Latinxs have been at the forefront of hip hop ever since it began on the gritty streets of the South Bronx. In fact, it was the confluence of African American and Puerto Rican cultures that laid the fertile groundwork for the beats, dance and art that would come to define the movement. Though Latinos were involved in every area of hip hop from the beginning, our influence was probably most felt in the crews of b-boys and girls comprised mostly of young, Puerto Rican dancers. Once those crews started to form and proliferate (the “b” was short for break) began to proliferate, mainstream America caught on. Featured first on a news segment on an ABC news segment in ’81, the most famous crew of all, Rock Steady soon found fame in films such as Style Wars and Wild Style.
Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon, became the face of the b-boy movement and helped launch the Rock Steady Crew to international fame and put breakdancing on the map.
“If you talk about some of the famous break crews who really broke through and got known by the early ‘80s, the majority were Latino dancers like Rock Steady Crew’s Crazy Legs,” historian Nelson George notes. “So if the idea of the hip-hop DJ is predicated on keeping dancers dancing, then the Latino aspect is crucial. Their aesthetic, their taste, their ability to dance, all affected what was played and how it was played.”
In the decades since the inception of hip-hop, b-boying (and b-girling) has become mainstream, with schools and competitions dedicated to the dance form found worldwide. Here’s a look at some of the most famous Latino b-boys and b-girls who started it all.