The Battle for Fresno State, Championship round will host a panel discussion on Fresno hip-hop history including some of the city’s most important pioneers this coming Sunday, April 15. We are thrilled to bring together popping pioneer Timothy “Popin’ Pete,” West Fresno street dancer, Deborah McCoy, b-boy innovator Charles “Goku” Montgomery, and one of the central architects of the late 1990s/early 2000s Cenral Valley hip-hop scene, Aren “DJ Hecktik” Hekimian. Cumulatively, these panelists bring five decades worth of knowledge about hip-hop culture and Fresno to the table.
Among other things, the panel will discuss their experiences growing up in Fresno and the Central Valley, the opportunities and challenges Fresno presented to their involvement in hip-hop culture, and how they navigated hip-hop culture in Fresno and beyond. Our hope is that the panel will both educate Battle for Fresno State, Championship round attendees and encourage them to contribute their own history to our project. To facilitate this, Straight Outta Fresno staff will be on-site from 9:30am-11:00am for walk-in oral histories and image scanning (Fresno State North Gym).
Timothy “Popin’ Pete” Solomon
Hailing from West Fresno, Timothy “Popin’ Pete” Solomon, is one of the most recognizable dancers on the planet. Before he was known to the world as a popping pioneer and innovator, Popin’ Pete learned to dance alongside his legendary brother, Boogaloo Sam, founder of the Electric Boogaloos, and one of the creators of popping. As a first-generation member of the Electric Boogaloos, Popin’Pete helped introduce the world to popping through through two iconic Soul Train appearances. in the process, Popin’ Pete and his crew caught the eye of Michael Jackson who requested that they teach him to pop, a request that culminated in Pete appearing in Beat It and Michel Jackson’s groundbreaking short film, Captain Eo. Hollywood also came calling landing Pete a role in the 1984 film Breakin’. Pete has since collaborated with some of the biggest names in pop music, including Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Mya, Chris Brown, and Gwen Stefani, as both a dancer and choreographer. Popin’ Pete stays active, crisscrossing the globe both with the Electric Boogaloos and as a solo performer, judge, instructor, and dance ambassador.
Deborah McCoy has been dancing in Fresno since the 1970s. Deborah first learned to dance on Fresno’s west side at a time when popping was king. Alongside her brother Ken, Deborah drew off of influences as diverse as local street dancers and French mime Marcel Marceau to develop a unique style that kept Deborah and Ken in high demand in local showcases, fashion shows, and festival while also racking up victories in talent shows across the Central Valley. A true renaissance woman, Deborah also excelled at modeling, photography, and martial arts. Deborah began teaching dance in the early 1980s traveling across Fresno and the Central Valley offering dance instruction to schools (including a long-running and popular hip-hop dance class at Baird middle school), companies, police departments, and anyone else who wanted to learn to dance. Starting in 2007, she began to offer studio classes, culminating in the opening of McCoy hip-hop talent studio located in the Manchester Center. Students at McCoy hip-hop are provided an opportunity to immerse themselves in hip-hop culture while also having the opportunity to take classes in art, photography, and martial arts. True to her renaissance woman background, Deborah also finds time to judge beauty pageants, offer training for aspiring models, actors, singers, and pageant contestants. Over the years, Deborah’s commitment to teaching and motivating local youth has been recognized and documented by Central Valley media sources including both local news broadcasts and newspaper articles.
Check out Deborah being interviewed and her students dancing at the Straight Outta Fresno Exhibit launch in December, 2017.
Charles “Goku” Montgomery
Fresno’s own, Charles “Goku” Montgomery has over 24 years in experience in the performing arts, as a b-boy, tumbler, and instructor. Goku’s dance career began in 1993 in Fresno where he helped found Climax crew. Eventually, Goku was recruited to Soul Control, an all-star b-boy crew made up of some of the dopest b-boys in the nation. As a member of Soul Control, Goku contributed to the crews reputation as b-boy innovators all while traveling the globe to take on all-comers. As a well-respected b-boy, Goku has participated in and judged some of the biggest b-boy battles across the world inclunding Freestyle Sessions and the Silverback Open. SInce 2008, Charles has been the owner/manager of SCMX Dance Academy in Fresno where he teaches basic, intermediate and advanced Breaking, Tumbling, and other genres of dance. He has dedicated his life as a b-boy, who always strives to support dance communities throughout the world and nurture these talented dancers for the love of Hip-Hop. His objective is to utilize knowledge and leadership skills to help build dance communities, promote self-confidence, implement rules and regulations, and encourage a healthy lifestyle through breaking (“b-boyin/b-girl”).
Aren “DJ Hecktik” Hekimian
Aren Hekimian is the owner and CEO of the IAN group, a full-service sports management and marketing firm. In this capacity, Hekimian represents Fresno-based emcee Fashawn. Hekimian has deep roots in Fresno’s hip-hop community dating back to his days as DJ for the pioneering hip-hop group, The Basement and as an event promoter. In terms of the latter, Hekimian promoted some of the most important hip-hop events in the central valley including Urban Combat, Fight for Waters, and Street Rockers. Most recently, Hekimian, is the organizer of the premier Central Valley music and culture festival, Grizzly Fest, a two day-long festival held at Fresno’s Woodward Park that features performances from quality artists across multiple genres.
Straight Outta Fresno Presents: Battle for Fresno State Judge Bios
If a bboy/bgirl battle’s dopeness is judged by the quality of its judges, then the Battle for Fresno State, Championship round is going to be a dope battle! As organizers of The Battle for Fresno State, Championship Round we are thrilled to have three judges on board who have put their collective stamps on bboying by consistently pushing to innovate while still respecting the culture’s foundational skills and ethics. In addition, we are excited to welcome to Fresno and the Central Valley, the various communities, neighborhoods and crews our judges represent. Shout out to all the crews representing Sacramento, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area! If you are heading to Fresno State’s North Gym on Sunday, April 15th welcome to Fresno and good luck! To help get you hype for the battle, read up on our judges and check out their videos to see just how high we are setting the bar for competition!
Ace’s dance career started in 1991 in a Palm Springs living room when he saw a friend freestyle a housing routine. After two weeks of persistent nagging that friend agreed to teach him one move; Ace mastered that move and has not stopped dancing since. Ace moved to the Los Angeles area in the mid 1990s where he eventually joined Master Movements Crew and became an active member of the Los Angeles b-boy community. Known for his passion, discipline, and methodical approach to b-boying, Ace helped establish a distinct west-coast tradition of “walks” and went on to mentor b-boys across California including Fresno’s own Charles “Goku” Montgomery and his Soul Control Crewmate, Jacob “Kujo” Lyons. After three decades in the bboy game Ace has earned the title Master. In 2014 Ace was invited to be an honorary judge for the 20th anniversary of Bboy Summit. Similarly, after years of competing at Freestyle Sessions, Ace was brought in to judge the event in 2015 and 2017. When not dancing, Ace works as a school counselor in Southern California.
What’s that? You want to learn some bboy footwork? Let Ace teach you!
The best bboy crews blend a variety of styles, flavors, and skills into a cohesive unit. Some crew members might bring innovative power moves and combos to the cyher while another might contribute stylized footwork and toprocking. However, some crew members lay in the cut and are unleashed on rival crews precisely because they don’t fit neatly into any one category. Dee Rock is that crew member. Dee Rock represents the legendary San Francisco Bay Area crew, Renegade Rockers; as a second generation member Dee Rock has helped transition the crew from its foundational days to the current generation of Rockers keeping the crew’s legacy alive in battles across the nation. A combination of precision, rhythm, and athleticism has led some to call Dee Rock, “the best kept secret of Renegade Rockers” while others contend that his unique style is not a secret as much as it is ahead of its time. In addition to his contributions to Renegade Rockers, Dee Rock gives back to the next generation of Bay Area bboys by teaching breakdancing at Acro Sports.
B-boying is equal parts art and athleticism and few b-boys embody this combination better than Rawbzilla. Representing Southern California, Rawbzilla began b-boying in 1993. As a member of both Originality Stands Alone and Master Movements Crew, Rawbzilla made his mark on the b-boy world with a series of unique moves and freezes inspired by everyday life. Rawbzilla credits everything from Godzilla movies, toys, cartoons to having to adapt to injuries and accidents for inspiring his moves. Over the course of his b-boy career, Rawbzilla has brought his unique style across the world as both a competitor and a judge all while encouraging people to learn from his motto “be yourself, free yourself.”
What’s that, you’ve always wanted to learn how to do a body glide? Let Rawbzilla teach you. Check out Rawbzilla battling with bboy Ace and the equally legendary Kujo.
We’ll be giving away our booklet “Dispatches from the Straight Outta Fresno Archive” to anyone who contributes a photo/flier related to hip-hop in Fresno and to anyone who does an oral history interview with us.
This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org.