Bgirl AsiaOne Interview
The Bboy Factory has been blessed to form friendships with many icons in the Breakin world, from Ivan the Urban Action Figure, to Roxrite, Skeme Richands, Menno, Kwikstep and more. Having such influential dancers endorse our movement has been key to our international reputation and students’ success. One Bgirl has been beyond generous towards us with her time and energy, the world famous, AsiaOne.
Coming up in the late 90’s, Bboy Summit was one of, if not the biggest event on Earth. VHS tapes from that event inspired an entire generation. Behind it all was a young woman from Denver. Through Hip Hop, she found her way to California, became a member of Rock Steady Crew, went on to form No Easy Props and eventually become a member of the Mighty Zulu Kingz and Kweenz. She is one of the most influential Bgirls of all time.
In 2014, Asia moved back to Denver. She became a staple at The Bboy Factory and has been integral to our studio, teaching, advising, providing connections, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration. Her energy to create quality projects and events has led to numerous collaborations. She has stepped up to work events and provide guidance when we’ve been stretched thin.
Earlier this year, AsiaOne moved back to LA to continue building and inspiring through Hip Hop culture. We miss her, but we are fortunate to have built a strong friendship and are continuing to work together to push Breakin and Hip Hop into the future. We are forever grateful and honored to have had her play an important role at The Bboy Factory and we thank her for dedicating her life to this culture. Last month we caught up for this interview. Check it out:
1. How did you first get involved with Hip Hop and Breakin?
As a teen in the eighties it was the popular youth culture of the time. A lot of guys my age were Poppin in my area of Park Hill in Denver. There were battles at this place called Rainbow Music Hall and at talent shows at school. I listened to the music but didn’t practice any of the art forms yet. After graduating high school I opened a Hip Hop shop. Through the shop, I met people from different parts of town. One group from the Northside use to come hang out at my shop and I got really closed to them. Two of them Fienz, and Marz along with Voice (from the Westside) were big inspirations of mine. In fact, Voice gave me my name when I started writing Graffiti. Dondi used to write “Asia” as one of his aliases and Voice schooled me that Dondi was the most stylistic writer ever so… that became my name in 1992.
At that time I began writing Graffiti with Voice, Marz and Fienz. They were in a crew called SWS, Sick With Style. I was in another crew with them called NC, No Claims. My shop was in a neutral part of town, not claimed by any gangs, so we all repped that vibe. The store brought us together when previously our sides of town had separated us.
A pinnacle moment was when members of Rock Steady, Rhythm Technicians and Full Circle came to Denver as part of GhettOriginals. They were working on their show that was the precursor to Jam on the Groove. Zulu Gremlin came into my shop one day with two Shaka Zulu members. They shared some infinity lessons and talked to me about Universal Zulu Nation. I was also taught some Breakin foundation from Kwikstep from Full Circle who stayed in Denver after the show for about 6 months and built with some of us, especially Marz and Fienz.
What propelled me from there was going to New York for the New Music Seminar in 1992. I was rollin with my boyfriend Hani, a DJ and producer who knew major heads and introduced me to Camilla from 555 Soul, Peter Paul from Moptops and took me to the Seminar and all the clubs and parties. I was completely turned out into Hip Hop. Seeing everyone all together, so much creativity, energy and culture. Native Tongues, Louie Vega and Kenny Dope, the MopTops, 555 Soul, UMCs, Jamalski, Leaders of the New School. There was also the 432F Show in San Diego, it was an undergound Hip-Hop clothing tradeshow and I discovered the brands there to carry in my shop: GFS (Gerb, Stash, Futura), 555 Soul, Top 2 Botm, Hemp Gear, GAT (Gypsies and Thieves), and Conart.
Being around the energy and skills of Hip Hop I was completely turned out and after seeing the GhettOriginal show I knew... that I wanted to do that. That was in 1993. I closed my shop at the end of the year and moved to San Diego Jan 4, 1994. I started breaking, practicing with both Air Force Crew and West Coast Rock Steady Crew, and eventually joined Rock Steady Crew in 1996.
2. Can you tell us about the crews you’ve repped over the years and how that influenced your style?
In the beginning I was practicing with Easy Roc. He taught me a lot and was a big inspiration early on. We formed our own crew called Eternal 2 Creations. We were breaking and writing graffiti together. I also liked Ice Man and Yoski, also from West Coast Rock Steady Crew. They threw a lot of battle burns and a blend of powerful footwork with some power too. Back then there was more of a method to how people learned. You went down the Bboy alphabet street so to speak, learning foundation and how it expands into everything really and different levels going from basic ideas to more complex, learning all the moves that make up a backspin, windmill, flare, etc. I would watch Style Wars and Beat Street and try to practice some of the moves.
I got down with Rock Steady in 1996. I started No Easy Props in 1997 which was more of my own thing, not really a crew but more of a philosophy and mind state. Later it evolved into a crew and we would battle under the name. Now it is a nonprofit as well as a group of individuals that rep real Hip Hop culture. I started practicing with Teal Steel in 1999 and got really inspired by the Miami Streetmasters style. In 2003, I started practicing with Kmel and got inspired by the Brats style. In 2007, I got in Mighty Zulu Kingz and Kweenz. That is the crew I currently represent along with Fame City Kings Graffiti crew that I got down with in 2014. All of those individuals I mentioned as well as Ken Swift, Wicket and Ness have influenced and inspired me.
3. How did Bboy Summit get its start and what motivates you to keep going 25 years later?
The Summit started in 1994. I had moved to SD and experience the Bboys and Bgirls there being displaced by Freestyle Dancers and also not respected by the Hip Hop community who felt the style was “played out.” The venues didn’t really allow it and we would often get kicked out for Breakin. So, I had the idea to do an event dedicated to Bboys and Bgirls to help uplift their current state. Easy Roc and Jlove helped me and together we are considered the founders of the Summit. Easy left the event after 1999 and Jlove had left after 1997. I am passionate about continuing the event and continue to be inspired by what I feel is fresh in Hip Hop as well as what is needed and not represented in the other Breakin competitive events that exist.
4. Can you tell us about your experience moving back to Denver and being involved in the Breakin scene here?
Moving back to Denver was very emotional for me. I had spent 20 years in the West Coast and it really is my Hip Hop stomping ground. But, I decided to move back to Denver so my daughter could be in better schools. While I was there I finished college that I had began there back in 1991, graduating in 2016 with 2 BA’s in Art and Human Services with an emphasis on nonprofit management.
I always enjoyed going back to Denver and connecting with my original posse. Fienz was doing things, throwing events and I always liked going and repping at them. I didn’t feel really connected to the Denver scene though. Once I moved back, in 2014, I made an effort to be connected, through the Factory and also Queenz of Hip-Hop. Practicing at the Factory, having my classes there and also being a part of the Queenz collective connected me to some good people and enabled me to be inspired to create and do projects with people there.
I don’t feel the same desire in Denver as I do in LA to push the Hip Hop and Breakin agenda. I enjoy the outdoors there and my life there is more low key and family oriented. LA really helps fuel my Hip Hop creative energy. I consider Denver my home along with Los Angeles.
5. We want to know about the time you spent at The Bboy Factory. What's your insight or perspective on our role in the Breakin community locally and beyond?
I have been attending the Factory since it opened as an out of town visitor, to when I moved back to Denver as a teacher. I always enjoyed my times at the Factory, whether I was practicing, teaching or at a jam. It’s the hub of the community. It allows multiple generations to connect authentically and gives youth and adults a place to go. The Factory is known nationally and internationally. Bboys and Bgirls that travel to Denver always go to the Factory to connect, train, take workshops and jam. The Factory’s annual event is great, high quality with top names in the scene and high level Breakin.
6. How many pairs of sneakers do you own?
At this point 23, all bangers lol. I got rid of some that I liked but needed to downsize.
7. Why is it important to you to keep dancing and continue being present in this dance while so much of the scene is geared towards youth?
To be honest, I just love to Break. It’s for selfish reasons on that level. I like to do this dance and have continued to do it even when I haven’t liked the era of the scene. But what I have learned is that everything comes back. When its whack it will be good again and vice-versa depending on what you like and how you get down. As for impacting others, I keep it in the cyphers, not to prove anything but because I truly love this dance and will do it as long as I can. If people can learn something from watching me dance all the better.
I think I represent a lot of eras of the dance, including elements of many generations and styles, but overall a classic approach that is based on style and technique. I feel that by continuing to teach I can impact the youth. I know I’m a good teacher and have a lot to offer on that level. As far as a judge, I have a lot to offer there as well with my experience, know how and again being constantly present in this dance for the past 25 years. I’m not going to get gassed by gimmicks, but I consider myself a fair and impartial judge. I judge on what this dance was initially formed around. If you have that you good and if you have more than that, even better. But if you don’t have that weeeellll…lol.
8. How does Graffiti fit into your experience in Hip Hop and is it important to represent multiple elements of the culture for you?
Graffiti to me is the style of Hip Hop. If you understand Graffiti it will help you understand Breakin, Rap and DJ’ing. All the elements are raw and about style, technique and freestyle. I feel like when you understand the style of Hip Hop it can translate to any of the art forms.
9. What are you goals for the future?
My goal currently is to learn more to increase No Easy Props ability to have an impact serving youth and young adults. We are doing well, but we need better understanding of fundraising and so forth. I am also considering getting a masters degree in order to teach Hip Hop studies in college. I am also spending more time with God to understand my purpose here and how I can help people more.
10. As a major icon in our community and one of the most famous Bgirls of all time, what is the legacy you hope to have built?
Well, I hope that I will be remembered as someone who represented Hip Hop culture and inspired others to Break, write Graffiti and represent Hip Hop. I hope people remember me for helping my community through the Bboy Summit, No Easy Props, the programs and events that I created or helped curate and most of all, as a dope Bgirl!
11. Any last thoughts you’d like to share with us?
Lately, I have been analyzing how we can represent in Hip Hop and not be narcissistic or self consumed. It’s important to remember we are a body and you are not just an individual. We all have a responsibility to one another, to help each other rise and to sacrifice our own needs and desires sometimes to help others. If we care about this culture and want it to continue we need to be connected, united and teachers to the youth. It’s up to us all.
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