Q: What is b-boying?
A: B-boying (or b-girling) is a traditional style of Afro-diasporic competitive dance that developed in the Bronx, NY in the early 1970s. It is often mistakenly called "breakdancing".
Q: What's wrong with the word "breakdancing"?
A: In the mid-eighties, b-boying briefly became a media sensation, popularized by appearances in commercials, at the closing ceremonies for the 1984 Summer Olympics, and in low-budget movies such as Flashdance (1983), Beat Street (1984) and Breakin' (1984). At that time, the term "breakdancing" was introduced as an umbrella term for a several forms of urban dance (including b-boying, popping and locking) that developed in different communities at different times. Many b-boys and b-girls feel that this term obscured the specifics of these individual dance styles in order to create an oversimplifiedand often stereotypicalview of urban dance and the cultures from which it emerged. In fact, some b-boys and b-girls actually consider the word "breakdancer" to be the equivalent of a racial slur.
Q: What's going on when I see people b-boying?
A: Each dancer's performance moves through four phases:
Each time they enter the circle, a proficient b-girl or b-boy will try to use the music to connect these four aspects of the dance into a larger narrative statement.
Q: What does the term "foundation" mean?
A: The term "foundation" refers to a core set of concepts that b-boys and b-girls are expected to learn as part of their dance education. Among other things, it includes the fundamental moves associated with the dance, its history, philosophy, and battle strategies. The term was chosen as the title of the book because it reflects the traditionalism, discipline, and intellectual commitment that many b-boys and b-girls bring to their dance.
Q: Is Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York a history of b-boying?
A: No. Foundation is a study of the social and aesthetic values of the New York b-boy scene between 2003 and 2008. History is approached as a way that contemporary dancers understand the past (shaped by present social needs), rather than a series of facts whose significance is self-evident.
Q: I like hip-hop, but I'm not really interested in dancing. Why should I read this book?
A: B-boying has managed to preserve many traditional aspects of the hip-hop aesthetic that have been lost to mainstream rap music, including approaches to fashion, battling, mentorship, and individual identity, all of which are discussed in Foundation.
On a more general level, hip-hop is far more conceptually diverse than it is usually given credit for. In order to understand any one aspect of it, it is important to understand the breadth of the whole. Historically, the vast majority of hip-hop scholarship has been devoted to the study of rap music, a form of popular music that developed out of hip-hop culture. As a result, scholars have used tools (such as broad social analysis and the literary interpretation of lyrics) that are designed to address questions about popular music and social circumstance. To understand more grass-roots aspects of hip-hop culture, such as b-boying, a very different approach is required. By integrating such approaches (particularly ethnographic participant-observation) into the overall world of hip-hop scholarship, Foundation asks new kinds of questions about hip-hop, and provides new kinds of answers.
Q: Is the author a b-boy?
A: The author, a forty-year-old professor of ethnomusicology and African American studies, considers himself more a "student of b-boying" than a b-boy per se, but he has been known to get down.
Q: Can he spin on his head?