By Jennifer Sadler
As the most comprehensive online events guide and resource for arts and culture in central Ohio, ColumbusArts.com offers a virtual guide through the Columbus art world with a searchable database of events, concerts, performances and more. ColumbusArts.com is an engaging place for artists and arts organizations to share what they do, with an average of 30,000 users per month. The ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory allows visual, performing and literary artists to create a profile and portfolio to showcase their work—for free—and enables art enthusiasts to easily search for and connect with them. Our monthly ColumbusArts.com artist profile series features interviews with a few of the many talented individuals who make up central Ohio’s thriving creative community.
This month's profile features BHB (a stage name that stands for Brothers Helpin’ Bruthas), a huge local talent who has been immersed in hip-hop dance and music since he was just a kid. He practices a hip-hop style of deejaying and dance called breaking or “b-boying.” In 1995, BHB hosted the first Hip-Hop Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, bringing most of the city's deejays, emcees, b-boys, b-girls and graffiti artists under one roof. The Hip Hop Expo has become an event that many Midwest hip-hop enthusiasts use as a place to network and voice their reverence for the culture. BHB is a powerful mentor for young people in the community, providing workshops and using his positive hip-hop movement to deter youth and young adults away from negative actions. BHB teaches dance and hosts open mics with TRANSIT ARTS at Central Community House, one of Columbus’ many settlement houses. GCAC recently spoke with BHB to learn more about him and his current projects.
GCAC: Are you from Columbus?
BHB: I grew up on the north side close to Easton, but then I moved out to the east side. I’ve been here for the last 20 years.
GCAC: Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience with hip-hop dance.
BHB: I got started when I was 8 years old. My babysitter was a DJ. I’d watch him. He had his turn tables and vinyl in his basement. I learned then that deejaying and b-boying went hand in hand.
My friends and I, we’d go to the Winchester Station apartments, put cardboard down and perform in empty parking spaces. We had our turntables on the ground. People came from all different neighborhoods to watch us. We have competitions—dance against kids from other neighborhoods. I also danced in talent shows in middle school and at Mifflin High School.
I also got paid to DJ in the public school system at school dances. I remember my first DJ gig at 10 years-old. I played at this girl’s birthday party. I deejayed for hours. Her dad paid me $10 and I felt like a millionaire! I also started teaching dance at birthday parties and places like that when I was around 12. I knew even then that I wanted to keep doing it.
GCAC: When did you start really teaching? What does learning to dance and perform offer to the kids and young adults you work with?
BHB: I hooked up with S.P.I.R.I.T. [a legendary hip-hop group that formed back in ‘92] and did some dancing with them. I ended up meeting Jackie Calderone [artistic director for TRANSIT ARTS] in the late ‘90s at one of the shows. I started teaching for the youth programs that Jackie ran at the Short Stop Teen Center. In 2001, I started my own private program—I taught hip-hop dance and deejaying all in one.
I currently teach at TRANSIT ARTS at Central Community House—beginner through advanced classes. We have lots of special incentives for the kids to keep them engaged, the guys and the young ladies. We do video shoots, we have prizes like shoes and gift cards. The kids and I in these dance programs, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to perform on most of the major stages in Columbus like the Ohio Theatre, the Arena and at Vets Memorial.
The Hip-Hop Expo is going on almost 20 years. I always have the kids dance at the expo. We have dance and DJ competitions. It’s a one-day event with about 30 vendors, two live performance areas, live bands, dance battles and dance presentations. We have rappers, emcees and b-boy battles. There are trophies and cash prizes. It happens every March at the Columbus Convention Center and attracts about 1,200 people—from all over Ohio. Sometimes we get people from the East Coast, New York and Pennsylvania. One time I brought in a guy from California to perform.
GCAC: Why do you think Columbus has such a thriving dance community? What are the elements that make that happen?
BHB: Columbus – it’s growing, it’s changing. Older people who were in positions of power are moving on and there’s a more open artistic community who now have a better understanding of hip-hop culture. We grew up with it. We understand that hip-hop developed to help deter gang activity instead of battling each other with violence, we work it out through dance and music. Older folks don’t understand. They still relate it to the gang culture. I guess it’s that fear of the unknown.
So I also teach the history of hip-hop at different schools to try to educate people about the positivity of it. I teach at nine different locations now.
GCAC: What projects do you have coming up and how can we find out more?
BHB: I’ve been working with some young people at St. Stephens Community House and we have a performance coming up there on November 8. There will be live performances. It’s open to the public and everyone’s welcome to sign up at the beginning to share their talents - to sing and dance.