It's been 10 years since the stories of Outbreak Europe came whispering out of the country of Slovakia, carried over mountains and borders, across oceans and continents, on the tongues of those early rhythm chasing explorers who ventured to a place they'd never heard of all in the pursue of Hip Hop.
Stories of a vibe unlike any other re-told to disbelieving and curious ears that wondered how such things could be true about an event put on in a small city called Banska Bystrica, miles from anywhere, familiar only to those from Slovakia.
Today there is no doubt, there is only the legendary event that Outbreak Europe and The Legit Blast Summer Festival have become, where every year more dancers discover that the legends are true, the parties are real, the vibe is infectious, and the day never ends until the sun comes up.
But not everyone knows how it was in the beginning. How people wondered why promoters MG and MK would put on a breaking event in a city that no one truly knows. Saying, 'Put it in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, as Banska is not the place for such an event.' Now, 10 years later, Bansak Bystrica has become a Sojourn for Hip Hop, a city now famous within the breaking community.
But not everyone was there the first time, when the citizens of Banska Bystrica looked on with wide-eyed shock mixed with awe and surprise as Breakers they'd never seen before walked through their city streets, ate in their mall, and drunk in their bars.
Not everyone knows that the place to be on Thursday used to be in the garden of MG's house for the Outbreak BBQ. The garden filled with bean bags, music, and conversation, the European B-Boy Spot, where everyone met up during the day, long before the Thursday night drunken cyphers, beers and Red Bull DJ vans took over the square.
Many are unaware that before the Dixon and Mountain hotel those who came to Outbreak filled the floors and rooms of the tall and mighty LUX hotel, with breakers in every corridor who broke bread together at the LUX breakfast buffet, and spent Friday night's party spilled out on the front entrance steps, filling up the lobby, and getting down in its basement club. Where everyone would buy drinks from the bar or make the short walk over to the gas station to buy 70 cent beers, snacks, and bottles of champagne only costing 6 euros each, going in groups as everyone was weary of the nearby dark forest, only able to hear the sound of the river going by, telling horror stories of the scary movie that apparently was filmed in Banska, and daring each other to walk through the dark tunnel to cross to the other side of the road.
Many don't know that before the lino boards over concrete cyphers held in the car park of the Ministry of Fun, and before the basketball courts, water parks, warehouse hanger and pool, the battles to call yourself the winner of Outbreak Europe went down in the hall of the big building standing right in front of the LUX, so close to the hotel that you could go back to your room in the break, chill on the balcony, and still see everyone chilling outside the venue, only having to take the elevator ride back down, and walk 10 seconds from the automatic doors of the hotel to the entrance of the venue.
Not everyone was there for those first trips to the mall where Outbreak discounted frozen yogurt was the treat of the day, and in the evenings people went on random adventures down the dark alleys of the city where the lights of bars shone promising a drink and talk with the locals that always started with, 'so what brings you to our city.'
Many might not know that before the battles became a war of Countries, and Breakers fought to be crowned the Undisputed, the Mall hosted a 1vs1 battle, and then a 5vs5 crew battle, and the actual solo battle at Outbreak was all about Footwork and which cat had the freshest steps to take the Outbreak Footwork crown. And when the flags first went up and the call to Rep your Country was blown for the first time, people watched from bean bags and escalators, and warmed up in front of stores, long before watching and getting down in the urban spot.
How many know that even though Outbreak Europe turned 10 years old this year, Outbreak itself is much older, 20 years deep, a legendary event that ran for 10 years in Florida, with the European Outbreak being put on at first as a qualifier to go to Outbreak in America. The original event, created by Mex One and his crew, United Styles, back in 2003, was then passed onto MG and MK, Mex making Europe the finals, and giving his blessing for the duo to carry on tradition.
How many actually were there to meet, party, drink and vibe with Mex One, his presence and voice a regular fixture at Outbreak Europe, himself a relaxed soul moving lightly through the crowd as he observed the vibe he'd created now alive in a place an ocean away from where he began it. He always greeted people with a welcoming smile, so easy going that if you didn't know who he was, you could easily mistake him for a chilled, happy, hip hop head come to simply enjoy the battles and vibe.
Outbreak grew from humble beginnings in a church in Florida and spread across the global to an unknown city in Slovakia, where it took root and planted itself.
In 10 years Outbreak Europe has gone from wooden to club floors, traded concrete for grass, basketball courts for a swimming pool, and the LUX for the mountains and the Dixon.
It spawned the Legit Blast and built stages upon which Hip Hop legends have come from the 'Underground' to 'Slam!,' 'Ante up' and show EFX's.
It's parties have banged on the car park walls outside of Ministry of Fun, danced to funk bands dropping instrument fueled rhythms, and chilled under stars high in the mountains.
It's family has grown bigger every year, from the DJ's to the MC's to the judges. Even some of the helpers were just teenage kids when they first donned their Outbreak worker T-shirts but are now grown adults taking more responsibility each year at the event. And of course the dancers who come year after year, from every continent, turning Banska Bystrica into a sea swimming with the sound of multiple languages.
Outbreak Europe has become part of the legacy of Mex One, whom we used to celebrate with but now, each year, celebrate his life, at Outbreak Europe, and the blessing he passed down to us, a place each year to reunite in remembrance.
And now B-Boy Float is also a part of that remembrance, spending his last days at Outbreak, a part of the vibe and seeing a dance and culture that he helped inspire people in, take root in a place no one would ever have guessed that it'd come to life so vibrantly.
Every year Outbreak Europe is always full of stories living to be told. This year was no different. From Kleju singing and performing at the after party, to Fusik causing the outside tent to erupt in cyphers in which MG's mum was rocking! From Lil Kev's back Spin on Dany Dann's actual back, to Pharoahe Monch and Maste Ace bringing the night alive, and the
announcements of the promise of a Legit Blast in Miami.
But sometimes you got to look back to go forward. To remember where you came from to know where you are going, to appreciate how far you have come by looking back at the view. The past never gets forgotten as long as we are around to remember it, and it's important to remember that Hip Hop is a celebration of a culture that grew from a small place that no one expected it to, just like Outbreak Europe did. It's important to realise that we are all a part of history as long as we continue to spread the stories, connect through them and carry on tradition.
And I know that for many Outbreak Europe is now a tradition a time for 4 to 5 days in the year where we leave everything behind to travel out into the country of Slovakia and come together as one culture and family, to celebrate, dance, drink, battle, cypher, party until the sun comes up, make new friends, meet old friends, and just get lost in this culture called Hip Hop.
10 years and counting, that's a lot of stories created and connections made. Lets carry on tradition and celebrate again at the next one.
Much love and shout out as always to MG, MK, the whole Outbreak Team and everyone who came to celebrate again this year.
Vivid Love and Hip Hop
The Vivid Scribe
B-Boy Manny (Soul Mavericks crew)
Photos by: Eva Berten, Denis Lisovets, David Kkozi Lejcek, Matuszetak, L.Kot