Let's get Krumping

High-energy, emotional dance makes impact on teens

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

SUISUN CITY - This is deeper than a trend; it's a belief.

Antoine Payne, a Sem Yeto Continuation High School senior, doesn't need to fight or join a gang as a way to release his teenage angst; he merely dances it off.

His feet, reacting like he just stepped on a bed of hot coals, jerk violently on the smooth blacktop of a parking lot behind a local church. The sound of hip-hop artist Bow Wow blares from a black Mercedes Benz and Payne, starving for release, dances with unconditional force. Movements of anguish and painful expressions radiate from Payne almost effortlessly and, for a while, he is mesmerized and lost in a trance.

He and five other teenage friends gather on this Sunday afternoon to "Krump," a dance movement used as an alternative to street violence and intended to release pent-up emotions. The movement is a spin-off of "Clowning," a dance that originated in an impoverished area of Los Angeles during the early '90s by Thomas Johnson, also known as Tommy the Clown. It has been a part of the South Central culture since its inception and serves as a positive outlet to avoid gang involvement.

For Payne and his posse, a racially mixed group, the dance style is also a spiritual praise, as intended by its acronym Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise. It is their way of receiving affirmation from God as they rid themselves of the demons buried within their thoughts.
"I just prayed a lot and asked for some sort of release," says Payne, a Suisun City resident. "Then God introduced Krumping to me when I needed it the most and things got better from there."

His mother, Antoinette Payne, looks on from the side of the parking lot with her hands clapping wildly in the air. She beams at her son.

"It's emotional that my baby, my first-born, found a connection that is strong and deep," says the woman in her early '30s who mentions they are God-fearing Christians. "He went through depression and could not express himself as God birth him to be. This is an answer to my prayers."

Payne-ful memories

Payne, whose nickname is Gigz, is a 17-year-old boy with eyes bearing an older soul. His facial hair outlines his dark, diamond-shaped face while giving him the appearance of a man who's already had his share of misery in life. But Payne is too young to carry that burden.

Three years ago, then a freshman at Rodriguez High School, Payne remembers he went through a period of depression, as he puts it, and suffered from self-esteem issues.

He talks about the time his father walked out, leaving behind a house filled with little kids, and the day he found out that the man he called "Dad" was not his biological father.

"I had a dream that my mom had a baby and she was running away to hide it," Payne explains. "In the dream, I asked my mom if he was my real father and she said no. I went crazy.

"The next day I asked my mom and she told me he wasn't my real dad," he says in a dry tone. "It hurt a lot, but I felt like I already knew."

Peer pressure and insecurities during high school also subsumed the teenage freshman, entering his world like a furious storm.

"I guess the school wants to be one of the top schools in the area, so you have to wear an I.D. badge, there's security everywhere and it's just like a jail out there," he comments of Rodriguez, then adds it could have been any school.

"I felt pressured to wear certain types of clothes, like any clothes that I wouldn't get made fun of," he continues. "I wouldn't wear the cheap stuff."

He explains that the pressures teens face today include smoking and drinking, doing whatever it takes to "fit in" with the crowd.

His grades eventually dropped, he couldn't be on the football team and the world felt like a lonely and empty place. Days came and went for Payne, who kept to himself and sheltered his life inside the walls of a bedroom.

That's when his mother, a tall woman with little tolerance for weakness, knew it was time to voice her opinion.

"I went in with an aggressiveness and snatched him out of the fire. I let him know he could rise above this," she says, still with a hint of anger in her voice. "I told him that he had a choice to let the devil kick his butt or fight to allow the spirit to rise above. With tears in his eyes, he decided to fight."

Yet Payne considers himself lucky to still be alive having been a victim of suicidal thoughts. Had he chosen to follow through on his deliberations, he says, he would have gone straight to hell.

"I felt like it would be better if I was done with life. It would be over," he admits. "If I hadn't been praying, though, then I probably would have just committed suicide. I would have followed through with it."


It was like night and day, his mother says.

Antoinette prayed for her son, prayed that God would put her son in His glory and provide a key to unlock his captivated state.

"Since he couldn't do football, he found a dance passion. I took him to the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles and he jumped right into Krumping," she says of the quick change in her son's behavior. "It was by the grace of God that delivered him to Krumping."

He danced with first-generation Krumpers, or founders, Larry, Tight Eyez and Lil C, dancers from the 2005 movie "Rize."

"They were practicing for a screen tour and it was crazy," Payne says. "I battled (danced) with the Clowns and it was not good because I lost. I was so mad I knew I was gonna get this dance down."

"Rize" is a documentary from South Central that shows the grassroots history of Krumping, a dance which began in response to the 1992 Rodney King riots. The dance is characterized by aggressive yet visually enticing dance moves that reflect indigenous African tribal rituals.

"Seeing the movie was a real inspiration for me, especially when I heard the founders were Christians," Payne says. "I took more classes, learned the dance and brought it back to this area."

People might look at the dance movements and turn away. Payne knows that and accepts it. After all, that's what the public first said about break-dancing, he believes.

"It's starting to get bigger and more people are becoming familiar with it," he says of Krumping, which involves arm swings, chest pops and raw emotions. "It gives us something to do in a nonviolent way because in Fairfield, there's nothing for teenagers to do."

Sunday ritual

Cars glide by an obscure storefront on an early Sunday morning before 9 a.m. church services at the Revival Center Ministries in Vallejo. A group of teenagers walk around the area, waiting patiently to enter the nameless store down the block from the ministry where they will sing the praises of God.

Meanwhile, Payne and his two good friends, Taylor (FLII) Ramsey, 16, and Brad (B-Havoc) Jines, 17, dance on the narrow sidewalk. They laugh and critique each other's motions with jest.

To the outsider, their moves seem possessed and audacious, somewhat out of control. To them, however, it is enough to release any hostile aggressions.

"When I Krump, I don't do it for the people in the audience, I do it for God," explains Ramsey of the dance. "It may look demonic, but if you think about it, I'm releasing the anger the devil's trying to attack me with."

On this day, Ramsey is Krumping for his brother because, as Ramsey explains, the devil is trying to take over his soul.

"He was going to church every Sunday and now he's not, so I'm gonna Krump to fight the demons and get them out of him," the Fairfield resident says, who has known Payne for three years and considers him a brother. "I gotta Krump and pray to get them out."

Payne and his friends have their own dance group called So Buck, which appeared with Vallejo's Dance Unlimited group "Impact" led by Greg Chapkis in San Francisco's "Flava" hip-hop dance show at the Palace of Fine Arts last week. They also created Dance INC., or Dancing in the Name of Christ, at their Vallejo church.

As they walk inside the narrow room, where teenagers hug one another and say kind words, music abounds and the four teenagers sing the words "God is good."

And Payne, Ramsey and Jines, now at the back of the room, stand and sing as the door slowly closes.