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These Are the Breaks

Don't call it a comeback—a new generation of breakers in the North Bay carries the original torch



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For many in the early breaking scene, receiving a b-boy name from a mentor is a blessing, as well as acceptance into the inner circle. Having your idol present it to you is almost unreal. Jesse Ventura, a Healdsburg b-boy pioneer, was given his moniker, "B-Boy Child," by the one and only Ken Swift, widely accepted as one of the most legendary b-boys of all time.

At times a member of several of the North Bay's original b-boy crews, Ventura has experienced decades of breaking evolution. He also knows the potential adversity of outside influences. Back in the day, he recalls, it seemed that only the exceptional few had the determination and opportunity to overcome the influence of the street, while society's negative associations caused many to fall out of the scene. "When I was dancing as a little kid, kids used to get arrested for breakdancing on the corner," says Ventura.

Teaching the integrity of hip-hop culture comes naturally for Ventura, who now runs after-school programs from math tutoring to breaking classes. "It's about being able to transform kids' lives through hip-hop. It doesn't necessarily need to be dancing," he says. "I help them find their medium, accommodate that and push them forward to whatever it is they want to do."

Rapidly coming up in the game is Ventura's 15-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who recently won the all-styles dance division at a "Rep Your Style" breaking contest hosted by Reprezent Clothing. With style and skill, she outshined 20 other breakers, nearly all male, proving to the judges and crowd that females are also making waves on the scene.

Donning a crisp camouflage cap with the golden Philippine star of unity, Manuel "Man-E" Weigel is an intellectual force for local hip-hop. Raised in Windsor, Man-E started breaking with the SUB-4 crew in the '90s. "For us, SUB-4 wasn't just 'Straight Up B-Boys'; it also meant 'Straight Up Brothers.' It was a real family feel, and all of us looked out for each other. Staying true to the crew meant everything."

Now a member of the Northstar Zulus, he is a West Coast representative for the Universal Zulu Nation, the international organization for hip-hop awareness founded in the Bronx by Afrika Bambaataa in the '70s.

Considered by many a vehicle for breaking down racial barriers worldwide, hip-hop embraces knowledge, wisdom and understanding of all peoples and belief systems. For Man-E, "it is what the Zulu Nation has done on a global scale: to bring people together under one flag of hip-hop, our common ground, and build upon that."

Passing down the true essence of hip-hop is crucial to maintaining that all-encompassing nature. "Knowing your roots is a deep aspect within hip-hop. The Universal Zulu Nation is important because they are not single minded into one ideology; rather, they present a packet of information and let you figure it out, take your own spin. You don't have to believe my interpretation of it; it is information for you to think of," says Man-E, adding the importance of the unspoken fifth element.

"The fifth element of hip-hop is the third-eye perspective. It is knowledge of self and being able to express and share it with like-minded individuals to build understanding. When you take that knowledge into understanding, eventually it will evolve into wisdom, and that is the wisdom that we will hand down."

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