Women of Hip Hop: The DJ and breakdance duo teaching the history of hip hop
DJ Lisa Lux and breakdancer B Girl Resolve are the B.flo Girls, a DJ and breakdance collective who aim to uplift women in hip hop. They do this through programs in schools, by providing spaces for adults to learn DJ and breaking techniques, and by hosting and performing at events in the area.
Real names Lisa Latempa and Stacy VanBlarcom, the DJ and breaker duo met around 9 years ago at a breakdance workshop for women in Buffalo, but they only decided to combine their skills to form B.flo Girls in March 2021. They’ve been in demand ever since, teaching the history of women in hip hop along with their DJ and dance skills to people of all ages.
One of the basics that they teach from the start is not a breakdance move or a DJ scratch, but knowledge.
“If you want to break it down in a ‘textbooky’ way as far as the elements of hip hop culture, the main ones are DJing, breakdancing, emceeing, and graffiti,” says breaker Stacy.
"Growing up in the 80s, hip hop was literally all around me everywhere I went…we’d see the DJ out there with milk crates stacked up and some plywood or something, and they would have their turntables out.”DJ Lisa Lux
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop, a culture that was born in the streets of New York City; streets where DJ Lisa was raised.
“Growing up in the 80s, hip hop was literally all around me everywhere I went…we’d see the DJ out there with milk crates stacked up and some plywood or something, and they would have their turntables out,” Lisa says.
Naturally, Lisa wanted to emulate what she was experiencing around her, and even tried scratching on her grandmother’s record player, “She had opera records and a Jane Fonda workout record, and I would do that little ‘wicker wicker’ sound, you know, a little baby scratch on it…probably almost destroying her record player,” she laughs.
But the Jane Fonda record did not have to suffer for long. Lisa’s stepfather was a DJ, and at her request, he taught Lisa how to spin when she was just 12 years old. Soon, she was DJing at school parties, and was even invited to play on a local radio station by a well-known DJ, who she eventually interned for. She became his opening act, sharing spaces with some big-time names.
Lisa recalls the nerves she sometimes felt at these events, “When I used to put the needle down my hand was shaking so bad! The focus is on you, especially when you are a female and you’re young.”
"When I used to put the needle down my hand was shaking so bad!"DJ Lisa Lux
Lisa left New York City for school in Buffalo, hauling her turntables and record collection with her. While looking for like-minded people in the hip hop community, she met Stacy, and they became good friends.
But unlike Lisa, Stacy was not surrounded by hip hop growing up, and only started breakdancing in adulthood after she saw a picture of a friend doing a freeze - a breakdance move where someone holds a gravity-defying pose. Desperate to learn, Stacy asked her friend if she could teach her, and the friend directed Stacy to a breakdance class at Verve Dance Studio on Buffalo's Main Street, which has since closed.
“I went there and I just kind of fell in love with it,” Stacy says, smiling at the memory of that first discovery.
Stacy became a regular at the studio, and her alias, B Girl Resolve, was born. She began to take part in breakdance competitions known as battles, where dancers are scored on their routines by a panel of judges. When Stacy first started breaking around 15 years ago, she was usually one of just a handful of women at these events, and the other dancers made sure she knew it.
In breaking there are a set of moves called burns, which are essentially designed to embarrass your opponent.
“There are a set of classic burns that a person would do to a woman that they would not do to a man…I would get a lot of the ‘call me’,” Stacy mimes putting a phone to her ear. The “hump the floor,” was another eye-roll inducing burn male dancers would throw at her.
“I would be like, I’ve never seen that before. So original,” she deadpans.
"We are not going to start you off with headspins or one-handed freezes! We all started at the beginning."Stacy aka B Girl Resolve
Stacy says that although women were breaking from the start, there are more women doing it now than ever before. And battle etiquette is changing to reflect the world we live in, as Stacy found out at a battle across the border in Hamilton, Ontario.
“The dude that I was battling threw out all the burns, and there was not one burn related to my gender. And he smoked me!”
Stacy and Lisa wanted to be a conscious part of this change, and so they formed B.flo Girls. Among their offerings, the pair hold open practice sessions every other Wednesday evening, where Lisa DJs live while Stacy helps people with whatever breakdance skill they wish to learn. Both women encourage novices to have a go.
“We are not going to start you off with headspins and one-handed freezes!” laughs Stacy. “We all started at the beginning.”
Lisa agrees, “We’re not experts, we’re still learning and growing. I practice scratching almost every day.”
Learning as they go, the B.flo Girls uplift the past, present and future of women in hip hop.
For information on open practice sessions and other events, follow B.flo Girls on Instagram @b.flogirls