� Don't Forget Tae Bo | Main | Juneteenth �

June 22, 2005


"We're not going to be clones of the commercial hiphop world."

If you asked me last week, I would have told you that you were pronouncing krunk incorrectly, not that I know much difference between krunk and drunk. Krump is dancing. It's hot, it's fresh and it's jumpin' off.

As with most such barbershop matters, the spousal unit was more in touch with this particular reality than I was, but she was at a loss to explain it. So I checked out a couple websites to find out the deal at her instruction. She said that she had seen a movie trailer featuring this. At the moment there were only two that Google could find, and although there is one pretty fabulous website, the video clips were too short. Speaking of short(y), the first time you and I saw Krump was in the sequel to Get Shorty, aka 'Be Cool' the John Travolta movie out this year. While I did forget a lot of the flick, I did not forget the scene with the Krump dancers with their war paint makeup at the community center. So be on alert. Hollywood knows about Krump.

The cast of 'Rize', which seems to be the premier troupe on the scene made their debut on the Tonight Show last evening. They ripped it up. The film breaks this Friday.

The rise of Krump, which is inevitable, brings to mind a number of interesting questions about doing and being. Here's a perfect paragraph about white liberal sentiment of the sort which sets my teeth on edge:

Like “Paris is Burning” or “Style Wars” before it, “Rize” illuminates an entire community by focusing on an artform as a movement that the disenfranchised have created. But the true stars of the film are the dancers themselves: surrounded by drug addiction, gang activity, and impoverishment, they have managed to somehow rise above. The film offers an intimate, completely fresh portrayal of kids in South Central as they reveal their spirit and creativity. These kids have created art – and often family – where before there was none.

Whether you decide that this is marketing drivel or a philosophical approach, one thing is clear: these kids are setup to represent a whole lot more than dancing. It's not enough that they are fabulous dancers, they are fabulous dancers whose achievement has already been fabricated into a tired-ass inner-city narrative that we've already heard 1000 times. But I'm going to direct it into the same direction that I heard from the clip, they're against the grain of commercial hiphop.

At any community center or YMCA in the country, there's a good chance that there is some halfway decent, halfway embarrassing hiphop/jazz dance class. If I were a bit more versed on the subject, I would take this moment to expound on the corner of American life into which we have painted dance. I've seen Bill T. Jones and Garth Fagin once or twice back in my Brooklyn days when I was searching for a trophy wife life. I only got into one or two discussions about the difference between dance as an artform vs soft porn for the TKTS crowd so there's only so much credibility I can be assigned. Nevertheless I think I am within the realm of reasonableness when I say that we could do a lot better as a society if dance were more central to our culture.

What dance is to black culture is different from what black dance is to American culture, and I have a difficult time accepting the whole inner-city trope on Krump. See, I'm prepared to see that krump (can I do it in lower case now?), like every other black dance from the funky chicken & camelwalk, to the electric slide & the bus stop hustle to the butterfly & the bankhead bounce are deep inside black culture from house parties to clubs to weddings, not just this whole gangbangers who have nothing better to do but 'take out their aggressions on the dance floor' okey doke. I'm not about to claim krump in the Old School, but if the kids coming up on this are saying they don't want to be commercial hiphop, then take them at their word. Don't stuff them into that same narrative.

Everybody knows that filmmaking is a rich man's game. So we have to come to expect that there's not going to be many ways that it crosses over except through the culture vulture eyes. I'm sure LaChapelle has already had his fill of embarrassing dinner conversations. However noble his intentions or sensibilities we can't wish him into the context of the house party like we know the house party in the Old School. Plus, there's only so much film even rich folks can afford. It's going to have to come down to the money shots until such time as.. well the next class of academic culture vultures get their hands on it and start writing papers. Krump is going to be lost in translation - we can already see the confusion between clowning and krump.

Again it's hard for me to say what the right way for krumping to get out there. Clearly my boy is going to see movies and videos and want to learn how to do it, just as much as he wants to learn breaking. He's not the only suburban pre-teen who will. So I hope it grows in all the streets, just like skateboarding. Short of that, I'd be happy to blogfather anybody with the inside track. Whose story is krump now, and whose will it become?

Posted by mbowen at June 22, 2005 06:43 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


I saw the movie, Rize. I liked it. I think the kids know what they're doing. And some of them are krumping in church, where their elders approve and applaud. I'm thinking of Miss Prissy who also studies ballet but who tore it up in the Forum when it was the Krumps vs. the Clowns.

Clowns and Krumps are two sides of the same thing, so the doccumentary suggests. Check out the face paint. It's not standard clown designs. There's something going on there.

I watched the movie in Newport Mall on the Hudson in Jersey City across from lower Manhattan. When they had a shot of the Watts towers early on, I heard people in the audience wondering -- what's that? 'Lotta history they never learned. But they dug the face paint and the dance.

Posted by: Bill Benzon at June 29, 2005 07:30 PM