Luckily, there are still true Hip Hop heads out there that are passionate about the culture as whole and dedicate their lives to its preservation and growth, like Chicago’s Monternez Rezell, AKA Emcee Monte.
What does it mean to be a cultural ambassador? If we think of this as it relates to international diplomacy, a cultural ambassador is an individual with the authority to represent its country. But what happens when your culture has no country? Furthermore, what happens when your culture is not often recognized as a culture in the first place?
The latter is a problem that Hip Hop culture faces today. While most see Hip Hop as a genre of music, the other cultural elements of Hip Hop are often ignored, misinterpreted, or misrepresented. While popular docu-series like Netflix’s Hip Hop Evolution shed light on the origins and development of Hip Hop music, it includes very little about the culture’s other vibrant, non-musical elements like Hip Hop’s visual art form, graffiti, or its physical manifestation, break dance.
Luckily, there are still true Hip Hop heads out there that are passionate about the culture as whole and dedicate their lives to its preservation and growth, like Chicago’s Monternez Rezell, AKA Emcee Monte. In 2017, we did our first in-depth interview with Rezell, and he has stayed true to his mission of being an ambassador of Hip Hop culture. 2019 saw the release of his latest album, Jammin’ with the Boombox Vol. 1: Birth of Hip Hop, as well as the creation of Movement Revolution Future Crew—a group of young dancers that Rezell has taken under his wing. This is all in addition to the creative direction he provides to his company, Movement Revolution Dance Crew, his own professional and street performances, as well as the many students he passes Hip Hop culture on to at studios around Chicago.
This year, Rezell spearheads the annual production of Movement Revolution Dance Crew’s Opposites Attract, March 14-15, 2020 at Chicago’s Stage 773. The production is a direct representation of one of the many ways this Hip Hop ambassador continues to nurture the culture. Here’s what Monte told us about Opposites Attract and his latest choreographic work, Bboy Stance, Bgirl Style:
The challenge that I present to each choreographer is to first come up with a concept or theme, then choreograph a dance that uses the meaning of “opposites attract” in different ways.
Kristi Licera: As artists, we are on a constant journey of growth and self-discovery, and there is no greater expression of that journey than the ability to inspire and enable others to do the same. Through Movement Revolution Dance Crew’s production of Opposites Attract, you have given dancers and choreographers a platform for cultivating their creativity. The production has grown each year, and this year promises to be the most exciting and fulfilling yet. Can you give us some insight to what inspired you to create Opposites Attract? How has the production evolved over the years?
Monte Rezell: This is the fourth year of Opposites Attract, and it has grown so much. As I think back to 2017 and the first ever Opposites Attract, I remember wanting to create a show—a platform for members of Movement Revolution Dance Crew to tell stories, choreograph, and let their voices be heard through dance.
Over the years, we have really explored the idea of creating dance that pushes us to be creative and think outside the box. The challenge that I present to each choreographer is to first come up with a concept or theme, then choreograph a dance that uses the meaning of “opposites attract” in different ways. Over time, the choreographers that present in the show have gotten better at applying this formula. Some use the classic yin and yang idea, some set a style of dance to a song that does not traditionally go with that style of music, and others fuse dance styles together.
Each year the caliber of ideas and choreography grows. This in turn forces us to grow as dancers. This year I pushed us to get the entire show ready in two and a half months. This is the fastest I have produced the show and surprisingly, we just had the cleanest dress rehearsal yesterday that we have ever had.
When I was writing the voice-over that accompanies the piece, I imagined a world where the Hip Hop culture is passed down from a Master or Sensei to students in a dojo.
Kristi: This year’s Opposites Attract features work from seven choreographers, including a new work that you are presenting titled Bboy Stance, Bgirl Style. In previous interviews with DancerMusic, we’ve learned of your true love for Hip Hop culture and your mission to pass on its true nature to the next generation. Can you tell us more about Bboy Stance, Bgirl Style? What inspired this work, and how does it encompass your personal aesthetic and approach to respecting and cultivating Hip Hop culture?
Monte: Hip Hop has always been influenced by martial arts culture—from Wu-Tang incorporating elements of Kung Fu movies in their name and embedding it into their music, to Bruce Lee being a staple in pop culture. This piece takes that influence a step further. Bboy Stance, Bgirl Style takes place in an imaginary world 1,000 years in the future. When I was writing the voice-over that accompanies the piece, I imagined a world where the Hip Hop culture is passed down from a Master or Sensei to students in a dojo.
Ever since Hip Hop was introduced to the world via Hollywood, it has been the only culture that transcends borders, class, race, nationality, and more.
This piece imagines a world that has forgotten where Hip Hop started, the knowledge of the culture, and the pioneers that started it all. It is an exaggeration of what we see today with the exploitation of rap music and the appropriation of Hip Hop as a whole. The Sensei makes it his mission to rectify the situation. He understands that the state of the culture is not good, and the true legacy is hanging on by a thread. His goal is to raise up a new generation of Hip Hop heads that will preserve the culture and pass it down to the next generation.
The dance begins as these students are completing their training and preparing to go out into the world and complete the mission of their master teacher. In a sense, the Sensei represents me, and his mission is a fulfillment of my quest to preserve the culture that I grew up with—that I love and hold dear to my heart.
Hip Hop unites the world, but the success of Hip Hop worldwide often overshadows the authenticity, history, and importance of preserving the culture.
I take pride in being a practitioner and teacher of the Hip Hop culture. Passing down the knowledge to the next generation and teaching the history and the legacy is as important to me as performing. For those that do not know, the Hip Hop culture includes the following elements: the DJ, the Bboy & Bgirl, the MC, and graffiti. Hip Hop started in New York City and was a phenomenon in the United States until 1984 when it spread worldwide. Ever since Hip Hop was introduced to the world via Hollywood, it has been the only culture that transcends borders, class, race, nationality, and more. Hip Hop unites the world, but the success of Hip Hop worldwide often overshadows the authenticity, history, and importance of preserving the culture.
The biggest thing that everyone must understand is that Hip Hop is a culture that does not get the respect that it deserves. It is time for everyone that loves the culture, participates in any capacity, or is just an observer to give Hip Hop the respect that is due.
Movement Revolution Dance Crew presents Opposites Attract at Stage 773 (1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago) Saturday, March 14 at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 15 at 2:30pm. To purchase tickets, visit www.tickets.vendini.com.