Can You Kick It? They Did
It’s going to be interesting times (or very uninteresting) in a few years when the youth of today will be looking back with a sense of nostalgia at Candy Crush or Snapchat. Being that so much of contemporary life is lit by the sterile glow of an digital screen of some sort, it’s as though the chubby future chair bound people in Pixar’s ‘WALL·E’ have become an end goal, not a warning.
It wasn’t always the case though and there have been numerous events over the pre-internet decades that battled/burned and windmilled like desert brush wildfire across the globe out of sheer raw energy and sonic uniqueness. No one would have thought that when DJ Kool Herc was experimenting with his creative talents by treating turntables as an instrument in his Bronx basement in early ‘70s parties by extending and looping ‘breaks’ (marked instrumental sections of a records played from two copies on two turntables at the same time) that he was changing the future with every revolution, it was the conception moment of Hip Hop. It also encouraged previous local gangs (with their warring territorial natures) tensions/beefs to be resolved by stunningly innovative and acrobatic dancing, ‘battles’ that were judged fairly to decide who the winners were. Out of anger grew an artform, that still exists and is still spinning strong today.
These battles raged intensely and locally for a few years, being that the internet wasn’t around and the worlds media weren’t too great at visiting ghettos. But sure enough word started to spread as various folk from Europe and around the globe had their road to Damascus whilst looking down at some cardboard sheets on the side of streets.
Despite what folk might have though of the ‘80s, 1983 England was a desolate, colourless, miserable looking world. Grey and strewn with rubbish it was typical Tory Britain. But sweeping into Nottingham town like the cyclone in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and transporting everyone to a beautiful world of colour, excitement, brilliant music and friendship came the American break team WFLA who did a showcase in the Market Square to promote a drink. With each move, more and more minds exploded into life, and many crews were instantly born, running home to rip up the kitchen lino.
This entire moment of a generation has being lovingly put together by Claude Knight, Luke Scott and Sam Derby-Cooper in the wonderful documentary ‘NG83 When We Were B Boys’ (2016) which marks that moment of the WFLA visit and the inspiration it created, plus the instant emergence of UK crews, many of which congregated on the local Nottingham venue Rock City for huge tournaments, and then saw the world.
Gathering tons of old stunning footage (Knight was part of the Rock City Crew), private battle videos and some incredible photos all soundtracked to an amazing setlist, plus speaking to a wealth of people who were part of the local crews back in the day, it provides a joyous time travel journey back to another world. Talking about the powerful effect those years had on them forever more, even if they were ultimately fleeting, but my how bright they burned for those moments.
It’s the story of a subculture, but also about dreams, inspirations, hopes, the realities of life and disappointments, but is ultimately an inspiring, loving and very funny piece of work. There is few thinks that warm the soul more than watching folk regale tales about some great adventures indeed about something they LOVE. They may be older now, but their eyes light up with the fire of youth when swapping stories of good times. It’s all a joy to behold and will hopefully have folk switching off their phones, throwing on their most colourful tracksuit and heading down to B&Q to purchase some lino.
‘NG83 When We Were B Boys’ is out on the 28th of October. There are also some screenings being held before that, check www.ourscreen.com/film/NG83-When-We-Were-B-Boys for details.