Breakdancing music, history and influences

Let's start to explore breakdancing music, how it all got started and who the main influences on the breaking scene were.

Best breakdancing music

The best type of music when it comes to b-boying is something that has a break beat. This ranges from the 70's to the early 2000's.

A lot of songs nowadays aren't made in the tempo or fashion that b-boys can comfortably dance to.
Some songs that are great to start off are:

  • Anything from James Brown
  • Erik B & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique
  • Blitz the Ambassador - Losing Your Mind
  • A Tribe Called Quest - Scenario
  • Breakestra - The Family
  • Anything from Breakestra
  • Lack of Afro - P.A.R.T.Y (Instrumental)
  • Dj Lean Rock - Sneak Peak
  • Funky Bijou - Na Mee Hon
  • DJ Format & Phill Most Chill - Beverly

When you're exploring breakdancing music, you need to spend a little time getting used to the rhythms and patterns of the beats.  To help you along a bit, take a look at my video on improving your musicality...

Here are some breakdancing music practice tracks found on YouTube:

History of Breakdancing

Breakdancing, (original name b-boying or b-girling), started back in the early 1970s in the Bronx, New York.

B-boys or b-girls are known for dancing to the "breaks" or the "breakdown" of the beat. This is where the name generally comes from.

DJ Kool Herc was known for looping the breakdowns of the beat when he was hosting block parties.

DJ Kool HercThe Father of Hip Hop: DJ Kool Herc

He noticed that the boys and girls would dance mainly to the breakdown of a song.

So what he did to elongate that part was get the same record and have it loop from one record to the next.

DJ Kool Herc actually goes into a deeper meaning of the word b-boy. He describes the true meaning of it as an individual who has reached a breaking point or is "broken," and they're letting all their energy out onto the dance floor.

Breaking was influenced by a variety of sources such as gymnastics, tap dance, capoeria, and kung fu.

It was meant to be a way for rival street gangs to fight for turf. The best dancer of one group would come out and "battle" the best dancer of the other gang. Breaking, along with other elements of hip hop is what gave the kids of that time an outlet. It was a time where they felt like they were out of control.  This way, they had the opportunity to create something that was their own.

Naturally, a huge part of b-boying and hip hop is the art of the battle, where one challenges the other to test their skills and see who is the most dominant. It's through the constant challenging of skills that has lead this movement to evolve to what it is today.

In the late 70's (78-79), breaking was replaced by disco. In the 80's, breaking was popularized by mainstream media. By the late 80's, early 90's, breaking and breakdancing music faded away from the mainstream.

Biggest Breakdancing Influences

James BrownThe Grandfather of Hip Hop: James Brown
Afrika BambaataaThe Godfather of Hip Hop: Afrika Bambaataa
Rock Steady CrewRock Steady Crew
  • The Bronx Boyz
  • New York City Breakers
  • Air Force Crew
  • Crazy Commanders
  • Batch
  • Salsoul Crew - 1st Hispanic Breaking Crew
  • Spy
  • Trac2
  • Speedy
  • Jimmy D
  • Jo Jo
  • Zulu Nation/Zulu Kings
  • Dynamic Rockers
  • Radio Tron
  • Ken Swift
  • Crazy Legs
  • Mr Freeze
  • Frosty Freeze
  • Mr Wiggles
  • Floormasters

Hip Hop Landmarks

  • 1520 Sedgwick Ave
  • Radiotron
  • Lincoln Center (1981 Battle of Dynamic Rockers vs Rock Steady Crew)

Notable Hip Hop Events

  • Bboy Summit
  • Freestyle Session
  • Battle of The Year
  • R-16
  • Style2ouf
  • Redbull BC One

B-boying Documentaries

  • The Freshest Kids
  • Planet B-Boy
  • Style Wars

Four Elements of Hip Hop

B-boying is one of the four elements of hip hop.
The other three elements are Graffiti art, DJ, and MCing.
Other hip hop dances are popping and locking.

While these elements had already existed before, it was the Godfather of Hip Hop, Afrika Bambaataa, that brought all of them together.

Graffiti Art
Grandmaster FlashDJ Grandmaster Flash
MCing

According to the Universal Zulu Nation, the current representatives of the true essence of hip hop, the four principles of hip hop are: peace, love, unity, and having fun. It was these principles that brought many individuals to hip hop despite their background.

Four Elements of B-boying/Breakdancing

There are four elements when it comes to b-boying.

Breakdance Top RocksPic:Peter Tsai

Top rocks

This is the part of b-boying/breakdancing where you're still dancing on two feet.

This is where you introduce to others who you are and let your character shine.

Breakdance FootworkPic:PeterTsai

Footwork

This is where you're using both your hands AND your feet to make footwork patterns that dazzle your audience.

Breakdance FreezesPic:Bboy Benanza

Freezes

This is the period or the exclamation point at the end of your sentence.

How dynamic you want to finish is completely up to you.

Breakdance Power Moves

Power moves

This element of breaking is what brought its popularity.

Adding this to your repertoire will give you athleticism that will compliment your smooth footwork, controlled freezes, and dynamic top rocks. 

You can check out my breakdancing for beginners video demos of all of these moves here.

More from Emeroy

What's next?  Head over to my breakdancing basics section where I give you all the answers to your b-boying questions.

Emeroy Bernardo
› Breakdancing Music