“My thing when it comes to legacy is, no matter what you do, it’s still dictated by other people.”
53-year-old Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon, co-founder of seminal breaking group, the Rock Steady Crew, has been around and apart of enough history to correct it.
He was there when hip hop got its name and challenges the widely held belief that DJ Kool Herc is the father of hip hop.
He was in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video and can tell you who really invented the moonwalk. He was dancing during the inception of hip hop dancing and his early moves are now the foundation for some of the most innovative B-boys and B-girls of this generation.
“‘Power Moves’ comes from a kind of backspin that I made up. That backspin evolved into what people know as ‘windmills’ but it was originally called the ‘continuous backspin. That centrifugal force is what led to power moves.”
The Shadow League caught up with Crazy Legs in Houston earlier this month as he participated in a weekend of Red Bull BC One Camp activities. During the weekend he gave a lecture about the history of hip hop and Latino culture and surprised generations of dancers in attendance at Warehouse Live with a rare appearance during a battle with his fellow Red Bull BC One All-Stars.
Watching all those generations of dancers revere him so highly during the battle was touching to see for a man who asserts “the fact I’m alive, the fact I’m not doing time is pretty damn amazing.”
Born in 1966, he grew up in a New York City that would resemble a dystopian nightmare straight out of Black Mirror. Mafia bosses were shot in the head in broad daylight in Columbus Circle and New York City was burning and nearly bankrupt. Racism wasn’t just vitriolic slurs, it changed the entire landscape of New York City for a young Latino Crazy Legs.
“We were dealing with situations where I need to go from here to here because there’s a jam there. But, in between there, there’s this Italian mafia neighborhood that we can’t walk through. So I have to go here and then I have to go allllllll the way down to get to there, just because of racism. It wasn’t because of gang wars. It was just because I was Puerto Rican or my boys were black.”
The first 20 years of his life were spent in one of the toughest eras in New York City history. But that didn’t mean he didn’t see the opportunity of being a part of a Martin Scorsese production. 20-year-old Crazy Legs auditioned for Wesley Snipes’s role in Michael Jackson’s 1986 music video for his classic song “Bad” and got some wisdom with his rejection.
“Martin Scorsese was like, ‘You know what? When you live more, and you decide to become an actor, you’ll be really good.’ I always remembered that.” He still was able to have a part in the video that led to an indelible moment with the King of Pop.
The story @CrazyLegsBX told @ShadowLeague at @redbullbcone in Houston about how he got in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video needs to be in the upcoming Hip Hop Museum. https://t.co/aLOBhrW523
He’s lived through enough history to know Jackson’s dance teacher of 19 years, Bruce “Poppin’ Taco” Falcon, Jeffrey Daniels –legendary dancer who was a creative and choreography consultant for Jackson — and Geron “Caszper” Candidate deserve the credit for teaching Michael Jackson his iconic move, forever known as the “moonwalk.”
He even knows what MJ made iconic really wasn’t even a moonwalk. “The move was really called the Backslide, it wasn’t called the moonwalk. The moonwalk is actually a whole different move,” Crazy Legs explained. “Mr. Freeze is the one who made it famous on Flash Dance.”
It’s been 10 years since Jackson’s untimely death, and Crazy Legs still remembers where he was and how he felt the moment he find out.
June 25th will mark the 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. @CrazyLegsBX remembers where he was, how he felt and the King of Pop’s impact, 10 years later, at @redbullbcone in Houson. (via @ShadowLeague) https://t.co/WEOgXqvJ01
Crazy Legs “was there when Afrika Bambaataa named ‘Hip Hop’ on the New York City rap tour that went through the U.K. and France in 1982.” According to him, hip hop “never had a direction when it first started,” even down to its name. “[Bambaataa] took a saying that was used widely by emcees. We could’ve been the yes-yes-yall culture. Hip hop was a word of action; a party action.”
So you can understand why a hip hop historian such as Crazy Legs doesn’t truly buy the common narrative of who fathered hip hop.
Most people might say DJ Kool Herc is the father of hip-hop. @CrazyLegsBX isn’t one of them. (Via @ShadowLeague) @redbullbcone https://t.co/hkz52g5SEb
You can debate all you want about what version of hip hop history you prescribe to. In the end, chances are, you weren’t there.
Crazy Legs was.