By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
In the meantime, over the past 30 years, rap, more easily commodified, went bling-bling and muscled its way to the forefront of hip-hop. B-boys grind their teeth when people use rap as a synonym for hip-hop rather than a subset of it. They constantly remind that rap came from the original "four elements of hip-hop" (deejaying, emceeing, B-boying and graffiti), even though rap has become the "spoiled little brother," as one B-boy tagged it. "Rap had product. It had something you could sell. It had something you could take home," says Michael Holman, a New York-based producer, during an interview in The Freshest Kids. "You couldn't take a breaker home with you."
The problem gets worse with employers who try to get B-boys on the cheap. Asia One says she gets calls every other day from people who want breakers but don't want to pay. "The thing is B-boys are prone to look for exposure," writes Cros One. Marketing firms and Hollywood know how to make use of that. "To be in a commercial you should get paid good money. But some kids would do that work for free just to get exposure. It's hard to say to a kid you ask for money when he or she just wants to do it cause he loves to do it and he wants to be on TV." At the same time, Cros One points out, this cripples those who depend on such work to make a living. Poe Loayza puts it more bluntly: "B-boys need to stop being happy with 50 bucks."
B-boys seem caught in this dilemma: They want to bring mainstream awareness to their world (and thus increase profitability), yet they prefer to stay among their own, who will appreciate the nuances and not see it as a novelty act or passing fad. One Houston breaker who graduated from college and got a white-collar gig in a downtown high-rise says that he had to take the hobby off his résumé when he was applying for jobs, because hiring directors would ridicule him for it. Even now, he keeps his passion a secret from the rest of the office. Charles Rotramel, YA's director, often tries to push B-boying into the mainstream with performances at malls, other nonprofit centers and art shows. In time, the B-boy world will figure it out.
"Anyone who wants to do it [as a living] has to move to Cali, get an agent and sell your soul, to some degree," says Asia One. Even though Moy and other Havikoro members are as good as, if not better than, some of the B-boys who show up in commercials and music videos, they'll never be able to compete as long as they stay in Houston. For instance, Moy and Boy say they had a Jolly Ranchers commercial locked up, but the talent agency decided to save money and use an L.A. crew rather than fly them out.
These days, Moy does full-time casework at YA. He started community college last month, studying graphic design.
Near the end of an interview, he goes quiet and reveals a temptation that he's told few about.
"I had this lady from L.A. I don't really want to give her name or anything, but she offered me a lot to move to L.A. and she was like, you have a big career here and you have a look that a lot of casting directors want and you've got the skills and the talent and everything that a lot of casting directors want and if you ever want to move to L.A., just call me, I'll set everything up for you and you're guaranteed a life that you're going to want to live," he says. La-La Land calling. Just sign here.
"And she told me that, and I'm like -- I was just like -- I'm not ready for that yet. I told her straight up, I'm not ready for that yet. It's kind of hard, but " He trails off in something of a stammer. "To be honest, I don't really care about that right now, you know what I'm saying? Eventually, later on, I probably will, but right now I just don't.
"It's kind of hard to explain. To be honest, I don't know why I turned it down."
He does, though. A minute later it's clear.
"Every time I go out of town now, I gotta be there less than five days. Even though it's a place I've never been to, I just gotta get there, do the show and get out. Because I don't want to spend my time looking around everywhere. Although I do want to do that, I'm like, man, I gotta go home. I'm like, I can't be here forever -- my mom, the people I love, girlfriend, brothers and everybody -- they're not here with me. I gotta go home."
B-boying took him to faraway places. It put clothes on his back and a car in his driveway. It gave him a sense of purpose and a reason to stay off the street. Whether it can do anything more is something Moy -- and all B-boys -- have to figure out.