Crazy Legs Interview: Rock Steady Crew For Life

1144 Views |  Like

by Alex Shtaerman

To many, Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon needs no introduction. A b-boy icon and president of the legendary Rock Steady Crew, Legs traces his Hip-Hop roots back to the late ‘70’s, a time when Hip-Hop represented a way of life vastly different than what mainstream media eagerly presents to us today as a pseudo-gangster misogynistic culture. A life long b-boy, Crazy Legs has appeared in countess films, videos, television commercials, print ads and has been honored too many times to mention. Helping push the boundaries of performance art around the globe, Legs presides over the world’s premier Hip-Hop dance troupe. With members from the US, Japan, the UK, Canada and Italy, the Rock Steady Crew is synonymous with excellence in Hip-Hop performing arts and is the only Hip-Hop crew from the ‘70’s to remain not only active but still relevant around the world in 2007. Recently celebrating its 30th Anniversary with a massive free outdoor concert in Newark’s Lincoln Park, Rock Steady was once again honored by performances from a who’s who roster of Hip-Hop legends including Melle Mel, Soul Sonic Force, Naughty By Nature, EPMD, Biz Markie, Chubb Rock and many others. Recently we got a chance to catch up with the man who’s name rings bells to any true Hip-Hop head and take a glimpse into the true essence of Hip-Hop culture.

See pics from Rock Steady Crew’s 30th Anniversary with EPMD, Naughty By Nature & Biz Markie.
See pics from Rock Steady Crew’s 29th Anniversary with Big Daddy Kane, Q-Tip & Rhymefest.
See pics from Rock Steady Crew’s 27th Anniversary with The Beatnuts, Masta Ace & Tony Touch.
See pics from Rock Steady Crew’s 26th Anniversary with Freddie Foxxx, Kurtis Blow & Black Moon.

RIOTSOUND.COM: We just celebrated the Rock Steady Crew’s 30th Anniversary with a week-long string of special events and obviously that was a huge milestone for Hip-Hop. People traveled from other states and in many cases from other countries to bear witness and pay homage. How would you describe the feelings you experienced over the week-long celebration? Were you busy with all the logistics of putting the various events together or did you also have some time to enjoy the festivities?

CRAZY LEGS: Well, you know, as an event presenter, you don’t really have the luxury of thinking of having fun, because you have responsibilities. To me the Rock Steady Anniversary is really about giving back to the community, so by doing that, that’s how I get off. To me, that’s the big turn on, the fact that everyone else is having fun. Everyone is coming and we were able to pull something off that they appreciate and will be able to go home and talk about and hopefully it will be one of those experiences that they can cherish for a long time.

What I live off of is like the little stories [that happen in the midst of it] like, even the crazy ones, like – oh man, I was stuck in the elevator for three hours [laughs] – or whatever kind of funny story that [people] have. Or just the fact that they had the opportunity like – oh wow, I was standing next to Melle Mel but I was too scared to say hi to him, but I actually touched his elbow, making believe it was by accident just so I would be able to touch him [laughs]. I love just hearing things like that and as long as everyone has a nice time, that’s my fun.

RIOTSOUND.COM: A lot of people in recent years have come to know the Rock Steady Crew for the annual anniversary showcases as well as the crew’s global presence in countries such as the UK, Japan, and the list goes on. But going back 25 years or so, what was the makeup of the crew like? Say I was to go to The Roxy in 1982 and see Rock Steady doing their thing, what would that be like?

CRAZY LEGS: Oh man, it would be… figure in 1982 you’d see… well, summertime or winter? [laughs]

RIOTSOUND.COM: I’m assuming the winter was better ‘cause there were no park jams [laughs].

CRAZY LEGS: Well, you know, Roxy’s was a complete mixed crowd; you had so much diversity when it came to the audience and people who were attending the Roxy. You had us coming from the hood and then you had all these artsy Soho people and then you had the Rastafarians and then you [also] had the punk rockers. So that was the makeup right there and whatever nationality you were, it was all good, it just didn’t matter. And that’s what’s cool about… were you there this weekend [for the anniversary]?

RIOTSOUND.COM: Yeah, yeah, I was; an incredible show as always….

CRAZY LEGS: [If you noticed] a couple of the artists made it a point to say – wow, look at the diversity in the audience. [And to me] that feels good ’cause then I feel like Hip-Hop, for what it is, can be used as a tool to bridge cultural gaps. If we can do that with the Rock Steady Anniversary that means that we’re doing more for the community as a whole, and the world.

RIOTSOUND.COM: In the early years of Hip-Hop, as you mentioned, and as most people who are up on the culture know, it was something that involved all different nationalities and races of people but eventually it somehow got pigeonholed as just a Black thing or whatever it may be…

CRAZY LEGS: That was the white press saying that.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Right, so when do you feel that whole ideology in the press came into effect?

CRAZY LEGS: I would have to say it started maybe around ’83. The more rap records were done the more people started to associate [Hip-Hop] with just being Black music. But hey, they’re gonna present us in the way they want to present us and that’s it. And saying “Black music” could just mean everyone that comes from the hood, know what I mean? [laughs] From Black to white trash.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Many years ago Rock Steady Crew got down with the Universal Zulu Nation, how did that officially happen?

CRAZY LEGS: I’m [actually] not in Zulu now…

RIOTSOUND.COM: Oh, you’re not?

CRAZY LEGS: No, I left after 25 years. I [originally] got into Zulu in 1981 – but, you know, I still support [Afrika] Bambaataa but I’m not part of Zulu Nation anymore.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What were the reasons for you leaving Zulu?

CRAZY LEGS: Uhmm, I just felt like – I don’t know, for me, there just have to be more checks and balances, that’s all.

RIOTSOUND.COM: I want to ask you about the theatrical aspect of b-boying. Last year I went to the ballet and I was literally falling asleep. With b-boying being such an exciting and entertaining form of performance art, when are we going to see a big time Broadway show with b-boying and Hip-Hop culture at the epicenter of that?

CRAZY LEGS: Well, we have done theater…

RIOTSOUND.COM: I know, but as far as it being on a real huge level, it’s almost unbelievable to me that it still hasn’t happened. I’m sure there are tons of people who would love to see something like that.

CRAZY LEGS: We had an off Broadway show and then there were also shows done at the Victory Theater, there have been shows in quite a few venues, you’d be surprised man how much its actually going on. It’s just that mainstream media isn’t covering it because, I don’t know, maybe it’s not negative enough for them [laughs]. Most media wouldn’t realize how big b-boying and b-girling is unless they get a press release on something. It’s just they’re not looking for it but it’s actually bigger than what people think. We had an off Broadway show called “Jam On The Groove” and then we did several vignettes that were presented at the Minetto Land Theater and then it went on tour to Brazil and other places.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Speaking of other countries, it seems like authentic Hip-Hop is so much more embraced by people in Europe, Asia and South America, and it’s crazy because it started right here in the Bronx!

CRAZY LEGS: You know, it’s funny, out here its definitely taken for granted by most, not everyone, but most people. For instance, we do things and we don’t document ourselves or take into account the historic value that it has, so we even get caught up in being victims of the media and falling into using words and terminology and ideas that are put together by the media. For instance, the word “breakdancing” doesn’t come from Hip-Hop but it’s still widely used. You know, when I first came up as a dancer it was like – yo, you b-boy? you b-girl? Or – yo, you write? you DJ? you MC? And that was it. Up until like ’83 we were never using the word “breakdancing”. But when the media force feeds you and then another outlet picks it up and they keep using that word, that’s what happens.

RIOTSOUND.COM: So would you say that people are more knowledgeable overseas? Would you co-sign that assessment based on you own personal experience?

CRAZY LEGS: I would say…. [pauses] yeah. If you look it at from a commercial perspective, hell yeah. Just basing it on that, it’s easy to figure out. People [in the US] come up to me and say – and first of all people don’t even remember their dates – like, yo man, I remember when I saw you in The Roxy in 1985! And it’s like – nah man, I wasn’t even going to The Roxy in 1985. Or people tell me – man, I remember when you lived in Manhattan when you first started dancing. I’m like – I was living in the Bronx when I first started dancing. I lived in Manhattan for four years, whatever, but I started in the Bronx. Some people think I’m from Manhattan, it’s like, nah, that’s not the case, I’m a Bronx boy.

So a lot of people in New York have their facts all twisted, especially when it comes to MTV, VH1 and all this other stuff. Look at the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, their criteria for getting in is based on what? – someone’s personal experience as opposed to having some sort of criteria like the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, for example. You can only be considered [for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame] after, what? 25 years after your first recording? And VH1 Hip-Hop Honors has nothing like that and that’s pretty sad because you have all these people – they’ve been doing the VH1 Hip-Hop honors for three years and Cold Crush Brothers still isn’t in it?!!! Chief Rocker Busy Bee still isn’t in it! There’s so many people that deserve to be in it [that aren’t].

RIOTSOUND.COM: It seems like a lot of times they pick the big names or people that the younger kids would be more familiar with.

CRAZY LEGS: Right, it’s like, let’s get these younger faces in so that our viewing audience that the sponsors need to have are attracted to this program and [will watch it]. I don’t think there’s any real honor to the whole selection process for the VH1 Honors. It’s funny, there’s no honor in The Honors. And I was honored by them! But the thing is, ok, the Rock Steady Crew was honored but what about the Electric Boogaloos, what about the Lockers, what about the New York City Breakers? Is it just because the Rock Steady Crew is the biggest name so they’re going to select us? That’s why we started giving out the Spy Award for b-boys at the Rock Steady Anniversary. We felt like – ok, it’s cool that we get honored but [VH1] is never going to honor these other people that do this. There’s a new generation of b-boys so let’s start honoring them now! Let’s recognize them now as they continue to have this impact on the world. And [with the Spy Awards] we have a criteria that they have to reach. So it’s our generation of b-boys and b-girls recognizing the new generation.

RIOTSOUND.COM: After the 2003 Rock Steady Anniversary concert which was held in Manhattan on a day that Mayor Bloomberg declared to be Rock Steady Crew Day in New York City, you had plans of bringing future Rock Steady Anniversaries up to the Bronx, the birthplace of Hip-Hop. What happened where the Bronx didn’t extend you the type of welcome you had expected and you eventually decided to do the annual events in Newark instead?

CRAZY LEGS: We never even had an invite from the Bronx, forget a welcome [laughs]. What they’ve done – and a lot of it has to do with the Parks Department, the Parks Department in the Bronx, I believe, are the key culprits in minimizing the amount of Hip-Hop presence in New York. You know, how could an organization that has been in existence for 30 years, and a POSITIVE organization and [considering] the fact that we’ve been throwing events since ’91 incident free – how could we have such a hard time with getting a park? And we have to go through all the lies. I mean, these people literally lie.

For instance, we were talking to some of the people in the Bronx and some of the counsel men and women were trying to help us but when it came to the Parks Department, those people don’t see eye to eye. So they’re not always honest with each other or at least the Parks Department wasn’t honest. This one particular park, which is a beautiful park up in the Bronx called Berretto Point Park, was the place that we wanted. And they told us we couldn’t have that place because it was being used that day. So I felt like they were lying so what I did was I went to the park myself and I asked the staff, the workers – I went up there just as a nondescript person and asked them – hey, is anything going on this particular day? And they were like – no, but if you want you can double check with the main office in the Bronx as well. So I went to the office and I went to the events department and I asked them – is the park available and is anything going on this particular day? And they said – no, but if you want [the park for that day] you better put an application in soon.

RIOTSOUND.COM: So they just flat out lied.

CRAZY LEGS: Yeah, [it was a case of] the powers that be above them apparently didn’t get in sync with the people below them so that those people knew to lie as well. So I just went to the low man on the totem pole and the people who actually process all the paper work and I found out. So after that I was like – yo, you know what, I’m not going to put too much time into this because if we do, we’re going to end up losing the opportunity that we had with Newark where they were asking us to come, welcoming us with open arms and making it financially sound for us to be able to function. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m through with trying to throw it in the Bronx, it’s a wrap. I feel like we were put up for adoption. And it’s crazy because all these political people claim to have all this power that they don’t really have and I was like, holy smokes, these people don’t have no juice at all, lemme get the hell outta here.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Obviously Newark has been a troubled community in the past and it’s a community that is trying to revitalize. Do you get any extra satisfaction knowing that you bring such a positive event to Newark every year and that the Rock Steady Crew is genuinely uplifting the people of Newark and giving them something to enjoy and smile about and look forward to?

CRAZY LEGS: Oh yeah, bigtime. And I didn’t realize that until about a year ago. I fly out of Newark airport all the time. So you have security guards over there who’re like – yo! you coming back to Newark? you coming back to Newark? Employees up in the airport are always asking if I’m coming back to Newark and then random people in the streets are like – thanks man, we really need this in Newark, you don’t understand how important this is. And I was like, holy shit, I didn’t realize it had that much of an effect and it made that much difference in people’s lives where they’re looking forward to it. ‘Cause Newark basically wasn’t getting much, I’m not gonna say they weren’t getting anything, but on the level of what we’re doing, on a grass roots level and hardcore Hip-Hop, but good Hip-Hop – nothing was hittin’ in the way the Rock Steady Anniversary is. So we have absolutely no problem with bringing something to their community that’s going to lift their spirits and benefit them. I feel great about it.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Now as far as the coming months go, what should all the fans in the US as well as around the world be looking out for?

CRAZY LEGS: Well, first thing on [August] 17th I’m going to judge the regional [competition] for the UK b-boy championships. After that I’m heading out to Phoenix, Arizona from the 6th to the 9th [of September] and we’re going to be supporting an event that one of the Rock Steady Crew members, Bonita, is doing out there. And then after that on the 19th we go Japan, that’s [September] 19th through the 25th, to do our Rock Steady Crew Anniversary out there as well. In October I’ll be at the UK [b-boy] championships and then there’s also a whole bunch of things in between that.

But, you know, my thing right now is making sure we have a new youth movement within Rock Steady Crew that we can be proud of and look forward to continuing the legacy of Rock Steady and keeping alive the idea of what a Hip-Hop crew is, and preserving all of the essence of Hip-Hop and all of the elements of Hip-Hop and just trying to do that with integrity.

For more news and info on upcoming Rock Steady events stay tuned to