Many people only know of R16 for the battles which take place. But many people don’t know the entire live experience of being at R16 and all the different aspects and elements of the entire weekend. Here is an insider’s report of what went down at the 2014 R16 World Finals.
After many months of planning, travelling, and many challenges, another successful year of the R16 Global Series has finally ended with the R16 World Championships which went down in Seoul Korea on July 4th, 5th and 6th.
Every year, the R16 Global Series is growing bigger with more countries B-Boys, poppers and lockers having the opportunity to participate at the world finals amongst this generation’s top, hungriest and active battlers. 2010 was the first time R16 implemented championship qualifiers around the world, starting out with a total of ten eliminations. In 2011, it grew to sixteen eliminations, then 2012 had twenty two and 2013 had twenty six. This year, there were a total of twenty nine R16 championship eliminations in twenty three countries around the world. Now only the best of the best are able to make it to Korea and have an opportunity to battle on the world stage. Besides a few special invites in the Solo B-boy, Popping and Locking categories, all participants are the R16 Champions of an entire region, continent, or great nation.
Not only has R16 grown in size and reach, but the core final event, has grown into an action packed three day weekend with many participants visiting from all over the world.
The weekend kicked off on Friday July 4th with the R16 Press Conference which is held in the R16 World Championships venue called Olympic Hall. This is where all the competitors get their first glimpse of how serious this event is. After the government officials deliver their ceremonial speech, each of the artists and athletes are called up onto the stage so that the various press can take pictures, videos and snapshots. Towards, all the crews are called up onto the stage, one by one and must perform a one minute throw down for the press. After all 8 crews have finished, the press vote by ballot for which crew they liked the best. The winners win the R16 Presses Choice Award and 1000 dollars for just one minutes work. Predatorz takes the win and is the second year in a row that Russia wins the Press award.
Immediately after the Press conference, held at Club Syndrome is the R16 Open Elimination for the solo B-Boy, Popping and locking categories. Perhaps it should be renamed to the R16 International Open because the majority of participants are from all over the world, with nearly two hundred entries. Battlers not only have a chance to experience competing with the Korean level of Popping, locking and Breakin, but they also have a chance at earning the few remaining spots on the world stage.
It is amazing to see how high the level of the open elimination has risen. In previous years, the Korean nationals have dominated. This year, is the first year that no Korean has won a spot on the world stage. The top 8 had some very intense battles, with some new faces that are surely to blow up in the near future. Look out for B-Boy Heady from Korea and B-Boy Quick from China. The two final spots were taken by Boris from Double Kill Taiwan who has made his first debut on an international stage, and Ayumi from Body Carnival Japan, the first B-girl to win the R16 open elimination history.
Day 2 starts off at 1pm with an outdoor block party style festival called the Puma cypher, just outside the main doors of the R16 World Championships venue. While people are lining up to get their tickets to the R16 World Finals, they have the ability to see real B-Boy cyphers up close and in person, experiencing the true original essence of Hip Hop. Featuring a DJ booth, and hosted by Jotee of Rivers crew, the cypher has a nice vibe while B-Boys from all over the world jump in and the crowd cheers for as the dancers of all skill levels participate in the circle.
Puma has four B-Boys, (three black and one latino) dressed up like 70’s and 80’s old school B-Boys. Many people flock to take pictures with them in front of the Puma suede exhibit. Graffiti panels and a long row of vendors which consist of B-Boy companies like Soul Food, Bboyworld and Underworld add so much more to the experience.
The main doors open at 5pm as people slowly make their way into their seats, although over 1000 people choose standing seats to be as close to the action as possible. Before the main event starts, recap videos of all the past R16 eliminations are playing on the jumbo LED screen. Then suddenly, the lights turn off as the audience roars in excitement. Day one is the finals for Popping, Locking and the Solo B-Boy battles.
The Popping battles and Locking battles both have the final 8 contestants in each category. The Popping final battle goes into a tie breaker with Kid Boogie from USA, winning over Sally Sly from France.
The locking final battle is not only an all Japan final, but it is also between husband and wife, Masato (winner of R16 Japan Locking) VS his wife, CIO who qualified in the open elimination. CIO wins over her husband Masato and becomes the R16 Locking World Champion.
The R16 Solo B-Boy Battles has a total of 16 B-Boys and B-Girls, majority of them being R16 Elimination Champions from around the world. This year, there was a new system used for the world finals Solo B-Boy battles, which is a hybrid of the “Undisputed” system, aka the “Best Of” system, with some elements similar to the OUR System. The difference is that the “Best Of” system is judged “Round for Round” (first one to win a specified amount of rounds wins) while the OUR System is judged on who overall won the majority of the universal B-Boy elements.
This year, the Best of System had five judges, each of them looking at a separate category, but giving a vote round for round who won according to their category. Four of the categories are relatively similar to the OUR System, Fundamentals, Creativity, Difficulty and Execution. The only difference is the Cypher/ Battle Element was taken out and replaced with a Musicality category.
In all battles except for the Finals, the first person to win the majority of 3 is the winner. Consequently, if someone wins the first two rounds, then the battle is finished. The audience was able to look up to the scoreboard and see not only who each of the judges was voting for, but also who was winning round by round.
Although the Best Of system didn’t have the after battle final climactic suspense of whom the judges would ultimately vote for, it was able to build a deeper connection from the audience to the fan favorites during the actual battle itself, creating suspense and excitement especially in battles which were close. For example, Roxy lost her first round against Lil Zoo, but when she won her second round, the crowd went crazy. When she tied her third round, the crowd went even wilder. In the end she lost in the deciding 4th round, however she won the hearts and respect from the audience.
In retrospect, the Best Of system was really great for the audience, adding excitement and enjoyment to the battles with a sense of professionalism in the direction of B-Boying. On the other hand, some B-Boys have some getting used to this method of judging, and battling.
One blooper this year was for the first three solo B-Boy battles, there was a technical error with the system. The names where switched on the scoreboard, so Tata was announced the winner over Issei, and Eddy Twister was announced the winner over Boris from Double Kill Taiwan. It wasn’t until Spin was announced the winner over Wing, did the staff realized that the names were switched. Therefore Issei, Boris and Wing were announced the rightful winners and advanced to the next round.
In the end, Issei won over Lil Zoo in the final battle, becoming the first ever 3 x R16 Solo B-Boy World Champion and now wins a spot in the “Undisputed” finals.
Day 3 begins once again with the Urban Arts Festival and Puma cypher outside the main venue at 1pm. This time, it’s even more packed than the day before. At 5pm, the main doors open and everyone makes their way to their seats for the much anticipated crew battles and performances. This year, the levels of the performances were on a higher level. It seemed as if each show was getting better and better and the crowd was very into it. Each crew had different qualities which made their show stand out in its own way. The performance battle is not only meant to find the best performance, but it is also meant to create the seeding brackets for the battles. The top scoring crew battles the lowest scoring crew, while the second highest scoring crew battles the second lowest scoring crew, and so on.
Each of the five judges are assigned to a specific criteria and giving a score from 1-10, according to their category. This is done to ensure all important elements are accounted for, rather than being based on pure entertainment factors. The five categories are Foundation, Creativity, Difficulty, Execution, and Performance.
This year, the showcase performances were on a high level and the scores were extremely close. According to the judge scores, SKB (Australia) and Double Kill (Taiwan) were tied for 5th place with 34 points and was only 1 point behind Body Carnival (Japan) who scored 35 points, who was last year’s performance e winners. Half a point above them was Gamblerz (Korea) scored 35.5 points.
However, way ahead of them was Super Crew (USA) who scored 40 points. They were leading until the last performance by Predatorz (Russia) which they scored 42 points and won them the R16 Crew Performance contest. To see more details on the showcase performances, go to http://r16korea.com/site/?p=3340&lang=en to see more. After the performances, the final rank seeded the brackets and the crew battle began.
This year, for the crew battles, the OUR System had a new scoreboard implemented. It was designed to use less numbers and give the audience an overall feel of who is winning and losing throughout the entire battle. The five element icons of Foundation, Originality, Dynamics, and Cypher Battle were each on a scale that would slide to the left or right, according to how many points they scored, similar to a tug of war over the 5 elements. To see how the new scoreboard works, please watch the following battle for as example
Now it’s time to make a detailed recap on some of the battles at R16 World Finals. There are three battles which need to be highlighted:
- China VS USA
- Taiwan vs Japan
- Korea VS Russia
#1 Jokester Crew from China VS legendary Super Cr3w from USA was one of the first round battles. Although Super Crew didn’t have two of their most known B-Boys (Ben and Ronnie), against Jokester throughout the entire battle, they were winning. Super Crew was winning 4 to 1 elements, then in the middle, Jokester started catching up, 3 to 2 elements for Super Crew. Then alas, the final round, Jokester throws out their strongest commando routine, finishing it off with rising China superstar B-Boy Quick who ends with a strong stylish power combo. How does Super Crew respond? With a solo from one of their members, definitely not strong enough as a response, thus consequently, losing the battle, 3 to 1 elements. This was the first time China has ever beaten USA and was a huge win for the great nation of China.
A big lesson from this is that in the OUR System, every detail and every round counts. You continually have to top whatever your opponent throws out at you, there is no such thing as throwing away a round.
#2 Taiwan VS Japan
Another close call was Double Kill from Taiwan against last year’s finalist Body Carnival from Japan. Taiwan was winning in the beginning; however Japan was able to pull through towards the middle and in the end won 3 to 1 with the Battle category tied.
On a side note, Double Kill from Taiwan has been working hard for the past 3 years to get to the world finals, winning two R16 Taiwan Championships and finally winning R16 South East Asia Championships earlier this year. It’s great to see their hard work pay off for them.
#3 Korea VS Russia
The final battle was between Gamblerz of Korea and Predatorz of Russia. If you read the many comments on youtube, the decision is pretty split over who should have won. Here is a breakdown of exactly what went down.
After the first round, Predatorz was winning 2 to 1 elements, winning originality and Battle while Gamblerz was winning Foundation.
But immediately after, Gamblerz turned it over and was winning 3 to 1 elements. The score was pretty close from 3 to 2, than 2 to 1 all the way until the end, where Gamblerz wins over Predatorz, 4 to 1 elements.
Overall, it’s great to see Gamblerz back on the main stage, although many people agree that it would be quite difficult to top the epic performance of Morning of Owl from last year as well as Jinjo from the previous years.
In every event, there are always controversial decisions. However, the OUR System is very transparent and allows for the judges scores to be carefully examined. Before we look into some of the most controversial scores from R16, please keep in mind that when seeing these scores, you need to also consider the view from the judges seat, the energy in the atmosphere, as well as repeats from previous rounds. Also, watching battles on youtube is a lot different than watching in live in person. With that said, here are some of the most controversial scores that has got the community asking questions.
#1 Dynamic score being too high
Some people have been noticing that Lil G has been scoring some B-Boys a little bit too high or low in Dynamics. For example, Rocket scored a perfect in Dynamics, scoring higher than Predatorz who did power moves. Was Lil G taking into consider other dynamic qualities such as balance, energy and complexity… or was he judging based on what is easy or difficult for him personally?
#2 Rocket in Foundation
Although Gamblerz is known for their high level of Dynamics, Rocket is known for his awesome musicality. In R16 Korea eliminations, Rocket scored a 5 (Perfect) in foundation, however in the R16 World finals, final battle, he received a 2 (poor) by the foundation judge, Asia One.
#3 Originality against Japan
Body Carnival not only is known throughout the world as an “originality” minded crew, but they also had Assassin from Waseda breakers on their team. Assassin is known in “today’s” community as one of the most original B-Boys, however, in one of Body Carnival’s battles, Benji the originality judge scored Assassin a 2 (Poor) on originality. Is this considered a bad score, or could it be that Benji is from the 90’s, and was from a time where originality was considered the most important aspect in B-Boying? Perhaps he seen it all, or maybe he’s been out of the loop too long?
Whether one agrees or disagrees with these scores, the fact of the matter is that the OUR System is what allows us to look into the judges heads, and as some people have already said before, if we can’t trust a judge to be able to judge just one element of Bboyin, how can we trust them to judge all elements at the same time? Either way, our community is heading in the right direction, and it will take time before we either find the perfect judges, or train our worldwide judges to be as perfect as possible.
After the R16 World Finals, it’s time for the much anticipated R16 After Party, which was held in Seoul’s number one prestigious club named Octagon. The R16 After party not only hosts the top DJ’s in our Hip Hop / B-Boy community, but also creates a concert like atmosphere where there are top Korean music artist, such as Jay Park of AOM.
Part way through the night, Floorgangz call out Blue (Extreme / SKB) in the cypher. The intensity of the circle was so high that a crazy Blue starts shoves the Floorgangz member, then shoves the person to their right, then the next person, then Blonde, then some members of SKB. Turns out, Blue was trying to get people to move back, but was a little bit tipsy to communicate that properly. Despite the intensity, after the battle, was all manly hugs and daps which goes to show the power of the cypher, and the power of Hip Hop.
In conclusion, the legendary battles of R16 has come to plateau for this year, however the overall stage production and audience experience has grown to a new level. Even more so, R16 has grown to become more of an ultimate three day experience that once experienced, can change someone’s life. R16 continues to be the hope to the future that one day, B-Boying will become as professional as the other sub cultures and lead our community into a self-sustaining culture and industry.