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The Creation of the Backspin!

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The vocabulary of movement in breaking is extremely complex and deep. But at the same the creation of it was often not too planned or strategic. Breaking was created by kids in the 70’s and a lot of the moves and styles were actually created by accident.

One of the most symbolic moves for breaking, the backspin, is a great example of this.

The originator of the move, b-boy Jo-Jo of the early Rock Steady Crew, was interviewed for the Elemental Magazine back in Aug 2002. We ran into the article at Cornell Hip Hop Collection so it’s time to pass it on. Here’s how Jo-Jo described the creation of the back spin in the interview:

jojo1Elemental Magazine issue Aug 2002

“I came up with the backspin by mistake cause when I danced, I was fast…and one time I was going pretty fast [doing a butt spin] and I slipped. When I slipped, I did a half circle on my back. My brother Easy Mike saw it and he was like, “Whoa…You was spinnin’ on your back! You spinned, and your body went around one half a circle…Wow!”

After that, we started doing the butt spin and [then] go from the butt to the back. After a while, we started spinning on our butt then going to the back, and then bringing up the shoulder. Before long, we were going from the butt to the back to the shoulder to a bridge.”

jojo2Young Jo-Jo getting busy, Elemental Magazine photo

We reached out to Jo-Jo to hear more on the early days. Jo-Jo reminisced that the first time he ever did the backspin in public was in a famous battle between Starchild La Rock against TBB (The Bronx Boys), TDK (The Disco Kids) and Rockwell Association teamed up together. When he did the backspin he says “the battle was over, they’d never seen this before”.

There was also another occasion when he pulled a backspin on concrete for the first time. No cardboard boxes, no linoleum. He speaks about this on the Elemental magazine:

“There was this kid named Playboy…he lived at the Alexandra projects. My friend Jose – Spider Web – had moved to that area, and the first thing he did was call me and tell me, “Joe, there’s some B-Boys over here…they’re gonna try to battle me… you need to come down here.”

Jose had seen Playboy and…well, I always taught my people to stand up and be ready for the battle, but Jose went out there and tried to be real arrogant. He tried to battle Playboy and he got double-teamed and lost. So I went down there, and the first two kids that popped up from their squad, I took ‘em-BOOM! BOOM! And then the next two came out, and before they got through, Playboy came.

When Playboy came, he was checking me out. The pressure mounted. That was the first time I popped a backspin on the concrete. I ripped my shirt but actually, I had a thick nylon Adidas suit, so I still spinned. I only got like one spin out of it, cause I sort of twisted and it gave me a scuff mark on my shoulder. [But] I still pulled it off! It came through!

Playboy fronted on me…I could tell he was amazed but he wouldn’t talk to me or act like he knew who I was. Then like an hour later he came up like, “Yo, can I get down with you?” ”.

jojo3Catching up with Jo-Jo in Estonia 2013

The backspin became a popular move and eventually evolved into what’s known today as the windmill by Crazy Legs. But that’s a whole other blog post. Stay tuned for future posts.

-Focus / bboydojo.com

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