I caught up with Korean Bboy icon, Born, to ask him some questions about his life and Hip Hop. In 2008, I moved to Korea to teach English for 2 years. During that time, I was lucky to study and train with Born regularly. He was incredibly warm and welcoming and that experience was part of the inspiration to create the Bboy Factory. When he moved to New York City, I knew he would be a regular guest at our studio. We have been fortunate to have him visit to teach and judge several times. Additionally, we have met up many times around the country judging events together, painting graffiti and hanging out. It is always a true pleasure. Born is humble and sincere. He continues to inspire me and so many Bboys and Bgirls around the world. This insightful interview was transcribed from our recorded conversation earlier this month. Enjoy!
How did you find Hip Hop or how did it find you?
Hip Hop was from my neighbor and friend from elementary school. I went to his house and his older brother was already wearing baggy pants and listening to Hip Hop. He was listening to Hip Hop from classic Japan, like early 90's. He was listening to a tape and dancing at the crib, dancing in his room.
I saw that, and was like, “yo, what is that?” and I asked him.
He didn’t really tell me about it, but I figured it out and it was something new to me. I started wearing baggy pants when I would go to school. I asked him where he got the pants and he didn’t really tell me. I think it was a secret spot, but I found it.
My friend's name was Kang, shout out to him. We would study drawing together, because we wanted to be animators. We would hang out, because we had the same dream. But I would also go to his house to see his brother. We would hang out and listen to Hip Hop, check out fashion and he danced “Freestyle” Hip Hop, not like Breakin, but he would do Freestyle New Jack Swing. It was a really cool scene.
After that, I really fell into Hip Hop before I started Breakin. I fell in love with Hip Hop before I got down with Breakin. At that time, I also really loved drawing. So, it was culture and art and Hip Hop that came to me so early when I was a young kid.
What made you love Breakin?
I saw Breakin with my eyes on the concrete. It was at a park in the university near where I lived. I lived right there, so I would go there just to chill. The park was already famous for the arts. There were a lot of painters, like street painters and street performers. So many things were going on there.
I went there with my friends. I think that was ’99 and I saw a windmill there on the concrete, like no cardboard or anything, just straight up street.
I saw it and was like, “I want to do this.” Then I started Breakin’ from that day, I still remember.
Tell us about your crews and the styles they represent?
First of all I am Rivers Crew. Honestly, I’ve got so many crews: Rivers, Mighty Zulu Kingz, Ready 2 Rock, Floor Gangz, XD, TFS, CSB, even Graffiti Crews and Hip Hop Crews. But, you know honestly, I’m 100% Rivers Crew.
Rivers Crew was like a traditional Korean straight up Bboy crew, but now we take care of the other elements of Hip Hop. The same as the name, which means, all the different rivers come together to the ocean. So, each different flow and each style come together and make a big flow.
I can’t just say this is our style, but definitely we have got our own style that more about flow than just moves. We’ve got our own flow going on, for sure. Bboying and music, we have mural artists too. I’m writing graffiti. We have a member who is doing big, big murals and he’s got the ill flow too. He’s not Breakin’ but he has the flow in his art, like straight up. That’s why he got down.
We’re like a family. Like a real family. When I was in Korea, sometimes I would see Rivers more than my real family. Really everyday, not even to dance, just to hang out and be around.
How did Rivers Crew start?
I wasn’t there so maybe this isn’t 100%. But, Rivers is like all from the same area. We’re all from the same area. That’s where I lived, that’s where I’m from too. On the train, it’s the 4 Line or the Blue Line. We were all on the same line. So we all knew each other outside of Breakin’, we were in the schools and same neighborhoods.
Rivers was really famous where I lived. It was like a “Dream Team.” It was a few different Crews that were put together. There was C4, Zilla, Bangroc, Crush. Those guys were all in the same school as me, so I knew them all already. I heard they were so famous, because they were already so good even before Rivers crew.
So, I think the first generation was looking for guys who got down like them, because they were already really famous and they were all really close. But then it became really big. I wasn’t really supposed to, it was just friends, but now it’s worldwide.
What is your relationship with Rivers like now that you are in New York?
Well, it’s far. But I try to talk to them everyday, because on the internet is really easy to talk on group chat. For example I’m making beats now. So when I make new beats, I’ll send them new beats and see how they’re doing. I try to talk to the crew everyday.
It’s not just me living in a different city. Physicx is living in China right now and Benny Ben too. Some members have different jobs and family, so it’s not the same. But we stay in contact and we are still active. It’s changed, we’re not really battling anymore. We used to battle every weekend. We try to make other projects, like music and videos.
Tell us about moving to the USA and what you have learned living here.
It’s still new to me, so I still have to learn a lot of stuff. But, what I’ve learned is a lifestyle and different culture. So many things, even more than Hip Hop.
I’ve learned tattooing here, in the Bronx. I never really thought about doing a tattoo before, but life sometimes brings you to random spots sometimes. But, you know, I think it’s all connected.
I’ve learned regular life stuff. How to talk to people. It’s really different from Korea.
Also, married life. I never had really lived with another person. Married life is teaching me a lot too. Still, it’s all new and I’m still learning.
How do graffiti, Breakin and Djing influence each other for you?
For example, if you think about shoes. I love kicks and they all connect. Like for Breakin, you need fresh kicks. In graffiti, sometimes I look at the kicks for color-ways. Like AirMax 90, they have so many different colors. So, I check out the color schemes and know what’s going to be the next one for my piece. Music too. A lot of people love sneakers, a lot of Hip Hop DJs. So stuff like that connects them all.
I’m not really practicing Breakin physically, because I’m doing so much other stuff now. But, I feel like I have new ideas even though I’m not really Breakin, because it’s all connected. That’s why I love Hip Hop, because it all connects. If you have better skills in one element, you can get better at another element at the same time too. They can build up at the same time.
What keeps you motivated to Break?
Definitely music. Especially Breaks, “Breakbeats.” Music for sure. There’s a lot of other reasons too, but the music makes me keep going. Sometimes I feel tired from other stuff. Sometimes I’m lazy doing Breakin, because it’s hard when you do other stuff too. But when I listen to new music or new beats, something I never heard before, that’s when I want to Break.
Tell us about Korea and the Hip Hop/Breakin scene there?
It’s a been a while since I’ve been in Korea, so I’m not a 100% percent sure what it’s like right now. I guess it’s kind of fading out from the 2000's era. That was kind of the “Golden Era” of Breakin in Korea. It’s not anymore from what I can see. But underground it’s getting more tight, I guess. I mean, right now is a pandemic, so everything stopped. But, before they were doing a lot of cool parties and small jams. They are doing more small jams than big jams.
There’s also a lot of dope Bgirls that I see. We already had dope Bgirls in the early 2000's too, but after the early 2000's Bgirl scene was kind of bad. Right now the Bgirl scene is coming back and I see really dope Bgirls right now. A few Bboys really understand what’s really important like the other elements and Hip Hop. So, some are becoming DJs, some are writers and MCs, even music producers.
I think I’ve seen it really grow up and it’s really good to see the strong underground scene right now. I respect that.
What is the Korean Breakin Style?
Definitely it’s strong. Pretty wild energy, you know, it’s tough. But I think we need to learn more, do more homework. Before in the early 2000’s… I’m talking about the 2000’s a lot today, but early 2000's Bboy Style was powermoves, honestly, like crazy freezes and “Blow Ups.”
But I think it’s changing now too. I think it’s getting more focused about the traditional style. Not everybody, but that’s what I see from my perspective. It’s going back more too the traditional Bboy style, the New York City Bboy style. I see some Bboys really focusing on the traditional foundation style and putting in their own thoughts and lifestyle. I think there’s always evolution, so it’s hard to say, “this is style, that’s the style.”
What have you felt when visiting, judging and teaching at the Bboy Factory?
Every time has been the best time for me. Especially, because each time you guys are doing different categories and putting it together, inviting people from different cities and I think that’s really hard. I really respect that, it’s not just a local jam. I mean, I see you are doing it for the local scene for sure, but it looks more like a worldwide jam.
Last time I went was awesome. There weren’t as many people but it was still so tight. There were a lot of different events going on. There was a spot for a kids battle, a spot for an Adult Cypher, the DJ Academy with the little kid trying on the turntables. It was awesome, you know.
I respect, because you guys are doing a whole Hip Hop movement. I can’t wait for the next event from the Bboy Factory, for sure.
What do you want to see in the future?
More jams. More pure vibe jams. Especially, I want to see more dope DJs too, because I think the DJ equals the jam. If it’s a dope DJ it’s a dope jam for sure. It’s as simple as that. I want to see more dope DJs throwing cool jams, so people can vibe and rhythm and groove at the jam. Not like a stressful jam, you know, with too many Bboys entering and you’re just waiting your turn for a round.
I want to see more unity and vibe together, just like classic jams back in the day. That’s what I want to see in the future. All Hip Hop movement going on at the jam, like you did at the Bboy Factory with Graffiti going on outside. Blackbook sessions, MC cyphers, stuff like that I want to see all together. I want to see that in the future and the next generation understanding that too, so that they can throw jams like that too, later on.
What do you care about outside of Hip Hop?
To me, honestly, everything is Hip Hop. It’s hard for me to think outside of that. Honestly, it’s still Hip Hop, but passing the torch down to the kids, I think is really important. I care about that, because it’s all about generations. Passing on to the next generation. I guess that’s out of Hip Hop too, because they need the right education. I think this is a really important time.
What’s your most fulfilling achievement?
Sharing and teaching. Not just for kids, for adults to learn as well. For example, if I had a new thought or idea, if I created something new and passed that on to new people. I think sharing with people what was new for me has been great for me. Yeah man, sharing and caring has been fulfilling, you know.
Anything else you would like to say?
Yeah, for sure. Shout out to my crew, my family, Rivers, MZK, Ready to Rock, Floor Gangz, CSB, XD, TFS. You know I respect each crew and the members I’ve learned a lot from. Let’s keep going, keep representing. Shout out to Ian and the Bboy Factory. Shout out to Hip Hop, yo. Much love and respect.