Interview with Karate Manny (TBB/Crazy Commandos)

Karate Manny is a 1st generation bboy who was down with Crazy Commandos, as well as The Bronx Boys (TBB). 

Karate Manny

SKEE: Peace brother Manny! Can you share with with us some history of your crew, Crazy Commandos?

KARATE MANNY: Well, Crazy Commandos started in 1976 by Shorty Rock and Spy. Spy was actually the one who came up with the name “CC”. At that time, breaking only began for about a year and they saw a crew at Echo Park (I believe) called the “KC crew”. It was a crew made up of black kids and you know back then, we Puerto Rican kids used to call breaking a “Moreno” style of dance. So after seeing the KC crew, Shorty Rock and Spy formed the CC crew. Very soon, more joined the crew. There was Jojo, Mike (Jojo’s brother), myself and also Jimmy Dee. Jojo and Mike were known as the “Apache Brothers”, because they liked to dance to Apache by Incredible Bongo Band. We were a small crew but we packed a punch! Many people don’t know this, but CC actually stands for “Crazy Comedy” at first. Because when we walked into the jam, the black kids would laugh at us as they find it funny for Puerto Rican kids to do their dance. But at the same time, they were also impressed that we can break so well. You gotta understand that even though the black kids started this dance, we took it to the next level. Anyway, Shorty Rock then changed the name to “Crazy Commandos”, because we were known for our commandos. Not to brag, but we were really one of the best crews!

SKEE: No doubt! I also learnt from Trac 2 that there was a bboy named Lil Julio in your crew… Do you recall?

KARATE MANNY: I can’t remember because again, the crew got bigger and bigger, so yea there might be a Lil Julio.

SKEE: I understand that you are credited for the “CC”, what are some other moves that you and your crew came up with?

KARATE MANNY: We didn’t really name our moves, so for example my side to side footwork… People call it the “CC Rock”. Shorty Rock had the “CC Footwork” (original, elongated form of the 6 Step), Spy had the “Baby Freeze”, and Jojo had the “Back Spin”. Actually, he also did this move whereby he’d do a head spin while pushing his body to slide forward, not sure if you can picture that. That was his move, but unfortunately no one gave due credit. I can’t lie and claim moves that weren’t mine, but I also have to tell you the moves that I (and my crew) came up with.

The “CC”

SKEE: So how did you join The Bronx Boys (TBB)?

KARATE MANNY: I actually knew Batch before I got down with Crazy Commandos. I remember one day, Batch brought a few of his boys to our place. We used to hang out on Burnside Ave, near the Bronx Community College. Batch came to find us, and he said he wanted to battle us… That was Batch’s way of recruitment. He would bring a squad to battle the best bboys in the Bronx and recruit them. There was like ten of them from TBB and only four of us. But we held it down and Batch was impressed. He asked me to join his crew and that’s how I became affiliated with TBB. Me and the Diaz brothers (Batch and Aby) are still close friends till this day!

SKEE: Any memorable battles?

KARATE MANNY: I still remember a battle we did in 1978, it was against The Disco Kids (TDK). The guy from Salsoul, called Joey, had this place in an abandoned apartment called “The Dungeon”. One day, Trac 2 came to me and told me that his crew Starchild La Rock is going to battle TDK. He asked me to join them. I was reluctant at first because I don’t feel like battling for another crew, but then he told me Spy was also down so I agreed. I remember TDK had the Boom brothers, Big Boom and Little Boom. They were just coming into the scene. Trac 2 was nice with the gymnastics, he got the “1990” and the “Circles”. But Spy was really the one who shut TDK down. Even though Spy didn’t really have the complex moves that you guys do nowadays, he was nice with it and he knew how to mix up combos. He got the footwork and the freezes. So we beat TDK and got like a hundred dollars as prize money. It was not a lot of money but to us, it was really the bragging rights that mattered.

The Dungeon

SKEE: I can only imagine how heated the battle must be… So, do you remember how the Rock Steady Crew came about?

KARATE MANNY: It’s quite funny because Jimmy Lee, the guy who founded Rock Steady, was hanging out with us one day at P.S. 115. He told us he wanted to form a new crew, because TBB got disbanded, and that was in 1979. So we each helped him come up with a name but he didn’t like them. Then Eddie from TDK said “Rock Steady” and Jimmy Lee loved it! He asked Eddie if he can use the name but Eddie said no. So he asked Eddie if he can buy the name from him and Eddie agreed. Eddie gave the name to Jimmy Lee, and Jimmy Lee bought Eddie a few quarts of Colt 45. We thought Jimmy Lee was just joking, until a few days later, we saw him again with his new T-shirt. He ironed his name “JIMMY LEE” on the front, and at the back, it says “ROCK STEADY”. We looked closer and below it there was “TBB” written in a smaller font. We laughed and asked him why he still puts TBB on the shirt, then he told us he wants to continue TBB’s legacy. I remember Jimmy Dee, a black kid who learned from Jojo, was the co-founder of Rock Steady. Jojo was also down with the crew. Jimmy Lee was really loyal to Batch and he was in charge of TBB’s division on Burnside Ave. Then I think it was in 1980 or 1981, when Jimmy Lee got locked up and that’s when the leadership was handed over first to Jimmy Dee and then to Crazy Legs.

Jimmy Lee and Jimmy Dee

SKEE: Thank you so much for taking time to share all these with me, I really appreciate it!

KARATE MANNY: Thank you for reaching out to me! It is great to see breaking being taken to such a high level now, I know the scene in Asia is growing. Back then we didn’t have much resources, like I used to pick mattresses that people threw away and use them to practice flips. We’d go into an abandoned apartment building, clean it up and use it as our club. Now people have so much more so y’all really need to cherish it. If there’s any advice I can give to the young generation, it’s that stay in school and stay out of trouble. Life was tough, so breaking was our way of escaping from the struggles. Kids nowadays shouldn’t have to go through all that. I might be blind, but I can still get down like a true bboy! God bless!