MAURIZIO AKA THE NEXT ONE (ROCK STEADY CREW / ITALY)
Interview done by Remy (The Spartanic Rockers)
Can you introduce yourself?
Ok, I wanna tell you my real name, my old name from back in the days:
Back then my name was “Dope King Next One”…Then I took a shortcut…
When did you see Breaking for the first time?
This was on TV in ’84. One of the first video I saw back then was “Streedance” of the group “Breakmachine”. I think this was mostly because of the popular reason that it was shown at that time. Then they used to show the video clip from the song “Beat Street Strut”. This was very, very famous. But the scene in Italy started already around ’82. I came like 2 years later. There were already dancers because of Flashdance and some videos from Go Go Dance, you know, Go Go music from Washington DC (USA). There was a famous song, but i can’t remember the name. It was showing tricks like footwork and stuff like that. And also some other European came to Italy. Some French B-Boys. And this group from Nottingham (UK) “Rock City Crew”. They came to Italy with the name “Extreme Team”. This was one of the most influencing group. And the most popular crews in Italy back in ’84 were Dynamic Force from Milano, Taxido Breaking and Goes Down Rockers from Torino. But back then everything was very, very slow. Because there was nothing. You know, developing moves and creativity was not like nowadays that everything is there and you gotta just practice. Back then you had to think about moves. It was really hard.
Was the boom of Breaking all over Italy?
Yes, it was all over Italy. Everybody was trying, even the regular people. There were some nice B-Boys in Rome, Bologna, Florence, Padona, Mantova.. But the biggest scene was in Torino and Milano.
What was going on during that time?
There used to be many, many Zulu parties. In Italy the Zulu Nation was always there. Because Afrika Bambaataa came the first time to Italy in ’84/’85. He used to tour with “Dolby D” from the London Allstar Breakers. And there were people from Paris City Breakers: Nicolas, Didier who is nowadays also known as Joey Starr of Supreme NTM. And there was another guy who formed later the music group Assassin. He was very famous at that time because he was the one who went to New York, you know. And at that time there were many parties and everybody was travelling from all over Italy. But there weren’t really that much people in the south. It was more half Italy..the centre. After Rome there were some kids from Lecce in the south but that’s it. And there used to be always battles. People always practiced, practiced, practiced, waited for the battle and showed up. Everybody was looking for each other. Always looking for the top guys. The three main crews always battled because they were the most notorious. They used to tour all over the place. They also got so many shows with sponsors like Adidas, Nike,… What happened then was that a lot of young kids, a lot of new groups wanted to try to get shows too and they used to sell out themselves because they weren’t that good and at the level that they could get on stage and do shows. People in the clubs, owners of the clubs and promoters they never understood nothing about the real scene. So whatever for this people looked like B-Boys they would get them. But in the end the level came very, very down and nobody wanted to pay for the main people. And you know, if you get to a level that you get money and get gigs on TV you don’t wanna go back, for free or for little money.
How did connections to other European dancers start?
Back then I used to be in this crew called Taxido Breaking and then later in Goes Down Rockers. These groups were one of the first that joined competitions. So, these competitions opened new connections with overseas people and other European countries. They signed me in a competition for joke because i didn’t know anything. They said: “Come with us to a competition”..And I was like: “Why?”. Anyway, I went there and I won the Italian Championship. So, I went to the World Championship in Istanbul (Turkey) in ’85. And there were many, many dancers. Some dancers were very famous like Paulo Nunes from Holland, Brian from Manchester (UK) from the famous group called “Streetmachine”. There was another guy that now uses to work with the famous music group “Soul 2 Soul”: Benji from “Broken Glass”. He is a very good Popper. There used to be Soulboy. He is still leaving in Italy. And that was the first time that I met Swift and Cora from Germany. Of course Crazy from Switzerland. And who else? I mean there were so many.. That was really the way for the connections.
And when was the first time that Italian dancers went to events in countries like Switzerland or Germany?
See, the main problem of Italy.. Until for a while I was really the only one to go. There was nobody really there. I don’t know why but everybody was just dancing in Italy. And the level was still like it was hard to develop and take it to the next level. Oh, I forgot there was Emilio… I forgot Emilio was there too!! Emilio was there too.. Until about ’87 it was mainly Emilio and me. And in ’88 I stopped doing competitions. Because at that time I started doing something else. In my town there was a DJ who was my best friend: DJ Graph. I used to go in his house and I used to start playing the music. And you know, you like to play the music, you love to do music. So, I bought turntables and started to collect records. And that’s one thing that really helped me a lot on my dance to develop because I understood that the secret is the music. That is really the problem of a lot of people. They never really focus on the music. They just focus on the move.
What about the other elements of Hip Hop in Italy?
Everything started with the B-Boys and the DJs. There weren’t so many. But there was DJ Graph. He went to Milano and met DJ Skizzo. Then they started touring and doing their thing. And there were 2 famous DJs from Rome: Ice One and Eolo. There was another famous DJ from Florence: Blade. And there was DJ Phillies from Torino. Milano and Torino were really the places where it was Hip Hop 360. There were some Graffiti writers all over the place but it wasn’t really that big. Painting on the wall and all that wasn’t really that big. I don’t know for whatever reason…I don’t wanna talk about something that I really don’t know. And the last thing that came out in Italy was Rap. I mean some B-Boys already were rapping a little bit like Shawn from Milano. He is an Italian-African kid. He was rapping in English. At that time everybody was rapping in English. Because nobody knew that you could express yourself in your own language. Because, you know, Rap is a barrier if you speak in another language. If you wanna communicate you gotta have to speak in your own language…anyway.. And in Torino there were some other guys back in the days like “Grasshopper”. He was a writer. And there were a few B-Girls. There was “Carry D”. She was a B-Girl. In Torino there used to be the best B-Girls of all Italy. There was this girl named “Alex”. She was incredible! She was really incredible..She was one of the best Headspinner of Torino. Better than a lot of guys. Carry D used to do very nice Headspins too. Nice Footworks, nice tricks and stuff like that. And I wanna give props to this guy Soulboy. He was really the one who influenced a lot of people with his friends from Nottingham, like Pepsie. You know Pepsie? This is the the tall guy from Rock City Crew who is doing Headspin and this crazy style in “Electro Rock”. Oh sorry, I have to even mention Topcat. This was another American kid raising in Italy. You know, another one that was there. And there was another kid from Rome: MC Shark.
And what happened then, in the late 80ies?
I call it the “Blackout Time”. Around ’88/’89 only the main guys kept on going. I wasn’t the only one in Torino but in Milano everybody stopped. The best B-Boys there all stopped. You know, back then there wasn’t really no business. And nobody was thinking for the future. Everybody did it for a little while and then they got older, you know, family, life priority, looking for a job. That’s why a lot of people stopped. That was the worst time. That really was the worst time… Because I was really feeling alone. I was feeling alone because there was really nobody. I was the only one dancing in the street at the same spot because everybody was looking…see..I mean in Switzerland or in Germany you are very lucky because you’ve got youth clubs and warm places. People give you a chance to express yourself. But in Italy there is nothing like that. Still nowadays! There is no real youth club. You’ve got social centre but that is more political and it’s more like people involving to be in drugs or whatever. I don’t wanna say everybody is like that but the concept of youth club and social centre is very different. In Italy it’s more for the scene of Punk.
What do you think about Hip Hop nowadays?
What is very important that a lot of things let you understand: Nowadays everybody wanna be selective. Back then it was like if you didn’t know how to do everything, everybody was looking at you like: “oh, you just dance…you are just rapping?”. I had no music. So every time I was going to catch the bus for going to the spot where we used to be, I was beatboxing. Always! And, of course, as soon as you get a little knowledge…so you start buying records, you start buying a little turntable…making the earlier loops with the “Pause”. You know, first mixtapes and productions with loops with the “Pause”! Because at that time that was really the thing.. And everybody started like that. In the USA it was the same thing. We don’t have to create anything in reality because the street is already there you gotta just follow the way… And, of course, once you understand the foundation then you can start thinking something different or can bring back some old flavour and make it actual and take it maybe to a next level, to a different level, to a better level, whatever. Of a lot of stuff people are thinking that it is something new, but you know back then there was already everything there. Especially for Breaking. Nowadays you can see some different tricks. But you gotta understand something that back then…if you tried to be like a gymnast or like an athletic or circus guy everybody was looking at you like you are a sucker, not a B-Boy. B-Boys nowadays are doing like gymnastic or circus moves like jumping or whatever. The main reason was that if you get a move from a different environment you gotta change it in a B-Boy style. I used to battle kids from gymnastic because they were showing their “Flares”. In Italy everybody was calling it “Thomas”. And the gymnast they straight perfect. It’s good but it’s like it doesn’t make you feeling anything. And the thing very important for B-Boys is that B-Boys gotta shock you. B-Boys come from nowhere. All moves. And when you see the dancers make their moves and you understand what they gotta do next it’s like you lose the feeling with the dancers. Because you are just feeling the actual time that you are witness of their dance. You see “oh good”. But right after you already forget because it doesn’t impress you. And I think that was something that was slowing down the whole thing. I traveled a lot and I saw a lot of things. There are a lot of good dancers all over the world. But there are very, very few great dancers, very few that inspire generations. And that’s very important. It’s not about how many spins, how many incredible moves you do. It’s the way you do. That’s very important. That’s really the main energy in all Hip Hop environment. Not only in the dance. In Djing, in the music, it’s the same. If you are doing incredible tricks and you don’t have the flavor with the records and you don’t have the expression that you have self-confidence that you rock yourself at the same time…If you rock yourself you rock the people because the best Hip Hop is when you enjoy yourself. And when you enjoy yourself people can feel your energy. And even the Graffiti writers, everybody was looking for and trying to create an own alphabet. Style of letters. And everybody was trying to think how to tag their name. Because if somebody asks you to sign whatever and you don’t know how to tag…you know, you are incredible and you don’t know how to tag..this is like shit! See, nowadays what we lost i think is the Hip Hop. Nowadays you have rappers, you have DJs, you have dancers…but we lost really that Hip Hop flavor. A lot of people doesn’t understand there is a way to be, you know. Because a B-Boy is the heart. You gotta feel B-Boying even you are a DJ. DJs used to spin for the B-Boys. They knew how to play their music. And everybody was feeling it. Nowadays there are DJs that are spinning different music nobody can really relate to. And the rappers were there , just like in “Wildstyle”. I think the best example is Wildstyle. Take a look at Wildstyle and “Stylewars”. I mean “Beat Street” too, but Beat Street was already a story from Hollywood, you know, a fake story. Wildstyle was straight up Hip Hop… And you gotta be Hip Hop in your mind, in your brain, before to express yourself. And the people that used to have already a little bit of knowledge, at that time you could recognize. “Oh they must be incredible”..Why? Because these people were digging to find Puma States, Superstars, Kangols, you know, the identity of a B-Boy. That style. Because fashion is a part of Hip Hop of course. You can be whatever. Punk people dress in a certain way. Hippies dress in a certain way. And Hip Hop people dress in a certain way. Own identity. Wanna be different than everybody else. And that’s very important. But if you have only fashion that’s like you are just a fashion model but you don’t represent Hip Hop. At that time it was very different. If you had the knowledge you were in a level that you had the style, the gears and the skills. That’s very important. Take it to the skills, the real skills. See nowadays you have people that are clapping or whatever. It’s nice. See I wanna tell you why we started clapping to the circle: Because we wanted to try to get integrate the scene, try to get involve new, young people that didn’t know anything about our rules. We lost the rules! Nobody is talking about rules anymore. Nobody knows about rules. Because to let the doors open, to let come more people to integrate the scene you have to be a little soft, you know. You can’t be strict “listen it’s like that”. Because as soon as you tell “it’s like this”, you put a barrier. And people are like they wanna take it easy, they don’t wanna work hard. Only the people that understand work hard, get to a different level and start getting connections with other people. Because Hip Hop is a big network all over the world. I remember I used to speak just Italian. But at that time that I went to the competitions I felt kind of…I don’t wanna say stupid but I felt alone. I met so many different people but I couldn’t speak their language. I couldn’t communicate. The only thing, the only bridge between us was Hip Hop. If you were true to Hip Hop you could talk with the people. And everybody was appreciate. And it’s still the same nowadays. And what you get are new friends. But you know you don’t have to mix private life with the artistic life. Because a lot of people are thinking that you have to be always nice. And I wanna go back to the clapping thing: B-Boys have their own pride. One of the main thing that connect Hip Hop heads all over the world is that Hip Hop comes from the Ghettos. Come from people that struggled for live, that had nothing, that had family problems, financial problems and you know…the only way they found to express themselves was Hip Hop. Because in Hip Hop they found that there was somebody. And that was very interesting that there was nothing, no scene that was like Hip Hop. Because I remember that time the older people used to hang out with the older people, young people used to hang out with young people. But in Hip Hop there were no such rules: older people with young people, black, white, Puertorican, whatever you know, it really doesn’t matter. You communicate with everybody. That’s really the strongest, most powerful weapon that has ever existed. And that I think is beautiful… And when you really express yourself, it’s life. Because you communicate and give chance to other people to get positive messages. And you give a solution sometimes to people. If you wanna know about yourself you gonna look other people. And so you can more understand yourself. That’s why the message you give people is very important. And that’s another thing that Hip Hop lost today: messages. See nowadays you have Hip Hop for everybody. But if you wanna do Hip Hop, respect Hip Hop. So learn about Hip Hop and teach Hip Hop. But teach only when you know that you can talk and you don’t damage the people that sacrificed their life. Because something you have to understand: We are not the only one and we are not the last ones. We came here because of somebody else. Because somebody else did it before. We got the inspiration from other people and that’s why we’re here. Hip Hop gives you fame, gives you a job, many things. But you gotta give something back, give the true messages. And the true message is to inspire other people. That’s very important. You gotta inspire the people with something real. You don’t have to walk in the streets and say “keep it real” and all this bullshit. If you are real with yourself, you are real with everybody. You gotta be real with yourself first. First be true with yourself. You don’t have to say you are Hip Hop. You are. In the minute that you express yourself, you are in touch with million of people all over the place that feel the same. And that’s Hip Hop. You don’t need to say nothing. Just do it. If you feel you wanna dance, just dance… And another thing: See today you got all these brands. Before Hip Hop heads used to create their own style. That was very important. Create your own style. The DJs used to spin their records and they used to cover the names that nobody could see where this sound was coming from. So, you wanna play, you wanna spin? Get your sounds! Don’t bite my style! Don’t bite my moves! You gotta find your way. That was real true Hip Hop. Today is like party and bullshit. I mean I don’t wanna say that everybody is like that. You got people that still really express true Hip Hop but you gotta take a look at the majority. The majority of the people they just wanna get money. Nowadays it’s strictly business. Everybody wanna get money. Everybody wants to get money and nobody cares about nothing else. When you say “oh let’s go back to the Old School” it’s not because you suffer old schoolism. It’s not like that! It’s because back in the days people were keeping it real in a serious way. It was all about fun. Having fun. Don’t care about anything. I live 1000 miles from him. I’m waiting for the appointment. I gotta practice because I’m gonna see this kid. Last time he beat me. I gonna show him that was his first time but it’s gonna be my next, you know what i’m saying..That’s Hip Hop. That’s the way it is. But you don’t have to explain Hip Hop, because Hip Hop dies the minute that you explain. You gotta understand by yourself. That makes you strong. But you gotta just give a little advice at the right time to the right person, the people that you feel that are looking for something different. They wanna go to reach another level. That’s very important. You don’t have to tell everybody “listen, you gotta do like this, like that” because when you tell people you have to do like this they don’t respect it. They don’t appreciate. They gonna find something else. They come to you and ask you: “Can you teach me Flare or 99?”. Listen I don’t teach you anything. Why? Because you don’t know how to do “Toprocking”. Because you think that Toprocking is the introduction but you make a big mistake! Because Toprocking is the dance, the real dance. It’s not the introduction. Footwork and Toprocking is the real dance… See I’m dancing 15 years. I used to do all kinds of crazy moves. When you start, when you are young you wanna do crazy things. I used to just throwing myself. But if you dance in that way then you realize it’s gonna be boring. Because after a while you do for many years it’s like you gonna find something different. And that’s why you go back to the foundation, you go back where you come from, you go back to the basics. That’s the point. Because with footworks you can create moves and styles all the time. I mean after spinning on all kinds of different parts where do you wanna spin? It’s not necessary… You do Toprocking, you look here but you started over there. They don’t gonna expect it. And that’s the whole thing. Be different. You know a lot of people are talking about “style”. And style I think is something very, very difficult. Why? Because it’s a mix of so many things. To me it’s like big thing with less work. You know what I’m saying? You don’t do that much but you make it big thing. It’s always there. And that’s incredible… When I dance I don’t look anything in particular, I don’t care to do any moves and steps. Why? Because I like to flow in the space. That’s what I love. That’s what I love to do: Go fast up and the minute after I’m down and they don’t understand how I was up before. I don’t wanna show what I do. I just gonna do like this. It doesn’t matter if people understand it. That’s the different concept… I used to practice in my room, a very small place! But it’s still the best place for me. Because I learned to control my body. I had to be always careful not to hit the stuff that I had in my room. That was the best thing for me… But the biggest and the hardest stage is the street. If you get props in the street you don’t have to be scared to dance on stage or on a jam. The real hardest: They care about just what you do. They don’t care if there gonna be lights or fancy colors all over the place. Just give me the right music and I gonna do what I have to do… I felt very alone when I was working on stage and theater. I mean I loved it because it is a different vibe. But I come from the people and I love to be with the people, feel what I give in the same time that I do something. That’s the most beautiful thing. Because if you are on stage you are so far, I can’t reach you, you look like something unreachable. That’s why I don’t care about the stars. You know, you can be notorious that everybody knows you because you are going everywhere. But I don’t care about stars and all that because stars is something that they wanna be different. You are still the same person. And that’s very important because your energy comes from the people. If you lose the people you lose your energy.
What about your future?
I don’t think that I will stop dancing one day because I was doing also some other things. I expanded my view, you know. I was dancing African Dance, Jazz Dance,…In the same time I was trying to learn different things. DJing. My daily thing now, everyday making music. I have my own studio. I make my music and the music make me dance, the music make me rap, the music make me do everything, even relax. You can’t escape. You can’t escape from that, you can’t, at all…