Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop History
This is living online documentation of Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop history. Historical content will be added as it is shared with grhiphop.org
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Raps Around You & The Groove Spot: Grand Rapids Hip Hop Journalism of the 90s-2000s
D.U.G. and Mr. Joe Walker pioneered Grand Rapids Hip Hop journalism during the mid-late 90s. To this Day, Mr. Joe Walker of the Groove Spot continues to share the stories of Hip Hop, art, entertainment and community. You can find his writing here.
In a time before file sharing, before music streaming, and social media, the only way to get your music heard was though live music events, your friends or word of mouth. Self promotion was costly and wouldn't even reach the masses. So in 1998 being frustrated with Grand Rapids music venues not allowing hip hop/rap acts in the doors, Ranard Jones Came up with the idea of creating a local hip hop magazine to help promote his crew "Earth Movers" along with other local hiphoppas and anything that had to do with Hip Hop in the Grand Rapids and surrounding area. Behind the creative arm was D.U.G. (Desendants under Grand Rapids) and the Earth Movers which consisted of Ranard "Ra!" Jones, Carlos "Latin Loc" Rodriguez, Mark "Body The Dragon Slayer" Hendersen, Jay "Kado K" Kus. In 1998, Grand Rapids' first exclusive Hip Hop magazine, RAPS AROUND YOU, was born.
Jay "Kado K" Kus
A Written History Of Grand Rapids' Premiere Breakin' Crew - 61Syx Teknique
By Keegan "Bboy Seoul" Loye
61Syx Teknique began as a group of friends from Northview High school. In 2004 the school hosted a local talent show and a few different crews of dancers came to showcase. After the talent show, Goblin, Sly, Gum-B and Randy continued to connect with Raw Steady (formaly known as Tiggur) for practices and sessions.
From there the crew was born. Late night practices, and long garage sessions were where the crew chemistry really began to grow and before you knew it, the crew booked their first official performance opening for B2K. After getting their first taste of the big stage, the crew soon named themselves 61Syx Teknique, and soon took the streets of Grand Rapids, dancing downtown at Blues on the Mall at the corner of Pearl and Monroe, and in clubs all across Grand Rapids.
The word soon spread and the cyphers started getting bigger. More dancers from around the city started joining on Wednesday nights. Including new members Seoul and Vertchu. The same faces began to show up to Blues on the Mall throughout each summer, and that festival remains a staple in the history of 61Syx Teknique. As our crew mentality grew, our hunger for battles starting growing with it. And in 2006, we went to our first jam in Benton Harbor called “Holding down the Harbor”. The event was thrown by Jacob “Christlike” Castorena, who would later become a part of 61Syx Teknique.
The event was the crew’s first real taste of the Midwest Breakin scene. Crews from Detroit, Lansing, Chicago, Ann Arbor and more were all in the house representing. The battles were crazy, the cyphers were dope, and there were a few heated call outs! That event showed 61Syx what it was like to be a part of the jam. From then on, we were hooked.
We headed right back into the lab and began training for battles, and performances. As we continued to show and prove, the opportunities were growing fast! The next year we went to as many battles as we could around the Midwest, and continued to build our teamwork, and crew routines for performances back home in Grand Rapids. Soon 61Syx were performing for artists like Lloyd Banks, Tony Touch, and Lil Flip! In 2007, we we’re performing for the (At the time) defending Arena Football League Champions, The Grand Rapids Rampage. These events soon lead to the crew signing a deal with Coleman Entertainment Company. Which brought them on tour across the country performing at over 100+ different colleges and universities.
It was during this time that 61Syx’s crew gained new members in Christlike, Vandy, Varos, Armor, and Raze1 (RIP). Raze (Formanlly known as BBoy Peoples) joined the crew in 2009 after moving to Grand Rapids from Sturgis, MI. One of the strongest characteristics of Raze was his hunger, and drive for Breakin. His ultimate goal was to be “Internationally known and respected” for his Breaking. And through his Principals of Sacrifice, Discipline, and Honor, His hunger would lead him to seek out knowledge from Coda (Weaponz of Rhythm). Coda who had been studying HipHop Culture directly from the Universal Zulu Nation at the time took Raze under his wing, and passed down timeless knowledge and history about the creation of HipHop culture. Raze was a direct tunnel of info to the crew of 61Syx.
Soon, most of the crew were studying under Coda’s mentorship. With a further understanding of the culture and community. 61Syx’s mentality changed. We learned how to play the game, and we took some of our strongest routines from our shows, and started using them in competitions. At the jams we would hit the cyphers, and the battles HARD. Over the next 5 years with the new additions to the crew like K2Roc, Jamone, Demo, Blank, Randum, and Earth. The crew were no longer just competing, but we were Winning, Judging, Hosting and promoting battles all over the country. Since our first battle in 2006, The crew have placed in over 100+ Battles across the world competing in almost all 50 states, and in multiple countries!
While traveling and touring with the crew, the name 61Syx was gaining recognition by the dance community, and artists alike. Back home, we continued to represent the HipHop scene in performances, community events, workshops, and performances. 61Syx went on to share stages with artists like The Clipse, Talib Kweli, Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Master Flash, Belle Biv Devoe, and more.
The crew soon were also promoting our own events to help bring the love of HipHop Culture back to Grand Rapids. We have been lucky enough to throw events all over the city at venues like The BOB, The Pyramid Scheme, The Emerald Room, Wealthy Street Theatre, Rosa Parks circle and at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo! We found that throwing breaking battles were one of the quickest way to help promote our scene in the national dance community.
In 2010 Raze told the crew that he wanted to embark on the journey of passing down his knowledge that he had been taught from Coda down to the next generation of Dancers. He then went on to open 61Syx Teknique Street Dance Academy. The first Street Dance Academy in Michigan, and the only dance studio dedicated to preserving the art of HipHop culture. Since then, 61Syx SDA have opened their doors to thousands of students since opening. Becoming a staple of Grand Rapids HipHop for battles, classes, and events. The studio was built on the idea of passing down the love for Breakin, and the love for HipHop through the experiences of our crew, and other top level Breakers like Abstrakt, Lil Jon, Kuzya, Flexum, Thesis, Born and more. With the help of crew, 61Syx Teknique Street Dance Academy can say that we have proudly been serving our community for over a decade!
In 2011, Raze passed down ownership of 61Syx SDA to Seoul. Raze was off to Las Vegas to pursue his goal of Breakin and becoming internationally known. Seoul welcomed the opportunity and helped continue to build onto the vision that Raze had started.
In 2012, Raze fell into a Hypoglycemic coma in his sleep, and passed away shortly after. The loss was a giant hit to the crew and the US Breakin community. Raze left behind a fiancé Elizabeth, and his soon to be born son Ryu. We’re blessed to see them often, and watch Ryu grow up in his young adolescence, and of course teach him the ways of the bboy, just like his dad. Although we lost him physically, the legacy and spirit of Raze will always be instilled in each member of the crew.
Because of the success of the studio, our crew soon expanded even further to new crew members like Gnat, Ant, Samu, Sylentz, Phil Mac and the Rock-it Scientists!! The Rock-it Scientists were 61Syx’s FIRST kids battle crew that were brought all across the Country competing in both Kids and Adult battles like Silverback Open, Miami Pro-Am, and Freestyle Session. It was working with the kids, and bringing them into the cyphers, and guiding them to find their own individual voices through breakin that continued the legacy of Raze1. This soon created other small crews like Ground Force 1, and Aerial Tactic. Our studio has offered classes of all kinds from Breakin, to House, Poetry events, and HipHop Bootcamps diving into all elements of HipHop.
The name of 61Syx SDA soon started to reach all across the country. The fact that 61Syx SDA was only one of a few Studios Specialized in the art of Street Dance, and also because both our students and the crew were representing in battles and parterning for events and organizations like Artprize, The Chicago Bulls, Local First, The Pyramid Scheme, The BOB and more! Over the next few years the crew would continue to grow. But would also begin to grow in a different sense. Many members of 61Syx soon began to pursue their other careers, and paths. A few have moved to other states, but the flame in Grand Rapids has remained strong!
In 2017, It was soon time for Seoul also step away from Grand Rapids, as he moved down to Indianapolis to open up a new Street Dance Academy called 31Svn SDA. And with him stepping away from the studio, The door was open for ANT to step into the next leader of the studio and now decade old business. Being a part of the newest generation of the crew, along with Samu, Philmac, and Alien J, this now-generation of 61Syx is hungry and has such a passion to help kids find their individual voices and styles through self expression.
In October 2020, Ant officially became owner of 61Syx Street Dance Academy and has since began pushing forward the arts scene in Grand Rapids and is soon expanding to the Muskegon Area! Working with other organizations like All of the Above, Grand Rapids Ballet, Lions and Rabbits and more, 61Syx Teknique has continuously shown the evolution of what it takes to be one of Grand Rapids longest HipHop CREWS.
Website at www.61syx.com
Social media platforms @61syxsda
Grand Rapids Hip Hop Awards 2009
In 2009, The Grand Rapids Hip Hop Coalition hosted the Grand Rapids Hip Hop Awards at Wealthy Theater. Peep the recap video by David Cain aka Unk Funk aka The Funkadelic Relic.
Grand Rapids Hip Hop History from David Cain aka Unk Funk aka The Funkadelic Relic
616 Hip Hop History Minute - Hip Hop Appreciation Week 2011
DJ Spinny Spin Tribute 2011
Unk Funk's 2014 Grand Rapids Hip Hop Recap
The Grand Zulus - Universal Zulu Nation Chapter
Grand Rapids, MI birthed the first officially registered Universal Zulu Nation chapter in the state of Michigan on June 20, 2015 at 61Syx Street Dance Academy at 2pm with the blessing of then midwest regional director, Zulu King Coda of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The requirements to start a chapter were to have 15 interested individuals meet with Zulu King Coda with registration documents filled out, signed, and registration fee in full ready. At this time, Zulu King Coda answered any questions the interested individuals had about the "Green Book" (the UZN's recruitment and foundational document) and gave a breakdown of the UZN's expectations and how he would like the chapter to begin.
The Grand Zulus consisted of:
Chapter Minister - Monk Matthaeus
Vice President - Bboy K2-Rock
Kendrick Cumming aka 88
Bboy Raw Steady
Bboy Antface Killah
DJ ILL One
The Grand Zulus got right to work and began planning events to engage the Grand Rapids community. But their existence was short lived. Only months after their formation, Universal Zulu Nation founder and Hip Hop pioneering icon, Afrika Bambaataa was caught up in a sexual abuse scandal in which numerous men were coming out with accusation of sexual assault and abuse by Bambaataa. The Grand Zulus held a vote and decided unanimously to resign and end the chapter after less the year. The decision to resign and dissolve the chapter was made due to the years of work many of the members had already put in serving youth in the area. The Grand Zulus did not want to be associated in any way with the scandal or horrible accusations that were being made.
Hip Hop 4 Flint
On Saturday, March 19, 2016, 42 cities around the world will participated in a global fundraising initiative bringing together the Hip-Hop community in solidarity and support for the people of Flint, Michigan and in partnership with the non-profit Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church (1417 Stevenson St. Flint, MI. 48504).
Hip Hop 4 Flint brought together local, national, and international hip-hop artists, journalists, activists, educators and supporters to raise funds to purchase water filtration systems for the homes of the residents of Flint, MI.
This event was led by YoNasDa Lonewolf, emcee, published writer, an activist who focuses her work on human rights, indigenous rights, and social justice and was the creator of Hip-Hop 4 Haiti and an executive committee member of the Justice or Else! 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March.
The Hip Hop 4 Flint coalition hosted a global fundraising event on March 19, 2016, to raise funds to purchase home water filtration systems for residents that will filter both lead and bacteria throughout the entire home, making the water safe for both consumption and washing. Each city will gather their leaders and youth in the hip hop community to host an event to collect monetary donations to purchase water filters. All donations will go towards the purchase of filters which will be delivered personally, home by home, to the residents of Flint by the Hip Hop 4 Flint delegation.
These events took place simultaneously in Flint, Detroit, and Grand Rapids, MI, New York City and Long Island, NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark and New Brunswick, NJ, Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach, Florida, Dakar, Senegal, Toronto and Montreal, Canada, Boston and New Bedford, Massachusetts, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Durham, North Carolina, Providence, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio TX, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, St. Louis and Kansas City, MO, Minneapolis, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, Hampton, VA, Greenville, SC, Ashkelon, Israel, Nashville, and will be streamed online via UStream and broadcast through media partner allhiphop.com.
The Grand Rapids, MI cohort was led by Monk Matthaeus (FKA Choppy Blades) and consisted of numerous hiphoppas from the area as well as Hip Hop advocates and concerned citizens. HipHop4Flint Grand Rapids held two events on March 19, 2016. The first was a kids breakin' battle that was held at the Edge Urban Church followed by a star-studded concert held at The Stache (Intersection). Grand Rapids raised over $5000 on March 19, 2016 which was the most money raised by any city that participated. Grand Rapids Hip Hop represented well!