We Are Legion

And the celebration of being a Black Geek for Black History Month continues as I discuss one of my all-time favorite series and one of my favorite genres of music.

Random Fact # 28: The first concert I ever attended was Run DMC & Aerosmith.

Hip hop culture is a long lost love of mine.

This usually shocks people when they learn that I used to be huge fan of vintage hip hop. It’s understandable given my cerebral and uptight demeanor ie: the huge stick up my diamond crushing ass.

As a kid, hip hop culture was starting to gain traction and even then I knew it was something special. It was from the streets, it was humble, it was pure. It was by the people for the people. It was inclusive. Hip hop/rap was for everyone: male, female, black, Asian, Latino, and white.

Growing up I enjoyed Run DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Will Smith aka the Fresh Prince and his boy Jazzy Jeff, Queen Latifah, Salt & Pepa, Heavy D, Hammer and a host of others.

If you don’t know about Krush Groove, you can’t talk to me. If you don’t know about Beat Street, beat it, because you can’t tell me anything.

Hip hop was socially relevant and it continuously found creative means to discuss the challenges that the poor, disenfrannchized, POCs and other minorities had to contend with. We were underground, we were pure and we were fun.

We also danced. I danced. Yes I danced. And if you catch me at a con or a party, I can showcase a few breakdance moves old and new.

Dance was crucial to the culture. It was how men and women showcased their prowess and superiority. It was also how we sometimes settled grievances if you had beef with someone.

Yes, if you had beef, you took it to the parking lot and you battled. Break out the boombox, play the latest jam and you showcased the freshest moves. You better be up to snuff on all of Michael’s moves at a bare minimum.

And don’t get it twisted. When I say hip hop, I’m not just referring to simply rap music. You see hip hop as a culture transcends, race, culture and musical genre, it’s universal. Whether it’s Run DMC and Aerosmith performing Walk This Way, Deborah Harry and Blondie teaming up with Fab Five Freddy, it’s musicals. Yes musicals, case in point: Jay-Z. You know you’re a badass when you can win a grammy off of an Annie track and no one dares question your gangsta. It’s martial arts. It’s Romeo Must Die, it’s Justified and Ancient. Hip hop is classical music, it’s jazz, it’s R&B, it’s rock music, it’s country. Juxtapose a Johnny Cash album with Common’s. You have two different men of two different eras from two different cultures and walks of life and the issues they discuss and the oppressions they call out are almost identical. Hip hop pulls from everything because it’s by the people for the people.

Sadly, hip hop lost its way. As it became more commercial and more profitable, and blood suckers found a means of exploiting it, we saw hip hop lose its voice and give way to a bastardized version that glorified blacks murdering each other, drug-dealing, abusing women. Seeing the irrevocable harm it was doing to my race, my culture and my day to day, I began to distance myself from this love of mine.

And you can’t even call it gangsta rap because that’s neither fair or true. Real gangsta rap even in its rawest form has something profound to say and when it discusses thug life or life on the streets. It tells it all. The good, the bad, the glamorous, the ugly, and the harsh realities.Violent imagery and harsh language may be used but true gangsta rap has a message worth telling.

When it comes to hip hop, a buddy of mine said it best.

Here’s the thing: most of the stuff you see on BET, MTV or the radio is not rap. A lot of the “gangsta rap” is commercialized and pushed by white executives to make a buck.

To hear real hip hop and old school rap, you have to go underground. You have to track down all those unsigned rappers who quote scholars and philosophers and discuss social issues in their rhymes. Unlike many mainstream rappers, they’re often college-educated, have little to no criminal background, and are regularly engaged in community service.

You will almost NEVER see them in popular media because they are a more accurate depiction of black people in America. Moreover, they represent us positively, and white America doesn’t want to show people that. They don’t want non-black (or even black) people to [see black people] that way. They want everyone to see us as “ghetto”, illiterate, promiscuous, and self-destructive so that they don’t have to take responsibility for – or even mention – the glaring inequality in our society.

It appears my friend and I aren’t alone. In recent years, I’ve noticed a lot more discussions and a movement to reclaim hip hop and to return it to its purest form. Whether it’s Def Poetry and open mic, conscious rap and other media. Even a web series that has become a cultural and global phenomenon

Which brings us to the LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.

From visionary writer/director Jon M. Chu (STEP UP 3D), The LXD chronicles the journey of seemingly ordinary people who discover they have extraordinary powers and must choose their place in an epic war between good and evil.

There’s high school outcast Trevor Drift (Bboy Luigi) uncovering his family’s dangerous secret, fallen soldier Sp3cimen (Madd Chadd) running from his dark past, and unassuming hero Elliot Hoo (Glee’s Harry Shum Jr.) haunted by newly discovered supernatural gifts. All of whom are called to fulfill their destiny and join The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Each of their stories showcases the unbelievable flips, spins and twists that have already made The LXD a pop cultural phenomenon and one of the most highly anticipated films ever released.

The LXD is hip hop in its purest form. It’s an online adventure. It’s a live action comic book series that bends genre like whoa. It’s dance: be it ballet, jazz, tap, B-boy, it’s acrobatics, it’s extaordinary. You can see influences of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gregory Hines in some of the performances. However most of the dancers have stated that their biggest influence and inspiration was Michael Jackson.

Not only was I floored by the series but the story behind the series itself. A web series about a group of gifted characters who discover they have amazing abilities through energy known as the Ra. Think a high quality, epic, operatic Heroes, only with an excellent plot, without the fail. The Justice League of dance might be a better description.

The plot evolves with each episode and Chu and company get more artistic and creative with the cinematography themes, composition, etc.

As I mentioned earlier, it went from internet sensation to global phenomenon, primarily through word of mouth. People believed in the project, people want to see our stories and talents shared, they have also proven that diversity = success. All of the choreography and stunts are real; no special effects, no wire work, no green screens. I’m also proud to support this series because 50 percent of the sales of the official LXD t-shirt supports the work of the Invisible Children, a cause that’s personally dear to me.

The LXD is also proof of two things: Web series are the way of the future and that diversity when done right garners success.

The LXD, has a multi-ethnic cast and has consistently dominated as the most watched series on Hulu. Paramount executives have pointed to creator Jon Chu’s use of Web 2.0 and social networking (not to mention a quality product) as setting the standard and being a game changer in reaching a mass audience, execs can only dream about.

Funny how while Hollywood is hemorraging money and trying to figure out ways gain audiences, web series like the LXD, KTown Cowboys and Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl have fans breaking their necks to donate to their crowdfunding and kickstarter efforts. Funny how these have all been POC media as well.

I could go on and on about how incredible this series is, but I know all too well that seeing is believing. With that in mind:

Seasons 1&2 are available on DVD as well as iTunes.


LXD: The online adventure begins right now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to reconnect with a long lost love.


Speculative Fiction Novelist. Author of Hollowstone, West of Sunset and other cool stories. Wordsmith, activist and nerd seraph. Saving the world and/or taking it over. http://www.dennisupkins.wordpress.com

7 thoughts on “We Are Legion

  1. you’ve said everything important about LXD…

    i had a weird relationship with hip-hop, back in the day.
    being the apple, listening to hip-hop was just further proof that i wasn’t “real” Cherokee. but i sure as hell wasn’t *white*, and i felt like i had more in common with the kids break dancing over there, than the kids shooting hoops and listening to, say, debbie gibson [i can’t even remember anyone else/any other pop bands. that’s how much i didn’t care] and on the OTHER hand, my mom was kind of crazy – i could listen to jazz or classical, or old country. that was *IT*. the first time i watched MTV i was 12. it was the also the LAST time until i was 16 and finally went to live with my dad..

    moving away from me and my weirdness – i don’t like modern hip-hop, for the reasons you’ve outlined. though i’d say that it’s, in a way, not “They don’t want non-black (or even black) people to [see black people] that way” – i think VERY SPECIFICALLY it’s aimed at black and other minorities FIRST, that they [the rich white assholes] are targeting POC to try and perpetrate the idea that this is ALL we are, or can be. because why work hard to tear us down, if they can convince us to do it to ourselves?

  2. I totally get what you mean about music selling out – I remember many of those groups, but I travelled through music via the rock side. So I saw the tie-ups of Aerosmith + Run DMC and Anthrax + Public Enemy from the other side of the looking glass. 🙂

    They caught people’s attention, the idea of musical fusion give people from utterly different backgrounds a way to easily communicate and share something in common.

    I’m not sure what happened after – these days rock music channels such as Kerrang and Scuzz are dominate by teeny corporate throwaways. I run rock nights and find the modern audience wants the same classics I grew up with. The nightclub we teamed up with explicitly mentioned the same cross-genre tracks to bring people together.

    Unfortunately, the financial crisis is still rumbling on and it’s closing venues, and too many people stay at home to chill on their iPods or Xbox instead of getting together, live, with other people.

    Cheers for the heads up on LXD – will chase this up as it looks awesome. The irony is, the musical fusion may have faded fast, but dance has never enjoyed so much popularity! Certainly here in the UK. 🙂

  3. It’s interesting because rock is my favorite genre but I wouldn’t have discovered it if not for said crossovers.

    Let me know what you think of LXD.

  4. I loved LXD. I couldn’t wait for each new episode. Unfortunately, I hear they aren’t going to be making any new episodes which is extremely disappointing.

  5. I heartily co-sign on everything you said in regards to hip-hop. As an o’head who remembers the boombox breakdancing battles of old, I cringe whenever I hear the garbage of today being called “hip-hop.” Hippety skippety maybe, but it’s not hip-hop.

    Gotta check out the LXD now; sounds BOSS!

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