The 20th Anniversary of the Freestyle Session went down earlier this month with “The Return of the Crew,” and it was one for the books—all energy, style, and skill. We had the chance talk about what it meant to happen and how the bboy scene has evolved over the years with the one and only dude behind it all, Chris “CROS ONE” Wright.
WOD: What’s your background? How’d you get to be where you are now?
CROS ONE: I started breaking in 1984 when pretty much every kid in America did it or at least tried it. Came and went, and went onto writing (graffiti) in 1988; pretty much got up everywhere tagging and eventually learning to piece and got my name CROS ONE that way. Flash forward to 1993 and I see breaking again at a rave in Los Angeles. Was into party crews back then and was still writing and started practicing again. Then in the mid-90s, Radiotron and Bboy Summit made breaking events a thing. Up until that point, we just got down at house parties, raves, dance contests, et cetera. Started doing events in 1997 and after my first one, started making VHS videos of each event, then eventually DVDs. From there, I started a distribution company for videos and distributed pretty much every major video from events, soloists, and crews in the bboy scene. Started djing in 2000, and in 2003, I got the opportunity to own a hip hop shop. Once I owned the hip hop shop, which was called Armory, I started a clothing brand under the same name and it was exclusively available at the shop. When the video market pretty much got phased out by YouTube videos and people hosting full rips of official videos, I went full board with the clothing company. A lot of people in the outside scenes from breaking know Armory because we made the Jabbawockeez t-shirts—I designed the logo alongside my designer Felt1—that blew up when they won the first ABDC. In 2010, I went on tour with Black Eyed Peas as the tour’s VIP DJ. That tour kind of sparked my interest in making DJ a little bigger part of my career and since then have been djing two to three times a week in a variety of places, locally and internationally. In 2014, I co-founded UDEF and Pro Breaking Tour, which hosts over 40-50 events nationwide yearly with over $300,000 in cash, given out in the scene anchored by Silverback Open and Freestyle Session. And here I am….
WOD: How did the Freestyle Session come to be? How did it make it to 20 years?
CROS ONE: I was pretty heavy into the scene going to events any time I could get out to one. In 1996, I moved to Japan for six months to get out of San Diego. I taught breaking battle crews out that way, built with a bunch of peeps; eventually learned more about business, just soaking up game from a friend of mine, Machan, who eventually opened up his own shop in 1997 called Top Nation. From there, I came home open-minded and open to try and get something going. Bboy Summit had stopped doing events in San Diego around the same time and I had helped a friend out with his event and thought I could give it a go. I noticed more dancers practiced before events. So my thought was if I do events, more people would come practice. So in November 1997, I did my first Freestyle Session. How did I make it this far? Hmmmm…I think it’s me being open minded and being down to move with the times. I took breaks when I needed them. And honestly I keep myself on the level of the dancers. I build with them, I converse with them, and party with them. I am one of them, even though I don’t dance much anymore. But I’m relatable; I used to dance and I throw this big event. I feel like I got the trust of the scene to help guide it.
WOD: What was so special about “The Return of the Crew?”
CROS ONE: Well, Freestyle Session was a full crew battle up until six years ago, when we decided to make it a three vs three competition to open [everyone] to doing more international events and doing a yearly circuit that flew all the winners to the finals. So this being the 20th Year Anniversary, I wanted to do something special, so I brought back the crew battle to kind of bring the boom back. When I announced, it spread like wildfire and gave the 20 Year Anniversary a special angle, since the Crew Battle is what put Freestyle Session on the map internationally to begin with.
WOD: What was the event itself like? How was the energy?
CROS ONE: The event was a blur to me. But the battles were intense crews from over 40 countries around the world going at it. We added a new category with Waacking and Open Styles and Popping we brought back or partners Top Status to do that. We did a Rocking battle, which that dance predates Breaking even. We had an MC Showcase with Immortal Technique, One Be Lo and S.O.U.L. Purpose. Had an all-star DJ lineup as always and just showed folks the pureness of hip hop. The energy was off the chain the entire two 8-9 hour days. I really haven’t felt an energy like that in a minute probably since or 10 Year Anniversary ten years ago.
WOD: Was there a particular performance or two that serious floored you?
CROS ONE: Stand Outs would be the big Japanese conglomerate; there was seven Japan crews in the Top 32. Monster Energy Bboys, who won the whole thing, were running over everyone on their way to the finals. And I just loved the camaraderie of the Real Crews in the building who didn’t feel the need to bring in any kickers and kept it crew when they entered. There was a lot more, but that stood out to me.
WOD: What are the most significant ways that the b-boy scene has changed over the last two decades? Where do see things going?
CROS ONE: Well, the cash prizes are through the roof these days. We do a $300,000 tour! We give out gold rings to our winner. It’s not about the money or rings but how ill is that for all your hard work you get rewarded like that! Also, a big thing that happened earlier this year is that Breaking got added to the Youth Olympics, which will happen in Buenos Aires, Argentina, next year. I’m actually on the committee guiding it, so it’s pretty surreal that we are working towards making it a full-on Olympic sport.
WOD: What exciting things will you be doing or focusing on in the next year?
CROS ONE: I’ll be focusing on bringing the Freestyle Session even further than the 41 countries we’ve done them at and trying to hit at least four to five countries we never did before. Next year, we are doing another format two vs two Tag Team Battles, which should be dope ‘cause I haven’t seen a good two vs two for awhile. I’m also excited to help the Youth Olympics be legit and give these kids a great experience with that whole event. Also looking forward to put breaking in front of new eyes that have never seen it before in a pure essence.
WOD: Any advice to young/future bboys?
CROS ONE: Listen to the music, do your history, and ask questions. Find a mentor. Go to events, travel, and learn as much as you can. So many avenues to learn now and all our pioneers are still around. Ask questions!
WOD: Anything else you’d like to add?
CROS ONE: I’d like to thank all the supporters far and wide. Can’t even believe it’s been 20 Years. And thank you World of Dance for shining a bit of light on the movement that is Freestyle Session.
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