Influential B-Boys

Grant Brydon reflects on his experience working and training with two b-boy groups in the UK. Both the Ghetlow Pirates and the Bad Taste Cru offered Grant a place to discovery his role in the world of hip hop.“Words I Manifest” is a blog that talks about my experiences and thoughts on hip-hop culture, but is also about how hip-hop affects me on an everyday level, and the effect it has had on my life. In my late teens to early twenties, b-boying was the element that I was actively involved in, and although nowadays I am only involved as a promoter and a fan, my experience b-boying has had a great impact on my life; helping me to discover my identity, gain confidence and has given me a great group of friends.

Two particular crews have influenced me on a personal level, and I have learned a lot from them, therefore I thought it only right to talk about the way that they have affected me and give credit to two inspirational groups of people.

I found b-boying through my best friend at college, Eroy Chan, who was already an active b-boy. Knowing that I was interested in hip-hop, he invited me along to my first jam, where I saw an exhibition battle featuring Bad Taste Cru who are based in my hometown of Newcastle. Seeing the dance live really inspired me to get involved.

So I began to attend classes taught by Connor “Doke” O’Kane (of Bad Taste Cru) and realized that, although I have never been able to do anything considered gymnastic or an extreme sport, there were elements of the dance that I really enjoyed and that a dancer is free to take what they want from the various elements of the dance and form an individual style based on what they liked, rather than having to learn everything.

Bad Taste Cru is the first of the two crews that have really inspired me. The crew is based around a group of friends who grew up in Northern Ireland, but have moved over to Newcastle for a variety of reasons, eventually regrouping in the city and building a very vibrant scene. At a time when I was struggling with the idea of fitting into the culture that I loved, and understanding how I, as a white teen living in the North of England, could be part of a culture that originates from a predominantly black American culture. At the time I was purely into rap music, and seeing Bad Taste Cru, take influence from punk culture, comics, skateboarding, graffiti, amongst other things, whilst remaining quite blatantly hip-hop, helped me to open my eyes to more things, and incorporate these into my lifestyle, rather than trying to best emulate something that was literally and cerebrally a million miles away from myself.

They really work together as a crew, sharing ideas, concepts and moves and have a genuine group chemistry, which is good to see still alive within the culture; a group of close friends who are working together to build something. They have also proven to me via their various projects and events that it is possible to earn a living working within the hip-hop culture, and remain credible at the same time — doing what they want to do, without compromising, purely by remaining professional (when necessary), being in love with what they do, and doing it well.

When I moved away from Newcastle for University at the age of eighteen, I was still actively b-boying (never at a high level, I did it because I enjoyed it and it kept me fit). I went to study Contemporary Art in Leeds, where I went training with the local b-boy crew, Ghetlow Pirates. Ghetlow were a very different crew to Bad Taste, coming across more as a group of people with very individual and unique styles all representing under the Ghetlow name — this is not to say that they were less of a unit, they just had a different approach to Bad Taste. Ghetlow really inspired me to explore my identity, to become an individual, and to stand out (although I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly forthcoming person, I did gain confidence from watching Ghetlow).

I decided to write this article after seeing Ghetlow losing at the final of a jam this weekend. They lost to a crew made up of b-boys from around the world, a group that seem to be put together for commercial gain and strength, rather than a group of friends who have come up together training, practicing and entering competitions. It was a shame to see a crew that relied heavily on one strong (international) member win against a truly inspirational group of people who carry the rawness and creativity that hip-hop promotes (who in my opinion, took the final, as they were a much stronger unit). Seeing this made me want to pay homage to the two crews that have really affected me as an individual, and to perhaps show them the good work that they are doing for people, even if they don’t realize it.

Thanks to Bad Taste Cru, Ghetlow Pirates, and crews like them all over the world…

Category: Words I Manifest

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