Crazy Legs of The Rock Steady Crew is the face of B-Boying.
From seminal Hip-Hop motion pictures and documentaries like Wild Style, Beat Street and Style Wars, to mainstream movies like Flash Dance, "Legs," as he is affectionately known, was in some form or fashion involved in most early coverage of Hip-Hop. He sat down with Rock The Bells for an exclusive conversation about his ongoing relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Legs says that his mission started more than a decade ago at a beach concert in Puerto Rico featuring Smash Mouth. "11 years ago, I was in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico at the beach and there was a show on the beach by a band called Smash Mouth," he explained. "I'm sitting there thinking how I'm sick of doing Rock Steady anniversaries and I'd lost my enthusiasm for that. I felt like with my platform I could probably do something that brings my audience to Puerto Rico and helps to inject something into the economy."
He knew he'd like to do something that would support education and economic development with an immediate impact.
"We initially started with small donations that would go to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico," he remembers. "Growing up in the Bronx and having such an unstable early life—by the time that I was 18 years old I had 10 different addresses, I felt like I could support The Boys & Girls Club because that's probably one of the things that we didn't have enough of, especially in the neighborhoods that I lived in and we could have really benefited from. By contributing to that you're contributing to food programs, after school, tutoring, sports and trade programs. The way that we used to learn a trade in different high schools, you can still do that in Puerto Rico in the Boys & Girls Clubs!"
Shout out to the women on my team, they pay so much attention to detail. If not for them I couldn't be as successful as I am with my efforts on the ground in Puerto Rico"
- Crazy Legs
Legs thought that if he could help sustain those elements from The Boys & Girls Clubs that he didn't have in the Bronx it would be a great thing. Then in 2017 Hurricane Maria hit. "By the time that Maria hit, I had invested so much time in Puerto Rico. I felt like they couldn't catch a break, the island and the people couldn't catch a break. I'd put so much effort into this, and now we would have to start all over again. I had a strong team of people around me so I didn't get discouraged." Crazy Legs says that he was actually in Holland as Maria was developing and he felt helpless. "I was out there literally crying, writing a letter to (my sponsor) Red Bull asking them for whatever assistance they could provide. I didn't wanna cross any lines with them, but my people needed help."
What he didn't realize at the time is how powerful Red Bull is and the great influence they possess as an organization.
"Red Bull connected me with a few different companies, one being Waves For Water which developed a water filtration system that turns contaminated water into drinkable water," he said. "They also connected me with Mpowered, and I did a deal with them where I bought 1,500 solar lights, and they matched it with another 1,500. We set up a GoFundMe which raised $200,000 and enabled me to give 195,000 people access to clean water. We also gave grants to organizations that have large networks to farmers on the island so they can help them with brigades to get back on their feet, or grants to enable them to get seeds and other essentials that they need. This stuff is super inexpensive, but it's money that they don't have. We helped schools in Puerto Rico that deal with autism. They had lost all of their sensory and learning tools that catered around toys. We bought all those things in Puerto Rico, so that it would have the layered effect of putting money back into the economy and helping to get the school running again."
Beginning in December of 2019 and progressing into 2022 the southwestern region of Puerto Rico was hit with a series of earthquakes with 11 of them registering a magnitude of 5 or greater. "Fast forward to the earthquakes", Crazy Legs says. "Again. tents, sleeping bags, solar lights, essentials like adult diapers and diapers for kids were needed. We were able to get meds on the island and supply medical doctors who had quit FEMA, because FEMA wasn't sending them where they were really needed. We were able to get meds in the hands of doctors who could properly prescribe. We had asthma inhalers and things that people were really in need of. There was just too much red tape to go through, and the fact that I was able to work independently, it allowed me to streamline money to people who are actively doing things in real time."
All these things are sustainable, so instead of here is a bottle of water—here is a water filtration system..."
- Crazy Legs
On September 18, Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico leaving residents without power, water and safe shelter.
"Our focus this time is tents, nets, air mattresses, self-inflating camping air mattresses, food, donations and solar lights," he explained. "The water situation isn't as bad, but because of donations in the past there's already supply in Puerto Rico of water filtration systems that have already been distributed throughout the island where necessary."
Legs stresses the need for Puerto Rico to be self-sufficient and less reliant on government.
"Our ultimate goal is to be able to buy up land in Puerto Rico and build structures that can house these things that are operated by us and not the government, so they are available for immediate distribution on the island if something else happens. We have to take things into our own hands sometimes."