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Hardcore Detroit, a world class hip hop dance crew in the 313

Hardcore Detroit dancer. \COURTESY PHOTO

Hardcore Detroit dancer.

By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Standing behind the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corporation building in Detroit on a Monday night, members of the Hardcore Detroit hip hop dance crew prepare themselves for their weekly practice. The group members have all made a lifetime commitment to the art of dance and the Hardcore Detroit brand has become one of the most respected dance groups in the nation.

“Everything is out there for you to grab it,” says B-boy Lichy, a member of Hardcore Detroit for the past five years. “Go and grab it, have fun with it, enjoy. This is life, we all love to dance. Rhythm is life.”

Hardcore Detroit was established in 2001 by Haleem “Stringz” Ar-Rasheed as a business to help organize the city’s hip hop dance community. The dancers are known as “b-boys” and “b-girls,” a term that goes back to the pioneering era of hip hop from New York City in the early 1970s.

Some may be familiar with the art known as “break-dancing” or “breaking,” but that is only one aspect of the dance element of hip hop. For practitioners of b-boying, clarifying the different styles can be highly complex. Stringz, for example, is well versed in many different styles, including Breaking (b-boying), Jit (Detroit footwork), House Dance, Popping and Locking.

“We provide a service through the community,” says Stringz, “where we take what we know, urban dance, and service it to the community.”

Of the five elements of hip — which include the emcee, the DJ, the graffiti artist, the b-boy and those with the knowledge of the culture — b-boys are the most physical with their craft. Their performances require amazing strength and endurance. The best performers pull off tricks in perfect rhythm with the music that would make any gymnast proud, including moves like head spins, windmills, flares and elbow hops.

“Commitment, dedication — it’s a stress reliever,” says Stringz. “Physical health and strengthening. It covers a lot of areas.”

Hardcore Detroit has performed at hundreds of events throughout the metro area, over the years, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Pistons halftime shows, private parties and weddings. Crew members also perform and compete around the world. Stringz recently went to China as a special invited performer.

More important than the shows, however, are the workshops they conduct for children. The workshops offer dance demonstrations and speak about the importance of living healthy and helping in the communities.

“I really try to represent well,” says Stringz, “and I think people see that and it might give them a method they could use to put into something that they might want to do.”

“It’s really about reaching deep down in one’s self and recognize who you are,” he adds.

B-boy Lichy has also become a recognized face with Hardcore Detroit, a consistently athletic performer with impressive strength and rhythm. For him, the collective means more than just a group that comes together to dance and create art together.

“Hardcore Detroit, when you’re a part of the group, it’s like a family,” says B-boy Lichy. “We all help each other, we work together, we also help people from out of our family. We bring you into our family.

“For example, we get kids who want to learn how to dance, you’re more than welcome, come in, dance, practice with us. Stay off the streets.”

He credits Stringz with the leadership and mentorship for making Hardcore Detroit a strong positive community and giving people the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

“To me, he’s an all-around dancer, he can dance, b-boy, he’s one of the best out here. I look up to my man, he brought me into the family,” says B-boy Lichy.

Mary Mar, known as B-girl Ma-Ma, has also performed with Hardcore Detroit for years. The group is well mixed with both men and women performers.

“Hardcore Detroit, for me, is an example of being your true self to the best of your ability, no matter what it is,” says B-girl Ma-Ma. “No matter what happens, keep on going, don’t give up.”

For her, Hardcore Detroit is an opportunity to help share the knowledge of hip hop as a culture, one that was developed to help heal urban communities, a definition that is often lost in mainstream culture.

“It’s about sharing what you have,” she says. “Not about being selfish of what you have, it’s about helping one another and uplifting.”

When the b-boy community comes together, whether as just as the Hardcore Detroit group itself or along with the other groups in the city, the opportunity is always there to learn from each other.

“True hip hop heads will say, ‘I’m always a student, never a master,’” say B-girl Ma-Ma. “I’ve been breaking for 12 years now and I still have a lot to learn. It’s always continuous improving and continuous knowledge, continuous sharing.”

Hardcore Detroit meets every Monday night for open practice at 3535 Cass Ave., Detroit at 7:30 pm. For merchandise and information about upcoming Hardcore Detroit performances, visit

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