Everybody should know about the legendary B-boy:  Easy Roc.  The former Rock Steady Crew veteran is one of the most respected dancers in the world.  He helped pioneer an era of b-boying with his smooth style of footwork and top rocking that new schoolers can only emulate.  As an old-schooler who paved the way for many others, Easy comes from the era of carrying a boombox to the park with a piece of cardboard.  With that said, the cassette tape has played a huge role in his career as a highly influential B-boy.  In addition to killing the dancefloor, he also dabbles in the world of bmx, art, lowriders and all things creative.  Recently, my good colleague/tape hunter/Zulu Nation Chapter Leader:  Last Man...had the chance to link up with Easy Roc to talk a little bit about the cassette era's influence in the B-Boy culture.


Last Man here and I'm here with Old School Rock Steady/Zulu Nation/Pioneer/Bboy:  Easy Roc.  I'm just gonna ask you a couple of questions pertaining to cassette/boombox culture.  What do you see as the importance of the boombox and the cassette tape within B-boy culture?

First off, I would say that if you were B-boy back in the day and you didn't have a boombox it was pretty sad because that was something that was mandatory.  B-boyin is a very free thing. It's one of those things where no matter where you are from (rich or poor) you didn't have to spend alot of money to be a b-boy. The only thing that you really NEED is the music.  To play that music, you needed to have a boombox.  The difference is nowadays...with all the technology, I see the kids just holding their phone up to their ear and do their little bug out...whether it's the jerk or the shuffle or whatever the new dance is that's coming out.  It's just not quite the same you know what I mean?  First of all, it's too personal.  People think you're like a weirdo doing that kinda thing.  They don't see a box with music coming out.

 The other thing is that Hip Hop was and should be a very rebellious thing.  For you to have a big ol' offensive box just booming your music for all to hear is making a statement like "Hey, check me out...I'm doing this and I don't care what anybody thinks."  Whether it was right or wrong, we were in people's faces with our big boombox.  I guess it's alot of things.  It's like in California with the car culture.  People can't live without their car and you gotta have sounds in your car.  It gives you a freedom and a sense of pride and confidence to be like "yeah, this is me...this is my world, my music and what represents me."   The boombox is just so important to the early days and it still should be. B-boys today should be going out and trying to find boomboxes. The new ones just aren't quite the same. So its hard, you really got to try and hunt for one.

So yeah, like you said there are alot of the new ones.  Like even now...Lasonic put out a new boombox that's similar to the TRC- 931 but its got an Ipod Connection.

I think that was somebody's clever idea.  It was probably a designer of our age/generation that said "I miss this, I wanna see these back out but let's make it hip for the new people."  So yeah, it was kind of a shocker when Urban Outfitters had this identical box to the one I have but just a little thinner.  I was like "What? what is that?"  When I went a little closer, I noticed that it wasn't quite the same.  There wasn't a cassette deck and it was all ready to adapt for your ipod.  The funny thing is even that technology will be gone in a few years.  It's silly how fast everything moves.

But yeah, there's so much you can talk about the era of the Boombox and the tape. It's funny cuz now when you talk about a mixtape.  What is a mixtape?  It's a Cassette tape.  It was a little shortlived and then cds came in and they didn't seem like they lasted very long either.  Now it's all digital technology. Just like with wax....people get to the point where they wanna reminisce and go against the grain.  The hunt for wax is now become the hunt for tape because if you have a working boombox you'd want to be able to play a tape in it.  I always have a tape in mine.  It's usually James Brown or something else.  If I had to take it somewhere and it was the last thing on earth...and I grab my boombox, its gotta have James Brown in the tape player.


So you mentioned James Brown.  That brings me to my next questions.  From your collection back in the day and over time...what were your favorite tapes or must haves? What are your holy grail tapes.  Let me hear your top 5.

Well, that's kind of a hard one cuz if you go way back like say the 80's, it would be all the recorded stuff from KDAY.  I still have recordings of the Mixmasters shows and where I lived, you couldn't get it really clear so there was alot of interference and static.  So it wasn't something that you would use in your box to go practice with.  You'd probably just listen to it.  I used to listen to those again and again while I was painting denim jackets!  You know, I'm talking like the mid 80's.


Some of the tapes I still have til this day that I bought during that time would be like the Tommy Boy compilation tape or Egyptian lover.  Back then we were dancing to Egyptian Lover and Soul Sonic Force.  We were so young and I wasn't much of a music collector per se.  I sort of just recorded and dubbed tapes from other people.  That was the thing when the dual cassette came out.  That's when you could try to be a DJ in your own right so I was always doing my stop/pause mix tapes.   I used to try and do fancy stuff with just two cassette decks and it was fun.  That's what Hip Hop is about. You always try to emulate what you are hearing.  I probably have some really bad tapes or crazy mixes I did and some funny songs that came out.  That was pretty much it.  I recorded a lot of stuff off the radio so having a stash of blank tapes was mandatory.  I would hear a mixshow come on and I would race to my stereo and just pop that tape in.


Certain tapes were a must have.  You got albums like the Boogie Down Productions: Blueprint of Hip Hop in here.  

Well when the late 80's came in and you were getting more signed acts, music groups became more available.  That's when I started to get my collection together.  Boogie Down Productions: The Blue print of Hip Hop.  I took that with me on tour in 1988 when I went across the states on a BMX tour.  We listened to that until the tape disintegrated.  That was probably the one tape that we had to buy again and again.  It was such a good time.  Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet came out like in 88 or 89.  Just around that time, NWA came out.  Then I got into the blasting tapes in the car.  At that point, it was like Ice-T who was one of my favorites.  Power was one of my favorites back then.   I was rocking other stuff back then too like Rick James or...Cold Blooded who always had the nice bass. When I first got a car its like I upgraded to having a boombox in the car.  Then it was all about going to the swapmeets and buying all the funk mixtapes like the best of One Way, Zapp, etc...I got into that because of the whole lowriding culture too.  There was a time when I didn't even have a stereo in my car but I would just take the boombox and put it under my seat.  I'd have a plastic bag full of cassettes in the car.  It's funny cuz when I talk to alot of people, they did the same thing.  Even my wife.  She had a 69 Volvo and she used to roll around with tape deck.  It was freedom.  The tape was freedom to get away.

That's relative to the way hip hop started.  When you talked about the boombox in the car, I thought of Kool Herc in the convertible with the big house speakers.  He fathered all of this and came from Jamaica with these big house speakers.  It's like he said fuck that, I'm gonna drive around the five boroughs bumpin' in my car.

Yeah, as I's about getting attention.  It's about being rebellious.  It's about saying "Hey! this is new, this is me...check me out!"  That's Hip hop.  It's about fame and getting attention.  It's about making ourselves loud and being proud.  Even what we wear.  It's about getting attention.  It's like saying "Hey I'm here and remember me."  So playing your music loud and making a statement, that's all a part of it.

I think all of us in Hip Hop culture had boomboxes and tapes. We all played and walked around with them but I think that Breakdance/b-boy culture bears a certain significance.  You guys call it "Hittin" or Streetshows and you had to have the boombox there with your cardboard or linoleum.

With "Hittin" and taking out your boombox was more common.  We were fortunate enough in the late 80's and 90's to have access to mixtapes.  In the 90's it was really easy to get them from certain djs.  There were alot of mixes coming out and alot of people were finding new records.  Someone would bless you with a tape you were gonna play that all the time.  Everybody would get familiar with that tape.  Then somebody would say "Where did you get that?   I need that tape, I like that mix, Who is that?  "Oh...well, that's so and so's mixtape."  Then they would be like "well okay, let me get that tape."  And that was really good for the DJ's at the time.   It was unheard of for a DJ to put out a record.  DJ's were just selling their mixtapes out of their backpacks after a show or out in the street.  It was kinda neat back then.  Nowadays people will say "Didn't Too Short do that?"


You know other people took it to another level.  Look at JT the Bigga Figga in the Bay.  Master P and all them.  You know where Lil Wayne came from.  They were all slanging cassette tapes before CD's out of the trunks of their cars and now they're super stars.  So that brings me to my last question. We took a picture of some special tapes of yours.  Can you talk about what these are and how important these recordings are to you.

That stack of tapes right there.  By looking at it, you wouldn't know what it is but those were given to me by a very good friend named Frosty Freeze.  Frosty came out here a couple times and stayed with me in Los Angeles.  One of the things about him was that he was a very giving individual.  He didn't have alot of money but what he would do is give out some of his tapes of old-school radio recordings..  Sometimes back in the day you would see cats in the club with their boombox wtih a tape rolling and a pocketful of tapes ready to go when that tape ran out.  Well, Frosty was one of those individuals and he had some really interesting live recordings from some night club stuff with different crews battling.  He was dubbing those tapes off and selling them out of his bag.  He happened to give me about a dozen of them for free.  He said "Here these are just for you because you're my friend."  So when he passed, I was just devastated.  A few months later I was coming out of it and then I remembered about those tapes.  I wanted to find them just so I can have some kind of connection with my friend. I ended up finding them and just started listening to them and it brought back alot of memories.

Some of them were even Rocksteady Jams in the Park?

Yeah and there were just alot of random stuff that he thought that people would enjoy. They were very modestly written on with what they are.

One of them didn't even have a title.  One of em just says 1984.

They don't say Frosty Freeze's mix or Frosty.  He wasn't even on an ego thing.  He just liked to share with people.  Just listening to those tapes is just magical.  It transports me to a time and I just imagine being there with Frosty at those moments when he recorded them.  I do want to put them out for anyone who wasn't able to get them.  I'm sure that people did buy them but they probably have gone missing by now.  I will let some people dub them so they can enjoy where he was coming from.  Obviously he put them on tapes so other people can enjoy them.  So those tapes are super special to me and I don't ever want to let them out of my sight!


So anything else you want to touch on before we turn off this recorder. Anything you want to say or any other tape/hip hop related things you wanna say? Any shout outs?

Not so much.  I just think that it's refreshing that you guys are going to do this feature and shed some light back on the tape/boombox scene.  I think people should just keep their eyes wide open.  So if you're pasing by a thrift store, take a second to step in there and see what kind of old technology they got.  We don't wanna see this stuff end up in the trash or junkyards.  I'd rather see them on someone's shelf.  Maybe you can do a page where people can send in photos of their collections.  Let's just start a whole revolution of reverse technology.  You got guys that still roll around with 8-tracks in their cars and I think that's cool.  Let's not get to swept up by this fast paced technology.  We always gotta remember what came first. There's alot of fun attached to these eras.


  1. jjohnson7.5.12

    Big ups on capturing this interview, Last Man! Was nice to hear about the tape scene from a Rock steady perspective. Those Frosty freeze tapes prolly have some great historic gems hidden inside!

  2. Anonymous14.5.13

    Easy Roc was always oneof my favourite B-boys back in the day. The footage of him breaking at the '95 RSC Anniversary, that Ken Swift included on his first solo video back in the day, is amazing. He had the cleanest foundation moves I've ever seen.


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