Spontaneous Lux: Freestyling in Hip Hop Dance and Music
Music and Arts in Action
University of Exeter
© Music and Arts in Action 2016
This essay and the accompanying video documentary explore "freestyling" (improvising) in hip hop culture, focusing in particular on a Canadian b-boy (breaking) crew called the Albino Zebrahs, which distinguishes itself through improvisational tendencies and choices. An ethnographic analysis of their approach to b-boying reveals that the values and processes behind freestyling involve more work and intention than most outsiders imagine. Through a comparison of West Coast freestyle rapping and the breaking dance styles that developed near Toronto, Canada, this documentary reveals that freestyling, as improvisation, in rap and dance grew, in part, out of a misconception of what was imagined to be happening in New York City. Through the assumptions that new participants made that what they were seeing and hearing were improvised, improvisative practices emerged that borrowed not only from jazz traditions and influences, but also BMXing and other physical lifestyle cultures. This process, arguably, was quite different from the practices that came before and demonstrates a spectrum of improvisational practices that requires further investigation within the burgeoning field of improvisation studies. The film was shot in March 2012 in Toronto, Canada and features members of the Albino Zebrah crew including Lance "Leftelep" Johnson, Jesse "Jazzy Jester" Catibog, and Damian Matthew, as well as Riddlore, a rapper who now resides in Austin, Texas.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the link in this record.
Vol 5 (1), pp. 70-80