Project OM 

Hip-hop you don't stop

The world is supposedly made of four elements: fire, air, earth and water. This is the junk kids learn in school. Outside of school, urban kids can't avoid the bombardment of lessons about the five elements: beatboxing, turntabling, graffiti, freestyling and break dancing. The five elements of hip-hop, yo.

For anyone who doesn't spend their free time milling around city streets, it's easy to recall break dancing as a fad of the 80s that vanished with acid-washed denim and Tab soda. But guess what? Acid wash is back. And guess what else? Break dancing, though muddled beneath the rise of other fads, never went anywhere. (Hey, Tab: Too bad, so sad.)

Now it's not nowhere; it's here in Boise. Finally, the streets are alive with the sound of b-boys. All aspiring break dancers, disc jockeys and emcees, listen up. The coastal cultures converge in Boise on April 30 at Project OM, a regional DJ, emcee and break dance competition at Boise State University.

Just as it was in its emergence back in the day, hip-hop remains a direct rejoinder to the way older generations dismiss values and needs of the young 'uns.

Project OM will focus on the culture of hip-hop, incorporating several of the core elements. The event is designed to fight stereotypes, unite and educate on the culture of metropolitan areas and applaud the skills of competitors who serve as role models to youth. The competition features performers from both coasts and in between, including the Northwest and the Treasure Valley. And yes, Boise State's own Norm Weinstein, esteemed poet and music critic, will be there.

"Instead of promoting the superstars of MTV who encourage drug abuse and violence, let us look to the people of our community as well as other metropolitan areas for the role models for our future leaders to emulate," organizers said.

And now for a little background ... The words rap and hip-hop are often interchanged. But they aren't the same. Hip-hop is the culture from which rap transpired. The music in America's black urban communities has throughout recent history expressed social, political and economic conditions. Rap is the current manifestation. As rap, one facet of hip-hop, has become mainstream and acceptable in all American communities, so have the other facets—including break dancing.

A lot of myths run amok concerning the history of break dancing. Some claim James Brown and his "Good Foot" began the movement. Others claim it came from Jamaica. Still others think the pack leader was Rerun from What's Happening fame.

What's traceable is the simultaneous development of street dancing on both continental coasts. In the Bronx, the kids spun out territorial dance-offs in a simpler, no windmill kinda way, eventually called electric boogie. In Los Angeles, the street dancers were locking out in the style of Don Campbell, a feller who invented the lock and pop dance the Campbellock.

Then came Soul Train, an instant smash when it hit TV in 1972 and featured street dancers including The Lockers from LA—which included dancing phenom and choreographer Toni "Hey Mickey You're So Fine" Basil.

Of course they didn't call it old-style breaking back then, but it was. And it remained popular until the late 70s when Sheik released the hit record "Freak Out." And that's exactly what those street dancers did.

It was early 1980 when the Rock Steady Crew, the first professional crew, came together and dancers hit the cement with all the flares, turtles and head spins we now associate with breaking.

Through the years, hip-hop and breaking have consistently maintained popularity among urban youth. It's a form of self-expression that's cheap, accessible and cool. Thanks for this, in part, goes to the Floor Lords, a notorious group of breakers that has for over twenty years played a major role in the definition and evolution of break dance. So major, so mainstream they even appeared on Live With Regis and Kathy Lee! And they are still performing and creating innovative breaking experiences.

What with Boise growing like crazy, the group hosting Project Om—Cultural Diversions—claims a dedication to the healthy growth of Boise as a metropolitan area, emphasizing

a need to offer venues for these kinds of positive social movements and subcultures.

Organizers feel events like Project OM are a two-part deal. They fight misinformation and laterally conjure exposure and praise, which assist in the breakdown of communicative barriers and stereotypes. Adios, unhealthy tension between community members.

Boise's slam poet champ Marcus Hunter is scheduled to be Project OM's Master of Ceremonies. Other interesting local folks will also be in attendance to support barrier breakdown and to act as guest judges—folks like Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and BW's own Music News columnist Molly King. Other area media personalities have also been invited—perhaps they'll bust out some hand glides or offer a rendition of "Rapper's Delight."

Numerous companies and organizations are sponsoring the event, including Boise State Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Board and Boise State Student Programs Board. Be there or be square, chump.

Project Om, Friday, April 30, 6-11 p.m., $10 admission for public or registration fee for competitors, Boise State Student Union Jordan Ballroom. To register or for more information, visit www.projectom.org.

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