The article goes into depth on the origins of the Massive Monkees (mentions the role of Jefferson Community Center, a space for young Filipino American youth to build...listen to Blue Scholars' "Southside Revival"), performing for the Supersonics (R.I.P. lol!!), their service in the local Seattle community, and their international travels. Mind you, Massive Monkees are bigger than the 6 brothas on the MTV show. But you get the perspective of Jeromeskee, Brysen, and Juse Boogie (Marcus Garrison) who are on the show.
Enjoy! Let's see if you can catch Brysen's reference to the J'ville bootleg tape swapping we did back in the late 90s I mentioned in my last blog post. Can't believe he remembered that!
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The B-Boy Stance: An In-Depth Look Into the Massive Monkees
By H.D. Author
08:15:31 PM PST
When someone mentions Seattle, Hip-hop isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind, if it comes to mind at all. Though we have multiple businesses based in the Puget Sound area that have grown to be recognized all over the world, since the days of Sir Mix A Lot this city’s been rather quiet when it comes to artists making noise outside of the local scene in terms of Hip-hop. Within the past few years, however, several acts have crossed that barrier by linking up with others in the same struggle to spread the word in a day and age where Hip-hop is supposedly dead. It may be to the masses, but not to the Massive. Monkees that is.
Before a routine practice session at the Jefferson Community Center in Beacon Hill, where b-boys and b-girls have been going to learn, improve, and master their crafts for nearly 20 years, we got the chance to chill with a few of the crew. With b-boys Jeromeskee and Iron Mike Brysen, we wanted to know what the world-renowned Massive Monkees have been through, are going through, and will go through both as a crew and as a family.
Just to start with some basics, how long has Massive Monkees been together?
Jeromeskee: As a crew we’ve been established in 1999. It was two crews forming together, both crews really were nobody. We were all just kids who had the same passion. At that time, the whole Seattle scene, the b-boy Seattle scene was pretty much dead. Two crews, one of the crews was called the Untouchable Style Monkees, which was Brysen and myself, and another crew was called Massive, which was Juse Boogy and Domes. They were practicing downstairs at the Jefferson Community Center at the same time…
Did you guys get along right off the bat? Tell us a little more about how the two formed Massive Monkees.
Jeromeskee: Before we didn’t really know each other as well, pretty much didn’t like each other. [Laughs] We were kids growing up, we were kids trying to find identities too, trying to be hardcore and trying to be B-boys, stuff like that. [Laughs] When everybody disappeared we were like, ‘Yo ok…’ The big thing that played was chemistry. We all had the same vision. We wanted to master ourselves, you know, stay as a unit and compete with each other. But it was on a respect tip, it wasn’t no hate….
Brysen: I think actually we started hanging out before we started practicing together. We would go out together and party, do whatever, like 18-19 year olds do. Then we took one trip down to B-boy Summit ‘99…we took a bus trip down there together. We weren’t Massive Monkees yet, but we took the bus trip down and really from there it was on. We were down there representing together, representing Seattle, and at that time like Jerome said the scene had died. There were no more B-boys around in the area. There were, but they were very scarce…we were the remaining heads still doing it in Seattle, and then it was on.
Prior to the two crews meeting, how long have you guys been b-boying? Who did you look up to locally, and how was the Seattle b-boy scene back when you two started?
Jeromeskee: I’ve been dancing since ’96. I looked up to the crew, actually, before they were called USM they were called ABC, and that was [Brysen’s] crew, and this other crew which was called Boss Crew… incredible. They probably influenced not just the Seattle scene but the whole west coast scene, possibly the east coast scene.
Brysen: I started breaking in ’94, and Boss had been doing it 2 years before that. That’s kind of who put us on. I remember being in Florida in ’99 and telling heads I was from Seattle and they were like, ‘Yo you’re from Seattle? You ever heard of Boss Crew? We fucking used to watch their tapes.’ And this was in Florida, this is the complete opposite end of the US, and these kids were talking about how they’d seen Boss. Mind you, this was in ’97 when they were seeing like the “Yellow Shirt Break Wars” and stuff like that, and that was stuff going on here in Seattle. At that time, you know, there was no digital video, no internet video, no YouTube, there was nothing. It was like VHS being recorded by one homie, and the next homie getting it and him recording the next one, so I’m sure the copy that they got of some the battles locally were worn out VHS video tapes…. And that was like our original crew, both me and [Jeromeskee], we were like the younger cats who were repping Boss but we’re still part of that legacy, and proud to be.
Did you have any idea from the beginning that you really wanted to do this on a greater level or did it just kind of happen naturally?
Jeromeskee: I really sucked. I tried to get into this crew Oasis. That was in middle school. Yeah I’ll put em on blast too. [Laughs] They said, ‘all you have to do is battle.’ I already knew them from friends…so I went there and tried to battle in. Did my 3-4 rounds of Russian kicks, thought I was hardcore, and thought I was fresh. And then they said, ‘Oh I’m sorry, the crew is locked.’ AKA yo you suck. I was pretty mad cuz I practiced hard. For a good strong week. [Laughs] My boy at that time was saying why don’t you just go for ABC. So I go here to Jefferson Community Center, and these guys were already established pretty much. They’ve been battling for awhile. I practiced for 3-4 months, just trying to practice hard. I hooked up with the right people like Brysen, pretty much worked out for me. Hooked up with this guy named Fever One, DVS Crew, cats that really helped influence Boss Crew. They were the pioneer B-boys… dancing since the 80’s.
Brysen: [DVS] studied the old school cats who were doing it in New York, and these guys grew up in the 80’s so they were studying probably the early 80’s and late 70’s of what was going on…. Everything that they studied and all the homework that they did they were more than willing to share with Boss, which was to me, why Boss became so good. They were put on from the beginning and taught the real deal from jump, and that all lead down to what we’re doing as Massive.
Jeromeskee: We had a blessing off the direct contact from what B-boying should be, and what it really is about.
How did Massive Monkees go beyond that? What did you guys have to do get recognition and respect both in and outside of Seattle?
Brysen: We just did traveling, tried to get out there. We did Rock Steady Anniversary in ’99. We did B-Boy Pro Am in ’99. And this was just like small groups of us traveling around. A big turning point was doing Freestyle Session 6 in California. It was first time that us as a whole crew went down and made some noise, and we fucking came in 2nd place. We didn’t have any clue that were gonna do that good when we got down there, but we went down there, we did what we did, and fuck from there it was history. After that everybody wanted to know what’s going on with Massive Monkees…. We didn’t plan a lot of it, a lot of it we can honestly say it was a blessing. Things came at the right time, things happened at the right time, we chose to enter the right battles, and we got lucky. I think we got real lucky.
Jeromeskee: Before we made noise we had to make our personal noise in our own city to a different city. From then on, it was like ok we can do competitions. What else can we do? Alright we’ll teach. What else can we do? We can do theater. What else can we do? We can do Sonics, you know? It’s just an on-going process. Basically it’s a lot of peoples’ dreams all in one pot, and we worked it out as a crew….
When did you first hook up with the Sonics and how’d the Boom Squad form?
Jeromeskee: 2004. We won the World B-boy Championships [April 2004], and that was in London… Then this lady from California came to the Sonics and wanted to make a b-boy crew. Basically, someone forwarded her our contact, hooked us up, [and we] just tried out. We were already established as Massive Monkees, and so we were doing regular routines, our show routines and so forth. They liked us. We made the All-Star Game that year too.
Brysen: They hired us for thirteen games, and we did the thirteen games. The crowd loved it, and they just kept us on, put us on payroll with the Sonics.
Jeromeskee: If you see Boom Squad at the Supersonics, it’s known as the Massive Monkees crew. The Sonics didn’t put us together as individuals, we were already a crew.
Outside of the b-boy scene itself, what do you think people think of the art on a mainstream level?
Brysen: What you see now, like “You Got Served” or “Kicking It Old School,” the way that b-boying’s being represented to the mainstream…
Jeromeskee: It’s a joke.
Brysen: It makes b-boying out to be a joke. They’re definitely trying to make it like another fad, like this is just another fad that’s gonna go out the door. Truth be told this is shit that has been building, and it gave me and Jeromeskee and identity, you know what I’m saying? There’s other kids out there that could be doing a lot of other shit, you know, we all know that. We could all be doing something else…
If not for b-boying, what do you think you’d be doing right now?
Jeromeskee: Man, honestly, b-boying’s like walking. I can’t live without it. I can’t even think without it. I’m so in tuned with b-boying and with my crew; it’s kind of crazy to even think that. I see my crew on a daily basis. I b-boy every single day.
Brysen: If I wasn’t breaking, I don’t know. I may have finished college. I may have gotten a real good job. I may be sitting in front of a desk, fucking who knows what I could be doing, but I know that I’m happy with where I’m at right now. B-boying has done a lot for myself and it’s gotten me to a place where I can say that a lot of other people haven’t experienced a lot of things, at the age of 26, that I’ve been able to experience through this thing.... My parents have told me numerous times, “enjoy what you’re doing right now. You’re experiencing greater things. I’ve never seen all these countries that you’ve seen. I’ve never got to know different cultures around the world.” I don’t know where I would be, but I’m happy where I’m at.
Jeromeskee: I wouldn’t change anything, anything at all.
What’s been one of your most memorable experiences traveling the world?
Jeromeskee: [We’re] constantly having new experiences. This one experience we had, we got flown out to Japan. It was so like “Blood Sport,” where they took best of the best of each crew in Japan… we were the special guest crew.… We had a lot of great experiences in Japan, different countries and so forth, but this experience was like from the beginning to the end, [there] was a constant greatness to it. I mean it was to the point where we’re at the temple… we looked at each other, and we’re looking at how beautiful Japan was and how they treated us with such, royalty, actually… such respect. We’re like “dang…” I looked to the right, I looked to the left… we’re about to cry, you know? But we’re b-boys, we can’t do that. We’re hardcore, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs] And they gave us ceremonies, like the opening ceremony they had the prime minister there. It was a beautiful town.
Brysen: From the minute that we came off the plane they took care of us. Like “what do you guys wanna do? Where you gonna go? Here’s your luggage.” Everything was planned out on a schedule. “You’re gonna eat, you’re gonna go do this….” It was like from beginning to end they made sure we were gonna have a really good time.
Jeromeskee: It was our b-boy heaven. [Laughs]
Brysen: Yeah, and I got to share with like six of you guys. [Laughs]
Jeromeskee: At that moment, at that time, I said it to myself, “If I were to retire like this right now, I’d be happy.” There’s so much more to do, but I mean it was a super unique experience, incredible every single second.
Brysen: That was Koji, Japan, for Battle Runners 2006. Koji, Japan.
On the flip side of that, have you guys had any bad experiences travelling?
Jeromeskee: Where you wanna start?
Brysen: I actually booked this trip… we went to Leon, France. This promoter contacted us from France and said they wanna to bring us out for a battle. From the jump, the communication was wack. First thing he did was he bought the tickets flying out of Washington D.C. [Jeromeskee laughs] We were stuck with our flights, but we got that situated. We got on the plane, we flew in, and for some reason the flights didn’t connect right. We ended up spending four hours in Paris, waiting at the airport…then we flew to Leon, France. We finally get there, and we didn’t get to check into our hotel or anything. They brought us with our luggage, they were late picking us up too, and then a two hour drive after waiting at the airport for four hours…. Straight off of traveling for over twenty-something hours… they gave us an hour to chill and tell us to go out and stage and battle.
Jeromeskee: With our luggage.
Brysen: No shower, no food, no nothing. We get out there and we make it all the way to the finals, and we battled this crew called Pokémon. It’s their hometown, and I think the dude who promoted it was trying to throw an event to boost up their name. So they basically flew us out there, threw us in the tank, put us in front of this home crowd… close to a thousand… screaming fans, screaming for them and booing for us. We can show you the tape. We smacked them. We killed em. And all the judges go, “Pokémon wins.”
Jeromeskee: When we went there, just when they had said “USA” they booed us. They didn’t know about us. All they knew was about President Bush…and they heard “USA” and they booed us. And so we had to get their respect. In the beginning it was like “ok, these guys are alright.” Second round…they started to feel us more. When it came to the finals… after they announced the winner… [Pokémon] got booed.
Brysen: It was like some “Rocky” shit. Remember how Rocky had fought? All of a sudden, the crowd’s emotions turn to our favors like, “these guys are good guys….” [Both laugh] You can change a lot peoples’ minds through breaking….
Bringing it back locally, to here in Seattle, what are you guys up to now? What do you guys have planned?
Jeromeskee: We’re working on a theater piece. We do a lot of theater in the college market nationally, [but we’ve] never done a theater production in Seattle. It’s weird; it’s ironic. That’s one of our goals, basically just try and do theater and open it in Seattle….
Brysen: We’ve been doing a lot of shows locally, for like the opening of the sculpture park, or the Seattle Art Museum, and the Asian Art Museum… we did one show at the Asian Art Museum and ever since then the same people organizing a lot of the openings of the venues here got us doing that. It might have something to do with them giving us the Mayor’s Arts Award this year.
Jeromeskee: The mayor also gave us an official holiday, called the Massive Monkees Day. That’s April 26th, when we brought home a gold championship title [from the World B-boy Championships in 2004].
Brysen: And we’re still setting goals for ourselves, still trying to accomplish more. Take it to the next step, whether it be winning the next competition or trying to open a school and trying to teach out of a school…and to spread the word of Hip-hop, positive Hip-hop, and what b-boying can bring to culture, which is why it’s dope you guys are doing this magazine. We’re kind of on the same mission now. It’s perfect timing. Let’s just bring all this urban culture to life.
We know Massive Monkees is involved with the community outreach. Tell us more about that and the groups you work with.
Jeromeskee: I work at pre-schools, among another organization called Arts Corps… teaching art, teaching kids…. We have an anti-bully program we’re doing in schools too.
[Juse Boogy Enters]
Brysen: He does a lot of work with the city of Seattle.
Jeromeskee: We all do a lot of work with Seattle.
Juse Boogy: I do work with the city of Bellevue and run afterschool programs… and do classes through the city of Bellevue. We’re also starting a campaign; we’ve been in touch with some of the local districts. We did three grade level school shows with the Tukwila School District last year. We’ve done a couple with the Seattle School District as well. We’re on the move trying to do more outreach work, but at this point we’re just running afterschool programs. He does afterschool classes in Seattle, and I do them in Bellevue.
We know you met here, you practice here, and you help out a lot here at the Jefferson Community Center. What role does it play for the crew, and for b-boying?
Jeromeskee: A lot of us do work at the Jefferson Community Center. For Christmas we do a canned food drive. We do a lot of events specifically to help out certain organizations. We do a non-direct outreach at Jefferson Community Center, where certain kids will come up and we help them out.
Juse Boogy: If this was gone it’d be a lot harder… this is like the Mecca of b-boying… I’ve been coming here like fourteen years, but people have been coming here to b-boy for almost twenty.
What do you think of the Hip-hop scene specifically in Seattle?
Brysen: We need to grow as a scene rather than individuals. It’s a give and take thing. Let’s support each other…. People need to know about all the dope shit that’s going on here.
Juse Boogy: People in general [here] respect art. People in Seattle are always interested.
Jeromeskee: It’s beautiful. People are more artistic on the level of being open-minded. That has to do with people in Seattle… people are more receptive… you know what I’m saying? The Seattle scene and the environment itself has helped that out.
Thanks again for taking the time out do this interview. Any last words about this whole experience thus far in your lives?
Juse Boogy: Through dance you can see the culture, how [people] were raised, and how the community’s doing.
Jeromeskee: B-boying’s more than just tricks, more than shows and competition. It’s a whole lifestyle.
Brysen: We wanna create opportunities for others, other b-boys. And we’re still grinding. I can’t change who I am.
To learn more about the Massive Monkees, check them out at www.myspace.com/massivemonkees, every Seattle Supersonics home game at the Key Arena as the Boom Squad, a show near you, and the DVD documentary starring the crew coming soon.