One Nation, Invisible

The untold story of local hip hop: 1981 to 1996

Whop-Master came out, and he kind of saved our asses that night.

Tim Wilson, owner of Urban Lights Music: One of the last park parties we did was a battle between our crew and LST's crew at McCrae Park. Everything was fine, but the problem came with the bus line. We must have had 500 kids that night, right there on 47th and Chicago at midnight, and the bus driver panicked. He seen all these kids waiting for the bus, and just drove on.

That was the last bus of the night, so you got all these kids who came from the north side, some from St. Paul, and nobody could get back home. So everybody decided they wanted to riot and loot that little area where Ken and Norm's Liquors is. The owners of all the businesses went to McCrae Park, and they were like, "We can't have these types of parties going on," and the park board shut them down all over the city. To this day you can't really do a party in the park.

 

Travitron: The majority of people got into rap through breakdancing.

Damon Dickson, b-boy: When breakdancing broke out in New York, it was on the news. They were like, "The police were called to a spot in New York where gangs were getting ready to battle, and when they got there it was quite awkward that they weren't really fighting. They were dancing against each other." People here were watching this, and we were like, "What?"

Truth Maze, a.k.a. B Fresh, MC/poet: The first time I saw somebody "pop" was this guy named Terence at North Commons Park, in the gym. This had to be the summer of '80, and I remember the song he danced to was "S.O.S." by the S.O.S. Band, a funk instrumental. His whole body vibrated. I lost my mind and I ran back home, trying to explain it to my mom.

Siddiq, a.k.a. Brent Sayers, a.k.a. Stress, co-owner of Rhymesayers Entertainment: Kel C was the cat that basically taught me breaking back in the day, even before we started rhyming.

Truth Maze: Kel C went away to Cleveland, and when he came back, he was breaking. He turned us on to that, and I lost my mind again. Popping was a lot easier, in the sense that you didn't have to think about getting too physical. If you could already dance, that was one thing. But could you dance on the floor?

Damon Dickson: We started doing the footwork, the spinning on your shoulders, the windmills with your legs. Everybody was trying it. Then a guy came up here from down South who was really good at it, and he was showing everybody in the neighborhood. Somebody's cousin, I can't remember his name.

Edde Miller, promoter: They'd do talent shows at Battle Creek Junior High, at St. Paul Central High. They'd go downtown to Town Square every Saturday and break during the day.

Truth Maze: There were female breakdancers in number back in the day.

Freddy Fresh: They had a breakdancing competition in 1983 or '84 in downtown St. Paul where they had mats. KDWB [FM 101.3] was hosting, and they'd been advertising it for weeks, so all the b-boys were down there. Everybody knew that they didn't play any hip hop on that station. So when they played Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," and we're thinking, hey, maybe they're going to get into the Boogie Boys, or play the Fat Boys or Kurtis Blow. Nothing. They played "Let's Hear It for the Boy."

LST: I was one of the first hip-hop DJs to get into a disco. I was underage, but they started a thing called Club Wild Style down at the 7th St. Entry, so every Saturday afternoon between 3:00 and 7:00 they'd open the door. That was the only club doing that at that time, between '84 and '86.

It was heavy breakdancing, some rapping. People like Kel C, they were in there doing their little rap thing.

Kel C: I was in the International Breakers in '84 when the Rock Steady Crew came up from New York. They were doing a tour and they heard that we was real good, so we battled them at First Avenue. At the time they were the best breakers in the world, so nobody could believe it when we won. We couldn't believe it.

Damon Dickson: Me and Tony Mosely started dancing in a group called 2 Be Rude. The "u" was a tongue. In 1983 we were hired to help pick people to be on the set of Purple Rain, and we wound up dancing in the bathroom at First Avenue. It was like us and maybe 15 other people, girls and guys, just dancing to hands clapping and feet stomping.

Prince happened to walk in with his bodyguards, and we're doing these moves. He just kind of looked at us, stood there about five minutes, and turned around and walked out. I was like, "We might be in trouble, dude."

Later that night we were given a tape and told to have seven routines ready for the next day. That's how we got to be in Purple Rain. Our scene was the balcony shot where there are five guys doing these moves to the Time's "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" in silhouette. One guy's got a police hat on, and the rest are in jheri curls and short hairdos with waves. That's us.

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