Know Your L.A. Hip-Hop Dances: The Evolution Of Krumping

Dave LaChapelle's "Rize"
Dave LaChapelle's "Rize"

Editor's Note: Writer Jessica A. Koslow is a USC master's student writing her thesis on krumping. Know Your L.A. Hip-Hop Dances explores some of the most popular street dances in our city.


Background: Krumper Lil' C holds court on So You Think You Can Dance, and krumping can be seen in music videos by Missy Elliott and Madonna. Developed in South Central in the early 2000s, it is a style of street dance characterized by emotive, often grand, spontaneous movements of the whole body.

Dave LaChapelle's 2005 documentary Rize brought krumping to the mainstream. Known for his slick videos for stars like Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera, LaChapelle's work screened at Sundance, and largely focused on a character called Tommy the Clown. In the late '90s, Tommy pioneered a dance called clowning, performing with his clown crew at kids' birthday parties.

But some of his associates broke off to pursue their own style: krumping. Sans makeup and costumes, krumping is more aggressive and rugged. Combining elements like popping and breaking, it relies on inspired impromptu freestyles.

The Originators: When the clown act got old, several dancers bounced, including Miss Prissy, Lil' C, Tight Eyez, and Big Mijo. According to Tight Eyez, it's not clear who started krumping.

Life After Rize: So You Think You Can Dance has fully embraced krumping. Since 2006, Lil' C has been a judge and choreographer, while Massachusetts native Russell Ferguson won the 2009 season, when he was only 19. The show has been kind to krumping, even if the judges can be cruel.


Krumping continues to thrive in parking lots and recreational centers around Los Angeles. Even Lil' C, Miss Prissy, Big Mijo and Russell themselves once a week still perform in a circle called 818, in a NoHo parking lot.

P.S. Before Dave LaChapelle filmed Krumped in 2004, Mark St. Juste had already released a documentary about krump dancing in 2003 called Shake City 101. His film focused on a crew of dancers, including Mijo and Tight Eyes, who performed on Venice Beach and Hollywood Boulevard.

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