Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew, Season 4, premiered last night on MTV, featuring nine dance crews from across the country including Seattle's very own Massive Monkees. For those who are unfamiliar, the show operates with the same basic premise of Randy Jackson's other side project, American Idol: competitors get under a minute to showcase their talents under flashy lights, and a panel of celebrity judges-- JC Chasez of *NSYNC, music video choreographer Shane Sparks, and the lipglossin' rapper Lil' Mama-- critique their work. Then, the audience (that means you, America) phones, texts, or goes online to vote for their favorite crew. At the end of the series, there will be one definitive crew crowned America's Best.
It's extremely exciting to see Massive Monkees featured as one of the nine crews on a show with such broad national exposure as they are such an important, if unsung, establishment in Seattle's hip-hop culture. Locally, their crew includes a vibrant and active collective of dancers and musicians-- One Be Lo, DJ DV-ONE and DJ BlesOne are some such members--and internationally, Massive Monkees have garnered numerous accolades, including winning the World BBoy Championships in 2004 against Supercrew (the group that was named America's Best Dance Crew back in Season 2.) The lean six-person collective that represents Massive Monkees on the show is their premier battle group: Brysen Angeles, JD Rainey, Jerome Aparis, Marcus Garrison, Timothy Soriano, and Samnith Ly. For the last three seasons of ABDC, the winning crews have all been agile breakdancers from the West Coast, and while the diversity of form and style represented amongst this seasons' contestants has greatly expanded in order to break from the pattern, last night's show demonstrated that Massive Monkees have an excellent shot at taking the competition once more for West Coast b-boys.
The field of competitors is formidable, including Beat Ya Feet Kings, a group from Washington D.C. who execute rapid footwork to their local go-go music, and AfroBorike, a Las Vegas-based salsa collective whose members hail from Puerto Rico and Cuba. Massive Monkees performed fourth on the show last night and was the first group out to really impress the judges; as you can see from the clip above, their performance was sharp and full of personality. They easily sailed on to next week's competition, where certain themes and challenges will be presented to them to incorporate into their performance.
To me, two crews really stood out as viable competition for the Monkees: Rhythm City, a high-octane breaking and hip-hop crew from the Bronx who is determined to claim the title for the home of hip-hop culture; and Vogue Evolution, a five-piece queer-identified group (one of the members is trans) who put on an incredible showcase of the underground vogue scene in New York City, reminding me of a bedazzled Alvin Ailey. If I'm to predict now, I think those are the three teams that have enough verve and range to make it into the finals. Make sure to catch next week's show at 9 PM on MTV: they're a lot of fun, and it behooves us to root for our hometown team. While Massive Monkees may be featured in the arena of glitzy pop culture, this national exposure to their work is yet another testament to the strength and ambition of Seattle's hip-hop community in 2009.