Foundation / B-Boys, B-Girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York



Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York
by Joseph G. Schloss

book review: Dan Tres Omi

Most people treat B-boys/B-girls like freaks in a circus. Most people see someone execute an air flare and assume it is just acrobatics with no connection to an actual dance. It is called “urban” to denote that there is no professionalism involved. It is treated as a fetish and not given any respect. Of course, it is important that we as b-boys/b-girls also treat it with respect and love. Joseph Schloss attempts to do that in his second book “Foundation.”

I was mad that I missed the release of this book. I asked several of my academic homies about it and they never heard of it. Schloss had previously written a book on sampling that somehow was missed by a gang of us as well. Yet the title of the book is so eye catching for a b-boy/capoeirista since it is a term I used frequently when amongst my peers. For us foundation means knowing the basics of b-boying. It means knowing the history of the dance and the etiquette of the cipher. We judge one's skill not on how long he or she can head spin but how they transition into that headspin or how they set the crowd up before they execute the headspin.

Schloss not only catches the essence of foundation through his interviews with several B-boy and B-girl notables, he emphasizes the importance of seeing B-boying as a respectable dance. Every chapter in the book screamed out “Self Determination!” One thing I love about the B-boy cipher is that we name all of our dances. We don't care if anyone one outside of that cipher respects it or not. We do and we will ensure that the dance continues.

In Chapter 2, Schloss focuses on the classic b-boy records that are normally played at battles and ciphers. He, like all b-boys and b-girls, considers these songs canon. Although I play those songs (“Apache,” “Just Begun,” “The Mexican,” “Give it up or Turn it Loose,” and a handful of others) almost all the time, I never thought of those songs as canon. Yet they are. He points out how originally these songs represented a particular experience for the early b-boys and how it was passed on from one generation to the next. I know when schooling my oldest son on b-boying I have noted how I emphasized that he learns how to rock to these songs first before moving on to anything else. It is almost like passing Biblical stories down to a child.

In Chapter 7, the author focuses on how the early history of b-boying was not documented and the problems caused by the remembrance of that history. What I enjoyed about this chapter is that Schloss uses the history of uprocking to explain the problems of recording history without access to technology during those early years. Schloss sheds a lot of light on the early pioneers of uprocking. That chapter alone is worth the price of admission.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who claims to be a hip hop historian or hip hop head. Schloss asks some very important questions and applies theories that can be used to discuss the other elements of hip hop culture. Schloss also interviews some great b-boys. In the end, it's just wonderful to see b-boying written about in an academic tome. (source)