Breaks, Battles, and Beefs: 20 Years of Memories from the Furious Styles Crew

On Thursday night, one of the Furious Styles Crew's biggest prodigal sons made his return. And he did it in honor of the long-running b-boy/urban arts crew's 20th anniversary this weekend. Local DJ kingpin Z-Trip paid a surprise visit to the Blunt Club at Tempe's Yucca Tap Room (the event also served as one of the many celebrations in honor of the FSC's birthday) and spent upwards of four hours scratching and spinning to a packed house.

It was a bit like back in the day when Z-Trip, a longtime member of the crew, would perform at bygone Tempe joints like Nita's with the Bombshelter DJs and his fellow Furious Styles members in the house. It marked the latest chapter in the lengthy history of the FSC, which was originally founded back in 1993.

See also: Furious Styles Crew Announces 20th Anniversary Events in November

Edson "House" Magana and his fellow b-boy and brother, Odin Magana, have a ton of stories related to Furious Styles -- a couple decades worth, in fact. And said yarns can be pretty entertaining, like their tales of battling other Valley b-boy crews outside of local Dairy Queens, inside local clubs, or even in a parking lot or two in the middle of the night.

Such things are par for the course for the crew, which features more than 80 members worldwide that practice all four elements of hip-hop culture: b-boys, emcees, DJs, and graf artists. The FSC locals have been lighting up venues, walls, dance floors, turntables, and microphones around town since the '90s and will do so again as Furious Styles are in the midst of celebrating their big milestone this weekend.

The parties and events continue through Sunday at Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts and Culture in North Phoenix (which Magana co-owns) and downtown's Monarch Theatre and will feature FSC members doing the same thing they've been doing for decades now, including much popping, locking, spinning, and basically helping to embody and expand local hip-hop culture.

The Furious Styles anniversary shindigs have become famous over the years for offering grand displays of urban artistry, fancy footwork, and pimp performances, just one of the many reasons why the crew has become of the of premier ensembles in the Valley. FSC is also the longest-running groups of its kind locally and has encountered many up and downs in that time.

Magana and Miracles told Jackalope Ranch many memories and tales about the history and adventures of Furious Styles over the past 20 years, as did other DJs, b-boys, and graf artists we spoke with. In honor of the crew's big birthday, here's a look back at some of what they've experienced along the way.

Me and Z:

Edson "House" Magana, Furious Styles Crew co-founder: I made a graffiti crew out here originally. We had a group out here called STR, which stood for "Starting the Revolution." There wasn't like a graf scene, there wasn't much of anything, so I wanted to create a crew. And people like Z-Trip would be in it. Back then he used to write a little bit.

Z-Trip, Valley native and Furious Styles member: Before Furious Styles Crew it was just me and House. We came together for our love of graffiti and that's kind of where we met. We're talking like late '80s/early '90s, somewhere around there. We started a crew [STR], and it's interesting because we started that crew and we liked the letters "STR," like we liked writing those. So then we had to figure out what the fuck it meant. So we started calling it all these things: "Start the Revolution," "Sworn to Rule"...whatever. But it was always based around graffiti.

House: I had already had a relationship with Z-Trip because when I was with STR, he was involved with writing graf as well. So we connected. He kind of separated when it started getting into a violent time, saying, "I can't do this."

Z-Trip: I got out because DJing was more profitable.

House: I helped start up a graffiti crew called Styles Upon Styles and I met up with the two guys who would be co-founders of the Furious Styles Crew, John and Mike Rincon. They were twin brothers. Somebody else had asked us to join their crew, but once we went to their rehearsal, their ideas were kind of corny. We weren't feeling it, so we decided, let's just us three start our own crew.

Band of Brothers:

House: We already had Styles Upon Styles, we decided to eventually shorten it just "Styles Crew." So it was us three and then later on my younger brother came in, Odin Rock, and then two more brothers, Mike and Adam Cruz. So that was kind of the foundation for that first couple years of the Styles Crew where it was just packs of brothers. And then, little by little, it just kind of started growing from there.

Odin "Odin Rock" Magana, Furious Styles co-founder: The crew literally started out as a family. Three pairs of brothers. 'Til this day we carry the crew as a family because of the foundation it started with. We always took care of each other outside the dance world. We did everything together from practicing, parties, cruising, painting, paint ball, basketball, you name it, and we were all doing it together. The spot where the crew met any day of the week at all times was called "Head Quarters." This was the Rincon's house, a.k.a. Ugly/Life located on 59th Ave and Thomas.

No matter what was going on, you knew someone would be there playing games or practicing or just hanging out. Not only did the official crew build there but we also had goons/knuckle heads that would kick it with us there as well. All kinds of people going in and out of that house.

House: Because there were a lot of crews that had "Styles" in their name, we wanted to stand out, so we started calling it "Furious Styles Crew" instead. We were all about style and footwook and so we just sat around and brainstormed one day and just wrote down names and names and names and came up with Furious Styles Crew.

Growing the Scene:

House: We started adding more elements as time went on. In the early '90s, at that time there wasn't much of anything with graf art. Then some L.A. writers started moving in -- TWK Crew and there was another group DMS that formed. So at time there was graf... Caper started in the early '90s, there were a group of guys in Tempe that were out of the Style Rock shop and they were painting and breaking. So there was this little scene growing.

Back then, our rival crew here was a crew called Arizona Floor Assassins, which was a very power move-heavy crew. They were like the Air Force Crew from L.A. at that time. We emulated the Rocksteady [Crew] of the '90s from the East Coast. Everybody was a rival but they were the top crew.

Battles and More Battles:

House: There was also really small events back then but there really wasn't too many contests. Now, everyone is really friendly and nice, but back then you stuck to your crew and every other crew was a rival. That was it. And you just kind of hunted things out, like somebody would call you and would be like, "Yo there's these b-boys at Dairy Queen right now hanging out." And we would go hunt them down and battle them. Whatever, whenever.

Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper, Blunt Club promoter/Furious Styles member: I was always in awe of Furious Styles Crew. They've always had some of the better dancers in Phoenix.

House: Furious Styles Crew came out of the Maryvale Area, 59th [Avenue] and Thomas was our headquarters. That was our block. That was our headquarters spot. And there was a church that had an open session night and Arizona Floor Assassins used to practice there. And we'd heard about it and would walk over there and just battle them and go home. Same thing at the clubs. There were no questions asked, there was no conversations had. If we were at a spot and somebody walked in, that was it. We were going to battle. We just threw down and moved on.

Run-Ins With the Law:

House: Graffiti-wise there was, especially in the mid-'90s when tag-banging started coming out in L.A., it was this hybrid between taggers and gang-bangers. In graffiti it's still an aggressive style and it's still that black sheep. It was very [contentious]. You get chin-checked for going over somebody's work. It was very close-connected with gang life. So that took a whole different twist to things.

B-boy-wise we ran into some stuff too. The '90s in general were very violent. At our headquarters spot, we had two, maybe not even drive-bys but walk-ups because were in a cul-de-sac. One time we were literately out there practicing and somebody walked up and shot up the crib. Luckily, no one got hit. But that happened a couple times. The Arizona Floor Assassins had people that were connected to local gangs as well. And everybody was really hungry at that time. Everybody was trying to come up, trying to make a name for themselves at that time. It got heavy sometimes.

Bringing in New Members:

Pickster One, Blunt Club DJ/Furious Styles member: They've always had these little spots where they'd do like their teachings and House would have classes. And every once in awhile I'd be asked to do some sort of b-boy jam out there in the [West Valley] in like the late '90s.

Z-Trip: Shit. We did like barbecues, we did like parties, we did youth centers. Wherever the fuck we could get over, wherever the fuck we could be loud and dance and not get fucked with.

House: I was working up north at the Thunderbird Teen Center up north on Bell [Road] in the mid-'90s. That's where I met Miracles. I've know him since he was 14. I spent a lot of time there teaching classes and out of there came our members Miracles and Citrus. So youth started coming out of there. Later on, as we started travelling, we started meeting cats that we were cool with, so like "Stuntman" Ricky Rocany from L.A., he got on board. We started expanding.

Miracles: I officially got on in 2001 but House has been my mentor since 1997. I started breaking in '95 and I basically didn't know what I was doing for two years. And then some of my friends told me about this guy that's [into] graffiti and breaks. "He's dope. He's in the Styles Crew. You should come to this teen center." There was that Public Access channel back then that anybody could film stuff for and they were filming him and like three members of the Styles Crew with some breakers and b-boys from the north side at this teen center. That's when I really fell in love with it and have been under his wing since then.

Pickster One: They're really selective about who they induct into their crew. It's b-boys and b-girls, but it's also people working in the community, doing things and making moves that are down to put in the work.

House: We've always been a smaller crew because we've always been very selective. We didn't care if you were super fresh but if you didn't just fit the mold for Furious Styles Crew, it just wasn't going to happen. We started "Baby Styles," which is now "Future Styles," kind of like the training/internship kind of thing where you came in, paid your dues, earned your respect, and came up in the ranks before you could even consider being in Furious Styles.

Miracles: Before I joined Furious Styles, I got put into "Baby Styles." It was for all the prospects, the J.V. before you got into varsity.

House: People who wanted to join would come out and hang around, because you just have to hang out with us before we even consider adding you. So once people would let us know they had an interest in it, we would start inviting you to hang out with us, we'll start watching you at events, we'll start sessioning with you and see what sort of progression you're making. And then we'd put them in "Baby Styles." It was always different for some people. Some would be in for a few months before getting into Furious Styles, some people were in it for years and never got in. Part of the reason we called it "Baby Styles" is because you have to crawl before you can walk.

Miracles: I was 13-14, so everything was just so new to me, so I was excited all the time. It's not like today where everybody knows what true hip-hop is, you know what I mean. It was like a secret thing, a secret group. It felt like really special to be there, because I wasn't really into sports or any of that stuff in school, so this is my way of getting my energy out. And it was really exclusive, even the music. All the underground stuff that no one had even heard of, like Hieroglyphics and Living Legends. It was very exciting discovery.

The Furious Seven:

House: There were maybe like seven people [in Furious Styles]. There were other crews that were really, really big, but we stayed really small. But that kept us very tight. We had a really good run with those seven members -- Miracles, Define, Citrus, Ricky Rocany, me, Odin, and Sweesh. We were rocking the whole "Furious Seven" thing at the time.

That was probably the strongest run Furious Styles ever had. We were super tight, really organized, and really hungry at the time. Everybody was stepping up their game because they had to. It was just really fun all the time. We were with each other all the time as much as possible, in and out of practice. Just a bunch of brothers and sisters.

Miracles: Those years are what really pushed all of us to get better, because at the time there was maybe four or five other members that dropped out because of a disagreement. We had a good run, but a couple [members] broke off and went their own way. Those guys were the heavy hitters and were the guys I looked up to, like, "Wow! These guys are nasty." So because they left, it made us have to get much better. We weren't as strong but we got stronger.

House: Going from the late '90s into the 2000s, that's when we were traveling pretty heavily. We were hitting a lot of the major events -- like the Pro-Am in Miami, we used to hit that one every year, or The B-Boy Summits, the Radiotrons, Freestyle Sessions, Rocksteady anniversaries. Those were all the big events.

Odin: At that time the crew was hungry and out to not only make a name locally but also nation wide. We started to travel to different events in California to Miami to New York. Those were the major cities at the time that had world famous events going down. We gained knoledge by meeting pioneers and respectable artists and brought it back to Arizona.

House: We were trying to make a lot more noise. We always tried to travel from the beginning, but it was really tough because anywhere we went out of state, people didn't think there was anything going on out here. They were like, "Arizona? You guys have b-boys there?" They'd look at us like we were aliens. They just surprised, maybe because b-boys weren't travelling across the country like they do now. Nobody from like random little places like Phoenix, Arizona, would make it out.

And that's one of the things that was motivating us as well. We wanted to put Arizona on the map. And we were so inspired by travelling and being able to see new styles and meet legends and pioneers in the game that we wanted to bring some of that back home to Arizona. So that's what motivated us in '96 to start doing the anniversaries.

Pickster One: I was going to Furious Styles events for years and years before I was a member. I have fond memories of all the events they had that Z-Trip was playing at a park over on Jefferson [Street]. I was there for a soundcheck and he was practicing. It was all vinyl, everything was vinyl. There was an anniversary party a long time ago at the [Lincoln] YMCA with 3 Melancholy Gypsys, which was Scarub, Murs, and Eligh back in the day. Man, that was really fun.

Dumper: They would bring in all these superstar dancers and b-boys from all over the world for the anniversary parties. It was great.

Z-Trip Gets Furious

House: Z-Trip and I stayed connected and would tag along with each other to events. He was still playing more b-boy jams at that time, like at the Pro-Am in Miami when Furious Styles was there. He was heavily into the b-boy scene then.

Z-Trip: We'd hang out, he'd always come out to the shows I was at with the Bombshelter [DJs]. His crew would always sort of come and support us. It was good, since we needed them and they needed us. So it was like both worlds coming together every Wednesday. And it just kind of cool because it slowly developed over the years.

House: Wherever the Bombshelter DJs were playing at the time, whether it was at Nita's or the Green Room, those were our weekly spots. That was church. That's where we went all the time. There hasn't been anything like since. Any night with Z-Trip, especially when he was with Emile and Radar, it's going to be incredible. I met them when they first started throwing [parties]. I knew Emile's cousin and she told me that they were playing some little ice cream shop in Scottsdale.

Z-Trip: It was such a brotherly relationship that after a while they were like, "We're just going to make you an honorary member," because I was DJing all the gigs with them. They just put me down with their crew. It's always been family, right from the start.

Pickster One: On his Shifting Gears record, his first major label release, Z-Trip put this song called "Furious." It's like this breakbeat/b-boy type of song. He's been a proud member of Furious Styles Crew for a long time.

Z-Trip: I just wanted to give them a tune to rock to. That was a very Arizona record, my first record coming out of here. I got all the MCs I wanted to get on it and I felt like I wanted to do an instrumental track for [Furious Styles] just to tip my hat to them. And that's really it. I was just always showing love to the dancers. It really sort of helped me get established, because hip-hop was always my love, but the first gigs I did overseas were Battle of the Year with Mr. Freeze from Rocksteady Crew and going out there and sort of meeting all the different people over there. It was all at b-boy events. I'm a b-boy DJ at heart, so I'm always trying to give back to them.

Hanging at The Blunt Club:

Dumper: They've always supported The Blunt Club and what we do, so I figured it was only right to support what they do. They were there from when I started up until now. We used to have big dance cyphers every week and House would be in there all the time. A lot of the younger cats in the crew, their careers started at The Blunt Club.

House: We stated getting involved with the Blunt Club since day one. It came in at a time when Z-Trip had just moved away and it became that new spot, that new place where you're going to go to battle people. And that's what it was. You'd go there and, yeah, you'd hang out, but then you'd battle people every single time. That's where we met Dumper and started building a relationship with him. The Rise of the B-Boys and Breaking in the Media:

House: When movies like You Got Served came out in 2004, it was a catch 22. There's nothing wrong with those movies as long as you understand that it's just entertainment and its purpose is to sell tickets. I can't hit on it because one of the things that catapulted me when I was younger was Beat Street and Breakin', which was the You Got Served of back then.

But because a lot of what they showed in You Got Served -- the flashy, quick spins -- you'd get the people that wanted to do that. They didn't want to learn about b-boying or b-girling or the culture, they wanted to learn how to do tricks or how to spin on their head.

So it helps raise awareness of dancing but its kind of annoying because you aren't gonna give anything back to the culture, you just want to learn something to impress your friends or to do at your next recital. Like I said, it's catch 22, like with the new movie that's out Battle of the Year. At the same time, some people will get inspired into jumping into the whole thing and how to do it properly and not just jump on the bandwagon.

Miracles: I think when dancing [reality] shows started getting popular, I think it helped a lot of us getting work as dancers. Some of us we're teaching at dance studios and because of the rise primarily of say, America's Best Dance Crew or So You Think You Can Dance? and things like that would bring in a lot of new students. Hip-hop has always been popular but the dance element of hip-hop has gotten bigger.

Furious Styles Biggest Moments:

Miracles: Getting to do the Battle of the Year in Germany in 2008 was a big moment, getting to represent the U.S. at an event we grew up watching. At the RedBull Beat Battle [in 2005] we again got to represent the U.S. against 16 countries. That was an amazing moment too. Every moment where the crew is all together is pretty amazing, like just recently we made it to the semis in R-16. There were like 8 to 10 of us there. Usually it's a three-on-three thing, but we actually got to battle all together.

House: We've played some weird places.

Miracles: We've done huge corporate functions where we would put on spacesuits and stuff, like at resorts and hotels in the ballroom like for Phillips or Toshiba. It was just really weird, dancing all weird in spacesuits and breakin' here and there. It was at the Biltmore. They had a spaceship on stage and everything. We we're the entertainment that has to liven everyone up.

We've even had to break in skis and snowboards when Shaun White was on a pipe right next to us in Colorado. It was inside a place and they built an ice rink too. Dancing in fricken skis [laughs]. I was cracking up. It was fun though.

Miracles: Those were as corporate as you can get, so it was very suit and tie. Usually they'd have us be the first thing in the day, like at 8 in the morning, which doesn't help either.

House: Odin moved out to L.A. [in 2007] specifically to get a lot of commercial work, like commercials for K-Mart and McDonalds. He has a small part in that Battle of the Year movie that just came out. I did a music video for the Nas' song "I Can."

Furious Styles Around the World:

House: We expanded into Spain when we first met Artis at Battle of the Year in Germany in 2008. And I just remember we were at an after-party and I saw him battling Stuntman. I was like, "Who's this clown trying to battle our boy? He kind of even dances like him! What?"

And they battle, they exchanged, but then afterwards, Artis told him that he was someone who had inspired him and he respected Furious Styles. Later, a bunch of us took a trip out to Spain and we spent a good month out there almost. Kind of planted the seed out there and now they're about 15 members deep.

Jonatan "Artis" Guiterrez, Furious Styles member: First time I saw Furious Styles was the RedBull Beat Battle video in 2005. And later I see their battles from Freestyle Sessions in Los Angeles. And then, in 2008 at Battle of the Year in Germany. When I see it live, "Oh man, this crew is legend." In 2009, I went to Los Angeles... and stayed with Ricky for one month and was connecting [with] him. And later, I was introduced to the Furious Styles Crew.

House: And then we eventually connected with the Furious Styles Crew over in Denmark, which is kind of a funny story.

Recks, Furious Styles member from Coppenhagen: We joined two years ago. It was sort of an Internet thing. We had started something [independently] over in Europe in '07 or '08 and didn't realize there was already a crew called Furious Styles. And we got the name from Boyz in the Hood from a character named Furious Styles. So we thought, "Let's do a crew called Furious Styles."

So we started seeing pictures of our graffiti on their website over here, which was kind of weird because we had the same name as them. I wrote Odin and said, "What's up with our pictures on your website? Please remove." But then we got to talking and realized these guys over here we're pretty cool and we had sort of the same vibe going. And we linked up from there. And why not? We have the same name anyways, why not merge?

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Z-Trip: It's interesting how many years later are these guys still repping it and people are coming out from all over the world. And it's great being internationally recognized and having chapters all over the world.

Odin: [Twenty] years down the line and here we are, a world wide known crew from the USA to Spain to Denmark. The city of Phoenix is our logo to represent not only where we started but also as to what the "Phoenix" bird represents. Starting from the ashes and rising to the top. No matter what we keep on moving forward and spreading peace, unity, love and having fun everywhere we go.

House: For us, coincidentally, when we started the crew in 1993, Souls of Mischief released their [album] '93 'Til Infinity, which we sort of adopted. Its something that's become part of us, going from '93 'til infinity. We've been here 20 years, we're going to be here forever. Why quit now?

The Furious Style Crew's 20th anniversary continues tonight through Sunday, November 10, at Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts and The Monarch Theatre.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.