Influential B-Boy Crew Mighty Zulu Kings Hold Two-Day Urban Art Event in Phoenix This Weekend
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facebook.com/MightyZuluKingz Members of the Mighty Zulu Kings in NYC.
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Edson "House" Magana is one of the more accomplished b-boy artists in the Valley, if not the entire state of Arizona. He's not only one of the founding members of the Furious Styles Crew, but has also beaten hundreds of other dancers in battles around the nation, and can bust out sick-looking steps from his arsenal of moves.
All of these feats, however, aren't as renowned as the 40-year-old's membership in the Mighty Zulu Kings, the legendary b-boy and urban art crew that was founded by hip-hop icon Afrika Bambaataa back in the early '70s.
"It's an honor to be part of the Zulu Kings because of its history alone," Magana says. "To be part of something that has preserved [street] culture and that was there at the beginnings of hip-hop and helping pioneer the b-boy movement is kind of a big deal. It's something I don't take lightly."
Bambaataa, a noted DJ and one of the pioneers of hip-hop culture, organized the Mighty Zulu Kings crew in the Bronx in 1973 as an offshoot of his landmark Zulu Nation movement. Both groups shared the same goal: To help steer youths away from violent street gangs that plagued the ghettos of New York City into something more positive.
B-boy dancing and breaking were quite embryonic in those days, having evolved from street kids on sidewalks trying to imitate the slick moves of James Brown. It was also popular amongst members of South Bronx street gangs, who often carried boomboxes and would occasionally stage dance battles instead of fighting to resolve turf wars or other disputes.
"At that point DJs like Bambaataa couldn't go into certain boroughs alone," Magana says. "They had to protect their equipment and themselves, so he needed people to roll with him for protection when he went to other jams and other boroughs. There's always safety in numbers. So he created the Zulu Kings crew as a chapter of the Zulu Nation to help keep himself and others safe and as an alternative to joining a street gang."
facebook.com/MightyZuluKingz Alien Ness, president of the Mighty Zulu Kings
According to current MZK president Alien Ness, who has run the group since 2000, gang members would also sometime battle simply for respect. He explains that Bambaataa wanted to reclaim b-boy and urban culture from its association with street gangs and invited former gang members that would rather "dance than fight" into the crew, as well as graf artists and DJs.
"The Zulu Kings were the first really hip-hop crew. Bambaataa and the other founding five members all went on to become great DJs and great influences on hip-hop culture," Ness says. "So the concept of the b-boy crew started with Zulu Kings. Before that, you had nothing but street gangs. And the street gangs maybe had one or two members who were into dancing. There were also the first real b-boy dancers involved, the same kids who were trying to be like James Brown. And everyone was doing graffiti and writing their names on walls at the time, so that was part of it too."