From Garden Village to the Zulu Kings and beyond, Let Rock pursue its hip-hop path
Hip-hop changes over time, but the essence of the culture remains, and Que Rock thrives within this core
Let Rock spend most of his time in Toronto now, as Covid has drastically reduced his travel. Before the pandemic hit the world, he “saw a lot to train hip-hop artists” in various countries.
He was traveling âall over Asia,â he said, touring and teaching in China, Japan and Korea. âI have established a very good network of people,â he said, enabling him to tour regularly, organize and promote shows and âengage with localsâ to organize events. collaborative.
Que Rock is a DJ, B-Boy, MC, and Graffiti Artist, the four cornerstones of the hip-hop foundation from which he built a creative career and lifestyle.
âWe call it B-Boying, but most people know it as breakdancing,â Que Rock explained, adding that before the pandemic he ran a school in China, the Ready to Rock Hip Hop School.
The school “has been sponsored by the Chinese government,” he said, noting that Beijing, Shenzhen and Nanjing “are the hot spots of the B-Boy community” in the country.
While the break was to be an Olympic event in 2024, Que Rock was “hired to form the future Olympic B-Boy team.”
âDancing is something they see as a positive outlet,â he said, referring to the Chinese government, which has invested heavily in ensuring that the country’s first B-Boy team is a candidate for a medal.
Every time he went, Que Rock noted that “all expenses were paid, and they pay extremely well.”
Overall, âthe government was really nice to me,â even buying him a 10-year visa, âand I really enjoyed the experienceâ of coaching the team.
That said, there were a few issues during his coaching hiatus. In 2018, the Chinese government banned rap music.
“It became illegal, which was insane to me because I know the fundamentals of hip-hop very well and grew up in it, so I have a very strong connection to the true intentions of these art forms. . “
The ban was a reaction to “some famous Chinese rappers” who released an album “basically promoting drug trafficking, prostitution and a whole bunch of really bad stuff and so the government just banned it” .
But for Que Rock, hip-hop culture âis not meant to be negative. Everything is supposed to be positive âbut the Chinese governmentâ was very firm âin its decision, so during the dance practice, no rap came out of its speakers.
“I had to play James Brown, or old school funk, but it couldn’t be rap music.”
He is still waiting to see if he will remain the coach of the Olympic team of China. Since Covid struck, he has virtually lost all communication with his former employer, although he hopes to return to continue what he started with his students.
That Rock spends a lot of time teaching these days, running workshops, painting, writing and recording music. After more than twenty years on the hip-hop front, the 41-year-old father-of-two admits his involvement in the community has changed, but his dedication and respect for art forms has never wavered.
For example, he can’t break up like he did in his twenties, but he still teaches and passes his knowledge on to the next generation.
He was planning to retire from B-Boying in the early 2000s. He had been in jams for about a decade by then and won them all.
Part of the era that helped revive the station wagon after its heyday in the ’80s, B-Boy culture of the late’ 90s and early 2000s has remained ‘staple’, an underground scene not. still commodified by big companies.
âI was in my prime at the time,â he said. The scene “just kept going, it was always underground until Red Bull got involved, then it exploded.”
It was in 2004 when the energy drink giant sponsored Que Rock to produce a huge hip-hop event, the King of the Ring.
âI was the first athlete endorsed by Red Bull,â he said, and admitted that working with such a powerful company was a bit of a double-edged sword.
This allowed hip-hop culture to reach a wider audience and once again break with the underground. But those good points were also bad points, because once a lot of money goes underground, there is potential for art to be exploited.
When the companies got involved, âand I’m guilty of that myself,â Que Rock admitted, âI saw signs of money on everything. “
He felt he was âleaving my values ââout of the culture of dance and the arts. I wanted to get rich, you know, I was a young kid, and Red Bull is coming in and their motto is that they’ll give wings to all your ideas, and they literally do.
The arrangement is not something he regrets. The money was useful. He was 24, a single dad of two, and “was trying to find ways to generate an income from things that I love and passionate about.”
Red Bull came into his life at the right place at the right time. They took it out of the underground and introduced the world of B-Boying to a whole new audience. However, after a few big events, he felt that the dancers were not being fairly compensated for their efforts.
âThey were paid well,â he recalls, but not what he thought they deserved for carrying the shows, he said.
But Red Bull took it to a new level. Prior to their arrival, he was considering retiring from competitive dance, “but a new mindset led to a new longevity” that did not depend on competitive break-up.
He got much more involved in event production, teaching, coaching and music creation, culminating in the release of his debut album Smoke Signals in 2012.
While in hiding, before Red Bull’s intervention, Que Rock was part of the DDT team in Toronto, the Dirty Defiant Tribe. We were âagainst everyone at the timeâ, he said, eager to mark the hip-hop scene, eager to âchange and evolve the danceâ.
They did, and “everyone still copies the style to this day,” he said, referring to those early innovations.
This led him to join the Ready to Rock Crew “the last original B-Boy crew from the Bronx”, which led him to join the Zulu Kings, “the first B-Boy crew from the Bronx” whose roots go back in the late 1970s.
“Only thirteen members were offered full membership” in this crew, “and I was one of them,” he said.
âI love the culture of hip hop and I have my own personal reasons for feeling so passionate about these art forms,â Que Rock said.
âIt is the only culture that I have been able to integrate into the Western culture that was created by the Western culture and that I did not have to compromise my values ââor my Aboriginal background. “
âI could still be an Aboriginal person; I could always integrate my culture into my art forms and be accepted. It was the only thing I had in North America, that I could do, without having to compromise who I was as an Anishinaabe.
Que Rock is from Garden Village, Nipissing First Nation. His family resides there and he visits him often. He credits his culture and heritage as the inspiration for much of his style of music and dance, drawing parallels between hip-hop and Indigenous cultures.
“I was already doing hip-hop,” before arriving in Toronto and New York. “It was just called a Powwow where I’m from.”
âThere are key elementsâ for each, he said. âEvery Powwow has drummers and every B-Boy jam has a DJ. Every powwow has its dancers and in hip hop culture there are B-Boys and B-Girls.
“The keepers of the fire, our Elders” are for Que Rock the equivalent of “MCs, the storytellers”.
When I went to town, âI immediately started doing what I would do at a powwow. I started to dance on the grass in my top-rocking â, and the movements immediately marked the scene.
“I was doing grass dancing to break beats and hip hop, and it was accepted.”
Incorporating traditional dances into his B-Boy movements “created a style that has been around the world for 20 years”.
That Rock, proud of his impact, has no intention of slowing down. He admits his son and daughter keep him humble. At 41, “I know I’m young, but damn it, sometimes they make me feel old because of the way they talk and the things they like.”
âI don’t even recognize a lot of the things that they do that they call hip-hop,â he says, acknowledging that maybe it was the same for those mainstays before him.
He worries that âeverything has become quite watered down and commercializedâ within the hip-hop scene, but understands that the essence remains and that the revolutionary and expressive power of culture remains.
That power is out there, somewhere, if not in the general public, then certainly underground, where Que Rock and his teams have spent so much time fighting and creating, handing out flyers for events, and making events. cassettes on VHS.
âNow people are asking ‘how can I earn’â from this art form? âWhere before it really wasn’t a gain,â he said. “It was an outlet.”