control of its own product because we don’t have the money. How am I going to compete against Red Bull if they’re going to spend $100,000 on a one day event? How can I compete with that? Right. So they’re going to set the rules.
Mindy Peterson: [00:33:33] Yeah. Earlier on you were mentioning the qualifications for the Olympic team for each country. Is that primarily determined by a breaking competition or is it like a series of dance battles or is it some other way that people qualify?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:33:49] Yeah. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say ten events throughout the whole entire year. And after those ten events, they’re going to have who has the most points and they’re going to rank them from one to whatever.
Mindy Peterson: [00:34:01] Okay.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:34:01] And then that’s how you’re going to determine who’s going to eventually be part of the breaking team.
Mindy Peterson: [00:34:05] Well, if listeners want to learn more about breaking, maybe they want to try it and get started. If they’ve never tried it before, what would you recommend for them to learn more and dip their toe in?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:34:16] Well, I guess it depends on where you’re at, you know, because now it’s a worldwide. So, you know, you have a lot of great dancers throughout the United States, from California to New York. From Florida to Chicago. I think that ultimately, depending on where you live, I would just through social media, look at the events. See what events are happening in your area, and start going to these events and look to see who’s involved. Who are the organizers? Who are the dancers competing? You know, start to get to know your area surroundings. So if I’m in New York, I’m looking at New Jersey, New York, Connecticut. Is anything happening? If I’m in California, I’m looking at LA, Oakland, San Diego, you know, so you have to get involved and see who’s doing what and then just participate. Even if you’re just there as a spectator, you know, just come and watch, take a look, see what’s happening, see what you like, what you don’t like. And then, you know, you want to build relationships, network, meet people, interview people, go to some of their classes, go to some of their things, get a feel for what works. Just like in any sport. I like this basketball league. I don’t like this basketball league. I want to put them in this baseball team. You know, you have to figure all those things out. You know, some kids gravitate to people that are disciplinarians and some people gravitate to people that are more open minded and more free spirited. You have to find out what mixes well with your child.
Mindy Peterson: [00:35:35] Yeah.
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:35:36] And then you go full speed ahead. And hopefully these programs will include some type of educational platform to help kids with after school homework and things like that. And hopefully they can educate them on what they the intake, you know, So like, you know, maybe instead of drinking a Red Bull energy drink, you know, maybe you could take a superfood shake with all the proper nutrients and and things that you need. You know, maybe we put the Big Mac down and, you know, you know, like just certain things that, you know, I mean, America is the fattest overweight country in the planet, you know. So maybe we could address some of that obesity. Like, there’s some really good things that we can do. But you have to really put thought behind what you’re doing right.
Mindy Peterson: [00:36:21] For listeners who are really excited about Breaking’s inclusion in the Olympics, how can they help support the sport and keep it as an Olympic sport and take it to that next step where eventually we do have Team USA rather than just 2 or 3 people representing each country?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:36:38] I think that for this year’s Olympics, next year’s Olympics in Paris, that’s already a done deal. I think that moving forward, what we want to do is the Olympics after Paris will be in LA. So in five years it’ll all be in America. And if we don’t get it together by then, then we have no one to blame but ourselves at that point. You know, we just need to move on. If you can’t get it right in your own backyard and you got four years from now, technically five, but you got four years and it’s in your backyard and you still can’t get it together, then at that point, you know, let’s just give it up and just, you know, just just be along for the ride. I think what you can do is go to as many events as possible, get involved with the organizers, see how they’re doing things, because ultimately, I think that most businesses want to be involved and want to be helpful. They just don’t know how. So they’re going to take gambles with people that are deemed credible.
Mindy Peterson: [00:37:40] Well, I want to hear about something that’s called Breaking Week. Can you tell us about that? I was told I need to make sure I talk to you about this. So fill us in. What’s breaking week?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:37:51] Yes, breaking week. So this is I’m excited about this because I’m working with a group of people that I’m very happy to be with. We click well and, you know, we were brainstorming and we decided, you know, rather than do these events, which we still want to do, every sport has a week where they train, they celebrate, they educate whatever it is. I don’t care if it’s lacrosse, I don’t care if it’s baseball, basketball, whatever. We don’t have that in breaking. So let’s see if we can get all of these promoters and dancers to collectively come together. We want to grow the product. It doesn’t matter if you agree with us 100% or 50%. What we want to do is we want to say this is a beautiful thing. We want more people involved. The more people are involved, the more education, the more of everything. So we want to do workshops, we want to do competitions, we want to do everything. Include the pioneers include the parents, include the new people. Coming up, we want to teach you how to do better business, what to look for, what to avoid. Again, we don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to bring people that hopefully have these answers.
Mindy Peterson: [00:38:59] So when is Breaking Week?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:39:01] Woo! That’s going to be October 1 to 7. You know, so it’s going to be nice. We’re going to have a lot of different organizations, a lot of different boards that we’re going to have awards show. And you don’t have to be in New York. You don’t have to be in It’s everybody on the same page. You can do something in LA, you could do something in Germany. You could do something in England just for that whole week. Can everybody around the world say let. Celebrate and focus and do everything we have to do on that one week and all come together to speak under one voice, under one flag of unity. And we’re hoping that that’s what we can do. So I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody there. I’m excited. And you’re going to love it. You’re going to learn a lot of stuff. We want you to learn how to do really good business to help yourself.
Mindy Peterson: [00:39:44] Wonderful. Well, this has been so fun. London, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical, ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Do you have a song or a story that you can share with us today? In closing?
B-Boy London Reyes: [00:40:00] Yes, the song is called These Are the Breaks. Kurtis Blow first record to go Gold. Kurtis Blow was the first person to sign to a major record label. The breaks are the first rap. It’s the first rap record ever to go gold. When it was released, it was a big song, big favorite of mine. And in 1984, I go to high school and we enter a battle. And Kurtis Blow is one of the judges. And we wind up I go to Kennedy High School in the Bronx and we battle all the high schools in New York City, and we wind up winning. It was filmed on MTV and Kurtis Blow after the battle comes to us and says, Listen, you guys are really, really good. I’m doing a movie called Krush Groove. Would you guys like to be in it with me? We jumped up, said, Oh, yeah, Classroom. Kurtis Blow, These are the breaks, Let’s go. And we wind up performing with him. And we did a song called If I Ruled the World, which Nas later remade, and we came out in the movie. But really it starts with These are the breaks. Kurtis Blow When I do Back to Mecca, I fly him in. He’s a part of that as well. I’ve been a part we’ve been knowing each other for all these years. And I think that these are the breaks represents me as a breaker us as B-boys, but it also represents the breaks of life. It also represents the breaking of new opportunity, the breaking of bread. And we hope that moving forward, we can show everybody what a beautiful culture and art form this is. And hopefully this will be something that people can’t live without.
Transcribed by Sonix.ai