It’s not what people see, it’s what they don’t


In Part 4 of this four-part series, the cypher in Seattle comes to a close, but the portal into the world of breakdancing — and its bright future — is open. 

I walked around the city of Seattle the day after the event. It was an overcast day, not exactly an atypical occurrence for the region, but I couldn’t help but look at the city in a different way than the day I had arrived.

Beyond the skyscrapers, statues, street lights, and bustling Seattle natives was a sense of culture. There was an underground hip-hop scene just waiting to be discovered. The signs were everywhere. The graffiti-laced walls of the building sides, phone booths, and support beams. A local museum with a prominent exhibit dedicated to the history of the genre. It’s an entire community in and of itself, hidden amongst the vast culture of arts in this beautiful city.

There isn’t a medium in existence that emphasizes a combination of community and individualism in the way that breaking does.

As I strolled down the pedestrian path at the Seattle Center, moments after taking a trip up the Space Needle for the first time, I encountered an experience that tied the entire weekend together. A father and son stood aside a stereo, microphones in hand, with a donation container at their feet. The two were rapping a series of homemade songs. There were maybe two or three people standing around them when I showed up, but whether there were three or 3,000 people looking on, their approach would have been the same. They were there to express themselves, to spread the culture, and most importantly to have a good time. The father’s name was CZON. He had been doing music for around 15 years and only recently started rapping with his 10-year-old son, Nicco, a few years ago.

As fate would have it, Nicco would bust out some basic breaking moves during the duo’s final song of the day. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was the culture, the lifestyle, the community that I had spent days learning about manifesting itself before my very eyes. This was hip hop. This was breaking. This was Seattle. CZON and Nicco had actually recently attended a breaking cypher where famous Seattle-based b-boy crew Massive Monkees were set to perform. Before the event, Nicco was able to practice some of his own breaking in the dance circle before he and his father performed one of their songs.

From the underground hip-hop scene to the streets of Seattle, the influence of the breaking world is as expansive as it is exceptional. There isn’t a medium in existence that emphasizes a combination of community and individualism in the way that breaking does. “It’s not what it is, it’s how it feels,” Tilson, one of the MCs at the cypher told me. “It’s not what people see, it’s what they don’t see.”

There’s an entire world of people blind to the beauty and influence of this community. I was too before that weekend opened my eyes. It’s so cliche, I know — such a figurative, sensationalized interpretation of a regional breakdancing tournament. But don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.

Breaking is and always has been unapologetically niche, but come summer 2024, an entire new populace will be exposed to this spectacular blend of sport and art.

And their lives will never be the same again.