Interview with Cholly Rock (Zulu Kings)

Cholly Rock is a 1st generation bboy, and one of the “First 11” Zulu Kings. Prior to joining the Zulu Kings, he was also part of the Black Spades 22nd Division.

Cholly Rock

SKEE: Peace brother Cholly! I just want to start off by asking… What was breaking like in the early 70s, and who were the first bboys?

CHOLLY ROCK: Well… Prior to 1975, people were not doing floor moves. It was more “uprock” type of stuff, and occasionally a split or drop. As for the first bboys… While I knew about Sa-Sa and Trixie, the first bboys I saw doing what we consider modern breaking, i.e. spinning on the floor, were The Twins (Keith and Kevin) and Tyrone Smith aka Clark Kent. To me, what we define as the modern bboy begins with them. That’s what we (bboys from that era) were emulating.

SKEE: How was the vibe like at the block parties back then?

CHOLLY ROCK: The summers were great! In the mid 70s, it was pretty much all about Kool Herc. If you were a bboy and traveled (a lot of cats were scared to leave their hood because of stick-up kids and stuffs), you went to Herc’s parties! There were also other places, such as Haffen Park and of course, all over the Soundview area with Mario, Kool Dee, Tex and Bambaataa. But the universal name was Kool Herc! Flash, who had not adopt his “Grand Master” moniker yet, was the up and coming challenger to Herc’s reign around this time. So we listened for news on where Herc or Flash was playing… Wherever somebody say “the music is out” we went!

SKEE: I heard about the “spade dance”, can you share with me more about it?

CHOLLY ROCK: The spade dance was exclusive to us as Black Spades. Much of the “burning” era was spawned by the spade dance, which involved a lot of stomping and upright spinning. It was an early precursor to us as bboys, and you will hear some old Black Spades refer to what they were doing as breaking and themselves as early bboys, but it wasn’t what we were doing later on! The Black Spades and other gangs hung out at clubs like The Puzzle, The Tunnel, Twilight Zone and Hevalo. I was a little too young to get into The Puzzle or The Tunnel, but I went to Hevalo and that’s where I first saw and started breaking… First seeing The Twins and Clark Kent… And of course there’s also The Executive Playhouse!

SKEE: And which year was it when you first started breaking?

CHOLLY ROCK: I’d say my first year of high school, 1974-1975… But I really got into it in 1975-1976, that’s when I (and my crew from Gun Hill) were following Herc and later on Flash!

Cholly Rock and his crew from Gun Hill
Cholly Rock talks about a battle against Mike G at JHS 123 in 1975

SKEE: Being a Black Spade and one of the first Zulu Kings bboy, can you share with me some history of the Zulu Kings?

CHOLLY ROCK: Now the Zulu Kings… I am not a member of the “Founding 5”, but one of the “First 11”. As you know, there’s controversy over the year Zulu Nation was founded. I can tell you with absolute certainty, based on Bambaataa’s history and my own history, that we were still Black Spades in 1973! Bam states that he started the Bronx River Organization, by his account the predecessor of the Zulu Nation, upon the death of his best friend Ron Bethel aka Soulski (President of the Black Spades 10th Division), who was killed by NYPD on January 7, 1975. Our president, Wildman, was shot with him. He survived and is still alive and well today. So based on these facts (I have the news article to prove it), the Zulu Nation cannot begin before 1975! Anyway, you become a Zulu King by dancing against one of the “Founding 5”. I beat Jonathan Lanier aka Zambu, also known as Bambaataa’s DJing protégé “The African Prince”, in a battle at JHS 123!

Article: 2 Armed Youths Killed, 3rd Shot As Bronx Police Halt Their Car (Published by the New York Times on January 7, 1975)

SKEE: That’s some history right there! So who are the “First 11”?

CHOLLY ROCK: The “First 11” includes the five founding members – Amed Henderson, Aziz Jackson, Kusa Stokes, Shaka Reed and Zambu Lanier, as well as Mr Biggs, Little Monk, Pow Wow, Marcus Rockwell, Amin and myself. Beaver was a Baby Zulu King and while great, he was under us! Same goes for people like Lil Boy Keith, Red Alert, Jazzy Jay, Afrika Islam and DXT, they are 1st generation Zulu Kings but they were not part of the “First 11”. The 1st generation Zulu Kings are those who became Zulu Kings between 1975 and 1982, but we the “First 11” are a specific group and we (minus Mr Biggs who’s Bambaataa’s first MC) were all bboys!

A promoted battle between Zambu Lanier and Cholly Rock at JHS 123 in 1977

SKEE: And one last question… Do you know who came up with the top rock step “Charlie Rock”?

CHOLLY ROCK: I heard it was named after me, but honestly I don’t know if that’s entirely true. My father gave me the nickname “Cholly” (in that spelling) as a baby and anyone who grew up with me (meaning outside of hip-hop), as well as my relatives, calls me Cholly as opposed to Anthony, which is my first name. Later on when I got into breaking, I just added “Rock” behind it. But people didn’t know the correct spelling, so they end up calling me Charlie Rock. Anyway, I will tell you that the later generations of bboys gave the dance structure, by ascribing names to various moves. But back then, we were just “going off” and apart from certain moves (such as The Baby, The Superman move by Clark Kent where he’d pretend to go inside a phone booth and change into Superman and The Get Smart move by James Bond where he’d take off his shoe and dial it like a phone), we didn’t really have names for our moves. So I guess because my top rock included a Charleston style move, they named that step after me.

SKEE: Thank you so much for taking time to have this interview with me!

CHOLLY ROCK: Peace Ahki! It’s my honor and pleasure!

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