If the b-boy community is like a family—complete with cranky grandparents, loudmouthed younger cousins and competitive siblings—Poe One is kind of like the cool uncle you wish you could have as your dad. He’s overwhelmingly welcoming and patient; at the same time, he won’t hesitate to let you know when you’re being a dumbass.
Even as we were interviewing him on camera at The Notorious IBE, random bystanders would naturally gravitate toward the sound of his frequent “You know what I’m saying?”s, the way b-boys tend to naturally gravitate toward shoe stores.
There’s a reason for that: not only does Poe have the charisma of a motivational speaker, but every other thing he says is the sort of thing that can flip a b-boy’s entire outlook on life.
Usually, when we ask our interviewees what knowledge they could pass on to b-boys and b-girls around the world, they murmur something about YouTube or biting and move on. Poe One, on the other hand, said, “That’s a good question,” and proceeded to blow our minds for next half-hour or so. By the time he was done, we were almost inspired to the point where we wanted to shut down More Than A Stance so that we could spend the rest of our lives dancing with huge smiles on our faces.
Fortunately, we decided against that. That means that we can now share the entirety of his response with you, our readers. We’ve taken the liberty of dividing it into chapters and making basic edits for your reading comfort. Read it all at once, or take it section by section. We know it’s a lot, and nobody’s expected to agree with every word of it, but this is knowledge being dropped in one of its purest forms. We wanted to make it available those who are hungry for it.
Because even though Poe was the one eating during the interview, we were the ones being fed.
You know what I’m saying?
CHAPTER 1: WHY IT’S CALLED “BREAK”-ING
People forget. Everyone’s older now. They do breaking for different things. They grew up in a different generation. They grew up with a bunch of competitions.
You know, they call competitions “jams.” Let’s get this straight—it’s not a jam. A jam is just, you jam. It’s somebody just going off when they want to. They move when they want to. It’s not when somebody tells you to do it. In a competition, most people only battle the person that they look up to because they’ve been called up to the stage or to the floor, and it’s their turn that they have to battle. And you can see it in their eyes. The only reason they’re up there battling you is because they got called up there and it’s their turn. They would never step to you in a circle or anything like that ‘cause they want to.
That’s the difference. When we were kids, when I was a kid, we did it ‘cause we wanted to, you know what I’m saying? We threw down because we wanted to. Remember, we were kids. Most of us started at the age of 11, 12, 10 and stopped by the age of 15, 16, 17.
Now everybody’s older. They’ve been, I don’t know, domesticated, in a different way. They let a lot of things hold them back. And it shows in their breaking. Instead of breaking to be free, and instead of breaking to break—when I say breaking, it’s like throwing a cup on the floor and those pieces move sporadically and freely, no rules. Instead of doing that, they’re breaking with consciousness of their surroundings and they’re kind of looking and still being conscious of if they’re looking stupid or not stupid.
I’ll be honest. If you’re really breaking, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking stupid or not stupid ‘cause you don’t really care … When we were kids, kids didn’t care what people thought. They do in a way, but kids are brats, bro. They’re playful. And the dance was that way. It was very playful … To get away from, finally, your mother saying, “Wash the dishes. Keep your room clean. Keep this clean.” Remember, you’re still living with your mother, you know? So when you’re finally outdoors, you wanna go buck wild because nobody can tell you anything.
That’s your moment to really break. I think people lost that perspective, and they have to come back to that. And realize that, you know, I’m finally off work. Let me go home. And let me go to this session and get down. You know what I’m saying? People are making it way too technical and way too—you know, there is technicality, and there is rules and all that, but yo. Your number one thing is to get down and have fun. Get down, b.
CHAPTER TWO: HOW YOUTUBE KILLED THE B-BOY STAR
I think it’s important to get fame … I think [the key is] consistency. I think it’s longevity … When we were kids, it was like, “Yo, look at me. I’m here. Can you do this? This is how I get down.” I think it’s lost that aspect in a way.
A lot of kids want that fame on clips on the Internet. And they just lie to themselves—they just want those easy props. But really, when you see them in real life, they’re not as good as their clip because they edited the clip, or they sped up the clip. Or the clip doesn’t show how heavy they hit the floor. And they don’t really have finesse.
So when you finally get to see the kid in person, you’re like, “Yo, he has a lot of work he needs to do.” So a lot of these kids are getting these props, and it’s gassing them up … and they get mad when they lose to somebody who do got styles, that does got the finesse and everything. And they think because the guy has finesse that what he’s doing is easy.
It’s not like that. It’s hard to control what you’re doing and not slam on the floor and be graceful and have fun and finesse and still have the difficulty that others are doing … So these kids get confused ‘cause they’re like, “Yo, I’m getting all these props,” and they’re gassed up, and all of a sudden their dreams are shattered. And now they gotta get back in the lab. It either breaks them or makes them. That’s the way I see. That’s when you see who’s the b-boy and who’s not. Those that are in it just real quick that can’t handle the pressure, and then they quit because they don’t like anybody, you know, giving them constructive criticism. Or the ones that are ready to go and be like, “Oh word? You think I’m wack? Okay.” Go back in the lab and you practice and you come back harder.
“I’m not old school, man. I never even consider myself that. I’m now school, b. I never left. I’m still here.”
Video clips are lying. Video clips don’t show a lot of these things that we see in person. A lot of people judge jams from footage and they be like, “Yo, that crew won.” You weren’t at the jam. They didn’t see the camera angle from this side. They saw it from the back view and they didn’t see how many times he missed his thread … So there’s a lot of questions that video does not answer for the people that’s right there, seeing it from the front view.
It’s all about keeping that longevity, keeping that fame, being fresh. If you’re fresh, you’re gonna get props from people you want props from. I wanted props from the people that I admired. Once I got that, I couldn’t stop there. I said, “Yo, I still want to show people that you can still do this if you take care of your body and you stretch and eat right. If you feel the fire in your heart, it doesn’t matter what age.” My boys that I grew up with that stopped breaking when they were kids, when we were 16—yo, if you see them now, they look at me and they’re like, “How the hell did you stay at 179 pounds?” They look at me, and they’re 230, 240 pounds, grey hair, and they look old … and they’re like 40 years old, like me.
It’s just the dance, bro … I think I’m at my best that I’ve ever been, dancing. My understanding of the dance, I think, is better … Now I realize what I’m doing. When I was a kid, I just did it. We hit beats without even learning the song. It was just a reaction. Now I’m hearing songs, and I’m learning them, and I’m focusing on them, and I know them, and I’m feeling them. I might not be as dynamic as I was as a kid. I used to do a back handspring, land on my head with no hands and drill it. I used to do top swipes from standing and drill and land in a dead man on the floor. It’s like, I don’t do none of that stuff anymore. But I think my flow and my understanding of rhythm and speed and body movements going both ways and my sporadicness in that … has gotten way better than when I was a kid. I move like I am 20 years old, 18 years old, you know what I mean? I’m 40. You know? I know 40-year-old cats that can’t even jump right … I’m like, boom, baby freeze, bah!
So I think that, to me, is what I want and I strive for. I still want the respect from the newer generation. I got the respect from the older generation. I want to young kids to be able to look at me and not say, “Oh, he’s old school.”
I’m not old school, man. I never even consider myself that. I’m now school, b. I never left. I’m still here. So don’t consider me any generation. I just break. I just throw down. And I continue to do so. It’s like, some kids say, “Oh he’s old school.” Well, you’re gonna get my age pretty soon. Are you still gonna be breaking? I hope so. Even if you work a regular job, keep breaking.
CHAPTER 3: HOW (NOT) TO GET BEAT UP AFTER A BATTLE
I treat breaking like it’s life. You treat life respectfully, and you try to learn everything about life. It has morals. Respect. You try and treat it the way you would like to be treated. I take that same approach to the dance.
We do burns, but there’s a certain limit to not cross when you’re battling somebody. Kids nowadays, it doesn’t seem like they’ve been knocked out before. It doesn’t seem like they know that limit. They’re in your face this close. It’s like when you push them, they kinda get surprised like, “Why’d you push me?” It’s like, “Dog, you were practically spitting in my face.” You don’t do that. You don’t cross a certain line.
It’s getting really personal. And it’s always been personal, but people are taking it as a joke. They’re taking the burns as a joke. They think they can get away with whatever they want. You know, people need to be careful because they will get smacked up. You know, I’m sorry to look at the camera for that, but it’s a serious thing.
You got your brothers that battle with the raw-raw approach. Like, Ness used me as an example in his book, in “The Art of Battle.” Ness has a raw-raw approach—an-in-your-face, in-your-grill approach. But he still doesn’t get in your face … He’s looking at you, he’s taunting you, he’s throwing burns at you. But he still has his distance. Then he uses me as an example and he says, Poe takes a gentleman approach. I’ll smile through the whole battle. I’ll give the guy props. I’ll say, “Yo, that was nasty. Watch this.” Or I’ll say, “That was dope. Let me show you what you’re not doing with that.” Bah bah! And I’ll throw down … It might be talking but its more – it’s not yelling-talking, or it’s not mean-talking. It’s just talking. It’s a conversation … I don’t get mad unless somebody disrespects me.
My gestures react on people’s real reactions. If somebody’s fake with it, I don’t have any gestures at all. Okay? It’ll just be a verbal conversation with some moves. If the guy is getting me upset in the battle, then my switch turns on and I act upset. I really break with my real emotions. If I’m not mad at you, I’m not gonna fake it. I’m not gonna put a face and start breaking at you, and then after the battle’s over, the songs done, and smile. Nah! If I’m not mad at you, I’m gonna be smiling throughout the whole thing like, “Yo, that was nasty!” It’s like, “Yo, let’s exchange!” It’s an exchange of skill.
“But right when the song turns on, they get all mad. And they don’t even hate each other. It’s so fake. They’re acting. And breaking shouldn’t be acting. It should be reacting.”
Kids nowadays are faking that. They’re battling their friends and they’re in the same crew and they happen to meet up in a one on one battle… They’re, like, smiling at each other first. But right when the song turns on, they get all mad. And they don’t even hate each other. It’s so fake. They’re acting. And breaking shouldn’t be acting. It should be reacting.
[They’re] breaking to act instead of breaking to break. They’re breaking to impress instead of breaking to express. Crazy Smooth always says that; “You gonna break to impress or break to express?” I say I’m gonna break for both. I’m gonna impress you with my expression. Kids are just trying to impress. And if they don’t do it, if they don’t hear no scream, they leave the circle like, sad. Fuck that, man—excuse me.
CHAPTER 4: SORRY, ABSTRACT B-BOYING HAPPENED 30 YEARS AGO
But yo, on the real, b-boys don’t try and look for the reaction all the time. They just wanna get down, b. They’re gonna make you feel it as long as you touch that one person. Yo, there’s b-boys out there. Let’s say they win the top competitions. And they don’t have the top b-boys walking up to them and saying, “You’re nasty.” It’s usually the one that lost that people walk up and say, “Yo nigga, you nasty.” That’s because they have the essence. They felt it. Maybe they lost the competition or the battle. But their essence was naaasty. They understand the dance.
“Style is an approach. It’s not anything else. They’re trying to say a style guy is a footwork guy. I’ve seen footwork guys with no style.”
A lot of kids don’t understand. They say, “Well I did this. I did footwork. I did this. I did that. Why did I lose?” … Sometimes people enter battles, and they look at the judges and they try to break for the judges. They say, “Okay, Poe is a footwork guy.” I don’t know where the hell people got that idea. I’m not just a footwork guy, man. I do everything, man. You see me mix in flares with sweeps, mix ‘90s in with glides, freeze, go back down in to babies to a swipe to a halo to a–I do it all. Shuffles, everything man. Everything’s dynamic for me.
They think I’m a footwork guy. Well, they say “style guy.” Well, I don’t know. That whole interpretation is wrong as well. “Style guy.” You should have style with everything you do. Style is an approach. It’s not anything else. They’re trying to say a style guy is a footwork guy. I’ve seen footwork guys with no style. People got it twisted. They need to learn that there’s no such thing as a style cat or a powermover cat.
Yo, let me get back to the fact that they need to learn to just really, really just respect it all. We don’t hate on abstract styles. ‘Cause I can tell you right now, my crew itself helped develop that abstract style. You know, Style Elements, Bag of Trix from Canada. It’s always been there. Flowmaster. Kenny … It’s always been there, from the ‘80s. I bit a move from Spider from Dynamic Rockers . He used to backspin and put his leg behind his head, okay, and then go into spider freezes and walk around. That’s the ‘80s, man. I bit that move and I used to go backspin, put my leg behind my head and then go up into a headspin drill with my leg behind my head with one leg drilling.
Kids are barely doing that now, and they think it’s new school. There’s no such thing, man. Body threads, elbow tracks, everything, you know. Just the combinations of it have changed; the rhythm of it has changed. The flow of it has changed, you know?
CHAPTER 5: HOW TO START A REAL B-BOY CLUB AT SCHOOL
I think everybody just needs to stop tripping on each other and just dance. And learn about the dance. You don’t gotta break like Kenny to be a b-boy. You don’t gotta break like Skill Methodz to be a b-boy. Or Remind. You break like the people you feel. Go ahead, break. But if you’re not hitting your stuff, if it’s not clean, if it’s not this or that, then work on it until it’s clean. Nobody’s telling you that your style is wack. If somebody says your style is wack, then burn ‘em. Or work on your style until it’s better. Don’t take it the wrong way.
Yo, it’s like when I was a kid, people would burn me, and there were no classrooms, there were no workshops .There was the concrete. You were cutting class. You were in the arcade. Somebody’d tap you on the shoulder and say, “Yo, come outside.” You thought you were gonna fight. But there would be somebody waiting out there with a radio and you just had to get down. And I would get smoked, and I would go home crying like a little fucking girl, you know, and think about how I got burned, work on that move that he burned me on, and try to flip that move and go after him again. And this time I would cut class and go to his town. Take the bus to his town, or hitchhike to his town, and burn him in front of his people. That’s how it was.
I think the heart has changed, in that aspect. Kids don’t do that. They don’t go to people’s high schools anymore, knowing that there’s b-boys there. You know, we used to battle each other at rallies. You know school rallies? Like when other schools would compete like track and field and all those schools would have battles? Yo, b-boys of that school would meet up with other b-boys there and battle each other.
It’s good to be humble and friendly. But also, stand your ground, and don’t be afraid to battle cats. The young generations are scared to battle the people that are better than them. The only way you’re gonna get better is battling the people that are better than you.
It’s like, smoke me. People never want to step to me. And it gets me mad because it doesn’t keep me up to par. So I challenge myself in a circle to see who will. And I keep dancing until I have to find new motivations. Like basically, if nobody battles me, I say to myself, “Okay, I’ll go in after every person,” just to challenge myself, to see how long I can last. I’m not battling them, not looking at them. I just go in after every person. You go in? I go in. He goes in? I go in. Next guy goes in? I go in. I’m trying to run the circle, even if it’s short sets.
I’m not trying to kill it. I’m trying to conversate. Challenge myself. Because I’m getting irked, I’m getting mad, I’m getting vexed that nobody’s wanting to step to me because I’m so-called Poe One. Fuck Poe One! I’m a b-boy just like you … Smoke me, man. It’ll keep me on my toes.
It’s like, if I start getting tired in that circle after going after every one person, I let two people pass and then I go in. And then if I start getting tired after that, I start letting three people pass until I regain my stamina, and I go back to one person again. I train that way. That’s a training method to see your stamina and see how long you can last in a circle. If I did everything one way, even though its repeating, I’ll do everything the opposite way, even though it’s the same moves. It’s still the opposite way. Working on your shit—it’s a journey for me.
I’m training myself, I’m schooling people, I’m getting schooled. I’m challenging myself. I might fuck up, I might not. These kids are not learning how to train.
CHAPTER 6: FAMOUS B-BOYS HAVE FEELINGS, TOO
They’re also separating a lot of the music. They’re hitting a lot of the basic sounds. MEHRR-MEHRR. Okay. Or they’ll wait for somebody to hit a new sound. And that’s the new trend that everybody’s hitting. YNOT came out with all the horns. Now everybody’s hitting the horns. Now they’re waiting for somebody else to uplift that. Why can’t it be you leading and not always the same people leading?
And then the same people leading are the ones always getting attacked. “Ah, they’re wack; they think they’re dope.” It’s like, fuck. They don’t deserve that. We’re just trying to throw down. We’re just trying to break.
I think that kids need to realize what kind of effect they’re having on their own actions. Sometimes, we’re getting attacked, and when we attack back, they’re like, “Oh, they’re assholes.” … It’s kinda like, yo, you’re saying that I’m an old school style. You’re saying that I only do footwork … You’re missing the whole picture buddy. You don’t think that hurts? When I try and show you everything? So of course I’m gonna tell you back, “It’s like you crashed every single round. And oh, your moves are somebody else’s moves. And all you did was piece together in one set.”
Where’s your fingerprint? What move did you add to this game? I know what moves I added.
CHAPTER 7: THE RULES OF BITING
I know what moves I bit and took. And I’m humble enough to say, “This is Kenny’s. This is Flow’s. I changed it and flipped in this way.”
Half of these young cats don’t even wanna admit that. And that’s what’s missing also. Humbleness. They’re so afraid of being called a biter that they won’t admit where they got their moves from. That’s a biter if you don’t admit where you got your moves from. It’s not a biter if you get moves from people, and you show credit to those people, and you try to build from those people … That means if you blow up, and you got popular, and they interview you the way you guys interview me now, I give credit to these people. And the history stays intact.
Nowadays, these kids, you say, “Who you look up to?” And you know damn well who they look up to because you see it in their style. And they’re like, “I developed my style in the garage. Me, just practicing.”
What? Nigga, you look like Ivan, nigga, you look like this guy. And you know it. And they just can’t admit it. It’s wack when that happens. I think people need to really realize how much that can hold us back. In the future, we have to learn to swallow our pride and our dignity and be real with it. We’re never gonna move it.
That’s why we’re not teaching this in universities. That’s why ballet and other dances that have certificates to move forward—that’s why they don’t respect us. Because we’re constantly arguing … And we have this pride and biter thing mixed up. Everyone needs to chill out and respect each other and learn from each other and flip it and not be afraid.
If somebody calls you a biter, just be like, “Oh well.” We all bit something. That’s how we started. If we didn’t bite something, none of us would be doing six step or four step or five step. Which doesn’t really exist, you guys. Steps like that don’t really exist. Styles of footwork exist. That’s just how we teach it, but it didn’t exist in the ‘80s.
CHAPTER 8: WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN
It’s about no easy props, man. It’s about a struggle. It’s like the Bible says, who’s going into heaven? You gonna take the easy route to walk to heaven and see the gates, or you’re gonna see the rough road with the thorns and the snakes and everything like that. Go that route. Learn. ‘Cause if you go this route, you’re not gonna learn anything. You’re not gonna know what you did. They’re gonna ask how you got there. “Oh, I just walked straight.” On this side, it’s gonna be like, “Yo I had to crawl under here. I had to go through here.” … You learn a game plan to go through the hard part, the rough part, or through the dirt.
“It’s about who looks the rawest. And the rawest doesn’t mean the hardest … Frosty Freeze wasn’t the hardest b-boy, but he was the rawest style.”
Breaking’s grimy. What’s up with all this pretty shit? What’s up with b-boys looking feminine? Their toprock is feminine, and they’re acting feminine with their butts out. And footwork with their butts out. Everything is pointy toed and with their little shoes—little ballet shoes. It’s like, dog, what is that? I know the style has changed, but when did it turn feminine?
We’re men. We should break like men. We grab a crotch. We grab a crotch ‘cause we mean it. It’s like wearing girl jeans. That’s cool. I’m not gonna diss nobody. Do what you feel. Women are women. Men are men. It’s like hip-hop—this is a machismo thing. Sorry to say.
When did it look cool to be a nerd breaking? A lot of people are gonna get mad about this, but this is reality. It’s about style, man. It’s about who looks the rawest. And the rawest doesn’t mean the hardest … Frosty Freeze wasn’t the hardest b-boy, but he was the rawest style. He was a clown. He was an entertainer. He had the drunken style. He bugged out. Kenny has the Muggsy, hard-edge, sharp-edge. Ness is just, raaaw, in-your-face. Legs is smooth and lanky. He shocks his arms. These characters left their fingerprint on what this whole b-boy thing is about.
Nowadays, you don’t really see nobody focusing. Let’s say out of 100 bboys, 20 or 10 of them really get down. The rest of them are just going in there and just trotting. It’s like they’re having fun. That’s cool. Have fun. But take it serious if you’re gonna have fun. Get down, have fun. But do it for real. A lot of them don’t seem like they wanna do it for real. They mess up, they quit right away … They don’t push and they don’t strive. It seems like they haven’t struggled. It seems like they want it fast-fast-fast, easy. So they watch video clips and video clips to help them—actually not help them, to give them the creation. Like, basically everyone’s looking the same.
Clips are not letting you think for yourself. So basically, you lose your own creativity. When we were creating, there was no videos. Everything was by feeling. Everything was like, “You smoked me? Okay, you served me, man.” I’d go home and I’d try to remember your feeling of how you did the move ‘cause there was no video cameras. So I’m in my garage, just trying to capture that snap. Trying to react to your reaction. We improvise on the spot.
Nowadays, people are rewinding stuff and learning exactly how that person does it and not trying to do it the way they would do it their own self. I try to tell people it’s okay to watch footage to get inspired a little bit. But if that’s the only way you get moves, then you’re limiting yourself
You should spend more time in the lab with the floor, the music and just you than anything else. You should go to a park, play a game of basketball. Warm up, turn on the radio and jam out. And if moves that you’ve seen come in your head, try them. But you’re gonna end up doing them your way instead of slowing something down on a video and copying exactly how they do it. That’s a no-no in my book. It’s like, go in the lab, man. Get your own character.
CHAPTER 9: WOULD A B-BOY BY ANY OTHER NAME BE AS DOPE?
People have these weird names nowadays. Nobody really has a real name.
Ken Swift standed for something.
Ken. Swift. Swift wizard in footwork techniques.The acronym of “swift.” Fucking crazy meaning, nigga.
Ness. Never-ending supreme style.
Poe. Peace on earth.
One. Originality never ends.
We gave meanings to what we stand for. Now, it’s like, “What’s your name?”
“Whats your name?”
It’s like, dog, what’s your style? How do you feel? It’s missing, man. We were characters, b. You know, people forget that. They think it’s just about moves. It’s not. It’s an essence. It’s an approach. Moves are a part of it. But the style, the swagger is what makes it what it is, man. If that’s missing, it’s like watching a bunch of geeks. They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.
And it’s not about this is the new style, or it’s not about I can give my opinion … Your opinion needs to be valid before you can give your opinion. A lot of people are using that excuse nowadays. Yeah, it’s my opinion. But can your opinion be reinforced? If you don’t know what you’re talking about, my opinion is reinforced with facts, knowledge and experience. That’s where my opinion comes from. Where does yours come from?
CHAPTER 10: CONCLUSION
I just want everyone to be happy. I just want everybody to enjoy themselves. That’s the basic experience. I want to show the world that doesn’t know about breaking. Look at all these countries coming together under one roof and dancing it out with each other and respecting each other for our skill level. No guns, no war, no nothing. This needs to come out on the news instead of what they show on that that CNN crap, with the Muslims fighting this and the Christians fighting this and everybody fighting wars and bullshit. They should see how all these countries, everybody together under one fucking roof, dancing it out with smiles and happiness and everybody just going for it. I think that’s what people need to see that don’t know what’s going on this world.
That’s what IBE is, and that’s why I enjoy about being here. We build where we left off. I think this dance is a beautiful tool that God gave us to conversate with each other. I think graffiti art, rap, music, DJing, the dance itself, is a tool that got us all together to show the world it’s not what really you think.
And we’re showing our mom, our dad, our grandparents that were racist or didn’t understand what we do—we’re changing that whole chain and breaking it into a whole new link of new people of all colors and all generations under peace, love, unity and having fun under the oneness of God no matter what god you pray to. And I think that’s what IBE is showing and all the other jams that know how to really unite people together. Word.