It's been 2 weeks since Freestyle Session turned 20 years old. 2 weeks since the worldwide Hip Hop dance scene converged on the City of Angels and 10 man strong armies fought for rings of gold.
It's been 2 weeks and people who didn't go still see me and eagerly ask, 'how was Freestyle Session?' And every time I tell them, 'it's so much more than what you see on the live stream.'
It was a trio of warm up, pre-parties scattered around Los Angeles, with those wanting to Break Down the House venturing North into Hollywood, where they shock the walls of the Street Style Lab. Others went to Roxswift to a Creative, Hazze of Beats at the warm up in Burbank. And those wanting some Treats with their Beats travelled to the Boulevard of Santa Monica where the club was so packed that the Darkness barely had any space to try and stop people from seeing one another, but even though it tried every five minutes you still saw someone you last saw in another time zone or state, and shared a 'what's up?' and mini conversation before disappearing back into the Darkness to party again. DJs Cros One, Fleg and Lean Rock kept the crowd bumping all night, as Kid David and Casper kept it live on the Mic, all the way up until they finally turned on the lights.
It was Breaking crews, Poppers, Whacckers, Rockers, Hustlers, Freestyle Hip Hop dancers, Lockers and more, back packed up and ready, emerging from LA's four wheeled transports of choice, as the parking lot of club La Boom! filled with automobiles. And then the inside turned into a Freestyle Land of Hip Hop where territories were quickly claimed as crews scattered around the venue to find their warms up spots.
It was a land in which Monsters lurked in the dark back corner by the stage gathering their Energy next to those getting fresh shape ups and trims from a Barber ready to make sure everyone entering the battle looked as sharp as the moves they planned to execute.
A land in which Hip Hop clothing vendors turned one side of the club into a Hip Hop market lane, laying out their freshest and latest, their Biggest and Baddest, their most Legit, Dstry clothing.
A land where the DJs music seemed to seep into the ground and create cyphers that ruled over any open space. You see, at Freestyle Session circles erupt like fireworks, exploding and scattering into every corner and walkway, every back room, side room and hidden room. I tell you this now, you will never see more cyphers at any other competition, jam, or session than you see at Freestyle Session. People go more rounds in the cyphers than they do in the battles. Some come just for those circles! And while the actual, official battles are going down, a dozen cyphers still teem with life in the open spaces of the club, with calls out exchanges popping off. You learn very quickly that it's cypher law at Freestyle Session and at some point everyone loses themselves in the freedom that are the circles in which they can show their style.
In the Hip Hop land of Freestyle Session's 20th anniversary, if you ventured into the side rooms you'd first have seen baggy clothes with colourful patterns mixed in with fierce females with their makes up and hair done, rocking high heels and werking it in disco inspired outfits, as the Popping, Whaccking and Open Style battles went down: hits, locks, grooves, and arms spinning to the funky sounds of the DJ. Plus, guys eager not to dance solo but instead with a lady, took the lead to spin, shadow and lift a female partner in the flow of New Style Hustle.
If you ventured pass that room into the next one you'd have found more circles and battles going down, this time fuelled by the youthful energy of the 2on2 Kids battle, where the next generation paired up to see who would earn the two spots in the finals and battle in the main arena for the 1st place win.
In that same room the energy of youth mixed with the essence of history as Apache lines were formed and Rockers sliced and stabbed each other with imaginary weapons, fighting it out without actually touching one another in the tradition of one of the oldest war dances of our culture; the Rocking battle. And even though the finals didn't go down in the main arena it sparked one more circle out in the parking lot, where the two Rocking finalists took it back to the concrete upon which our dances were born and fought under the darkening sky to declare a winner!
It was a land in which soul claps became the chorus to a live rap performance. A land to which travelled the Immortal Technique who dropped bars of knowledge spoken in Rhyme to lyrically educate all the Hip Hop heads come to Freestyle.
A land in which Breakers still showed that we are all fans of this dance, when the big screens finally displayed the battles and dozens upon dozens of dancers who had cyphered for hours on end for the last two days all gathered and sat together to watch the crews battle it out for glory.
Everyone witnessed the Ill-Abilities and the Flow, saw the Carnival put their Bodies on the line, and watched Killas from Fornia try to take out an invading Team of Ukrainians. Knuckleheads stopped the Unstoppabullz, a Foundnation battled an army of Zulu Kingz, Floorrioz fought against Saxonz, the Momentum came strong from Portugal, and Supernatural and Rugged forces clashed. Crews got down on the Good Foot, Floor Gangz and All Stars came Fresh and from the Concrete, and in the finals a Squadron, dressed in uniforms saluting their passed away brother, went to war against Monsters.
And in this land we once again paid tribute to the inspiring B-boy who embodied creating 'Something from Nothing.' A gentleman who changed the scene and so many lives within it, Mex One. We paid tribute first with silence and the spoken word eulogy of B-boy Marlon. Then tribute erupted into celebratory noise and cypher get downs to the one and only legendary Fusik band, live and in full effect, come to send their rhythms to the sky to let Mex know that every time they play it'd be in remembrance of him.
Freestyle Session 2017 was a land that popped and flowed with that Hip Hop vibe. It was like the Wild, Wild West come back to life but with Dancers instead of Cowboys, Cyphers instead of Salons, Breaking, Popping, Open Style, Rocking and Whaccking battles instead of gun fights and bar room brawls.
It been 2 weeks since the experience that has been nurtured and grown by the hands of DJ Cros One for 20 years, went down again in the City of Angels, and those that didn't get to go still see me and eagerly ask, 'how was Freestyle Session?' And after telling them parts of this I always end by saying, 'you have to go experience and be a part of it for yourself. '
The Vivid Scribe
B-boy Manny (Soul Mavericks crew)
Cover/Header Photo by Kien Quan
Article Photos by Ervin Arana