Michael Holman

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As a Hip Hop Pioneer, filmmaker, impresario and artist, Holman's role in helping bring this popular culture to worldwide importance cannot be understated.

Hip Hop History
During the last 30 years, Michael Holman has worn a variety of hats in his unstinting career as a pioneering hip-hop activist: musician, filmmaker, artist manager, club promoter, journalist and critic, television producer, archivist, visual artist, and educator.

From the book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop, Dan Charnas wrote about Holman: …Fab 5 Freddy was a graffiti writer looking to break into the art world, and [Michael] Holman [was] a junior credit analyst on Wall Street by day, an art promoter by night. Holman…introduced Freddy to Jean-Michel Basquiat. Freddy, in turn, acquainted Holman with hip-hop.

Holman adopted Fab 5 Freddy’s quest to unite the uptown and downtown scenes. Just as Fred led Blondie to the Bronx, Holman brought Malcolm McLaren, the British impresario behind the Sex Pistols, to witness Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation DJs in their milieu, the Bronx River Projects. McLaren was both terrified and transfixed by the field trip, and asked Holman to bring the Zulus to safer environs – opening for his new punk-pop act, Bow Wow Wow, at the Ritz downtown. Holman assembled an unprecedented roster of DJs, MCs, breakers, and graffiti artists, and in September of 1981, all four elements of hip-hop played out before a stunned, enthusiastic White audience.
In the crowd was Ruza Blue, a British expatriate who ran McLaren’s SoHo boutique. Blue asked Holman if he could book that kind of show every Thursday night at her friend’s venue, a club called Negril. Holman drew in the Zulus to DJ, and Fab 5 Freddy to MC – in the classic sense of the term since Freddy didn’t consider himself much of a rapper.
By early 1982, the club was filled to capacity, and the fire department shut the Thursday parties down. Ruza Blue looked for a bigger place. Holman decided not to go with her. Instead, he embarked on a grander mission: to create a TV show that would be the hip-hop version of American Bandstand. [Graffiti Rock].

From the book A Hedonist’s Guide To Art Laura K. Jones wrote: Michael Holman is an artist, filmmaker, subculturalist, musician…and an impresario who helped put Hip Hop Culture and the 80’s New York Downtown art scene on the map.

From The Source Magazine Khalil Hayes wrote: Much…can be attributed to filmmaker Michael Holman and his 1984 TV show Graffiti Rock, which set the precedent for Hip-Hop themed TV programs years before Yo! MTV Raps or Rap City hit the air… Though the show never made it past the pilot stage, airing only once, Graffiti Rock was nonetheless an early triumph for Hip-Hop.

-Holman was the first journalist to use the term Hip Hop in print (East Village Eye - a Bambaataa interview - January 1982).
-Holman produced the first comprehensive Hip Hop revue to ever perform on stage (featuring DJ Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Jazzy Jay, MC Ikey Cee, The Rock Steady Crew and graffiti artist Kel-1), opening for Malcolm McLaren’s band Bow Wow Wow at The Ritz in September 1981.
-Holman opened Negril, the first Hip Hop nightclub in Downtown New York (1981, featuring DJ Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Red Alert, The Cold Crush Brothers, DJ Kool Herc, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Rammellzee, Rock Steady Crew, The New York City Breakers, and more).
-In 1984, he created, produced, and hosted Graffiti Rock, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop television show (It featured Run DMC & The Treacherous Three).
-Holman created, managed, and choreographed the B-Boy dance crew The New York City Breakers, touring the world and performing for the likes of Frank Sinatra, President Ronald Reagan and UK’s Prince Andrew (1981-88).
-Holman helped produce the feature film, Beat Street (1984), and wrote Breaking (1984), a book on Hip Hop Culture for Scribner’s.
-In 2000 The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Brooklyn Museum show: Roots, Rhymes + Rage: The Hip Hop Story, featured Holman’s many Hip Hop artifacts and writings.
The Story of Graffiti Rock
“Graffiti Rock” started out as a simple idea. I knew Hip Hop Culture was going to be huge, and I knew it would eventually have a presence on television, and I was going to be the person to make it happen. Hip Hop was so new then, and anything seemed possible.

Gradually, I made contacts with people, specifically investment bankers, who shared my vision. This was before the Reagan Administration forced Congress to faze out the laws that allowed people to invest in films and TV entertainment, while receiving a hefty tax credit.

Before I knew it, I had some of the investors in the Boston boy band, “New Edition” investing in my dream to create a hip hop TV series. We got approximately 15 people to invest $10,000 each, then added a bit more, and we had enough to produce the show. My good friend Vince Gallo (also a band mate in my band with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gray, and now, an important writer/director of indie films) helped me with casting the “Graffiti Rock” crowd.

Initially, I only wanted real Hip Hop kids, but the investors forced me to make the audience more inclusive. Apparently, they were concerned about selling a show with an all Black and Puerto Rican “Crowd.” Later on I learned they were right to be concerned.

I found Brim, the graf artist, and hired him to do the set. I asked Bambaataa about a DJ, and he suggested a kid he knew, Jimmy Jazz... Of course the B-Boy Crew of the first show was my crew, The New York City Breakers! But my intention all along, was to use as many different breaker crews, DJs, Crowd members and celebrity performers as possible, over the course of a season. I’m happy to say, besides Vince Gallo, Debbie Mazar was featured in the dancing crowd. Debbie became an important actor, later playing the coke cutting girlfriend in “Goodfellas”, the wisecracking secretary in “L.A. Law,” and the press agent in HBO’s "The Entourage.”

Though I was the host, I didn’t really want to be, and planned on hiring either Fab Five Freddy, or rising radio DJ, Mr. Magic, to move in as host, and let me move back “behind the scenes.” (Mr. Magic was the first hip hop radio DJ in New York. He had a show on WBLS that was the first station anywhere to play rap music)...

Anyway, we eventually found a sound stage to shoot the show in, up on Madison Avenue and 106th Street... The director of the show was a tv director who had directed the marriage scene in “King Of Comedy.” I always thought that was pretty cool... The production of the show went off pretty smoothly, except I can remember a SAG union representative, talking The New York City Breakers into demanding more money, or they weren’t going to dance! This rep. walks in off the street, has no idea how I had built the crew, how I had helped build and promote Hip Hop, and came in and almost derailed Graffiti Rock, in its infancy! I was furious!!! The guys in NYCB understood and relented.

On the show, I interview “Prince Vince” Gallo, as we introduce Run DMC. It was a seminal moment in Hip Hop Culture. I think Run DMC’s live performance in Graffiti Rock was their best TV performance ever. It was also great to have Hip Hop luminaries, like Special K, and Kool Moe Dee, of the Treacherous Three to help me host the show.

Of course there are many critics who see Graffiti Rock as a bit soft. Not “Hip Hop” enough. Why? Because I went through the trouble to educate young kids about hip hop culture, so there are a few graphics that spell out the meaning of words, etc., and the show, over all, had a clean cut look and feel. But people who now profit in “the Hip Hop game” shouldn’t complain. “Graffiti Rock” helped turn an entire generation on to Hip Hop Culture. Also, it’s important to remember that “Gansta Rap” didn’t exist at that time, so being hard and dangerous wasn’t in vogue yet. Rap, and hip hop was more about having fun...

So the show airs and actually does much better than people thought! We got great ratings and aired in 88 syndicated markets, nationwide. But when we went to Las Vegas to sell the show at NAPTE (National Association of Producers of Television Entertainment) we hit a wall.

First, the station managers (the people responsible for purchasing new shows in their markets) didn’t understand why “Graffiti Rock,” and Hip Hop was different to what Soul Train was offering. Secondly, certain stations wouldn’t take the chance to buy “Graffiti Rock,” unless other, larger markets did first.

Chicago was waiting on L.A. to bite, and L.A. was waiting on New York. But the major New York syndicated stations at the time, were controlled by unsavory characters, and they wanted money under the table to put the show on the air! My main investors refused to deal with these forces (I of course would have done whatever I had to, to get it on the air, and am still pissed they didn’t play along!)...

The investors went to Vegas twice, with no success, and eventually gave up on trying to sell the show. But then after a few years, things changed. More and more Hip Hop videos got on the air, and though I tried to sell the show on my own, it never had a chance, not with MTV embracing rap, etc.

So now it’s a historic document, of which I’m proud. Would I have made it harder, edgier, less pop, if I had it to do again? Probably, but wishing won’t make it so... It is what it is. What it is!
Lincoln Center B Boy Battle
This photograph of a B-Boy, a member of the Rock Steady Crew, doing footwork against The Dynamic Rockers, captures an amazing moment in hip hop history - the 1981, Lincoln Center Battle, between Rock Steady Crew and The Dynamic Rockers. It’s a critical moment, a seminal, historic moment that helped to put Breakdancing/B-Boying on the map. And when Breakdancing/B-Boying was put on the map, it led the way for the introduction of Hip Hop Culture in general. In spite of the many people today who believe that Hip Hop means Rap exclusively, without Breakdancing/B-Boying, the rest of the world would have known none of the other elements. Breakdancing/B-Boying was the exciting art form that drew in the public’s imagination. Rap, back in the day, was the least important, least paid attention to element of Hip Hop. In other words, Hip Hop Culture owes it’s existence to Breakdancing/B-Boying, and Breakdancing/B-Boying alone.

I remember the day of the Lincoln Center battle very clearly. I remember the atmosphere. There was a lot of excitement in the air. This was unusual, in that this was a public, daytime, out in the open battle that never happened before, and probably has never happened like that since. This was the first major battle between two major crews, I had ever seen… So I was excited! It was a circus/festival feeling. Half the audience were B-Boys and B-Girls, and half middle-class people from the neighborhood who had no idea what they were in for! It was crazy!

I was up on the stage with the dancers, shooting with my super 8 camera. In the film you can see cut away shots of people like Doze, from Rock Steady Crew, clowning in the crowd (I don’t think he danced that day), MC Rammellzee’s DJ crew from Brooklyn/Coney Island rocking the turntables and the Lincoln Center architecture in the background. Another historic moment that day was the fight/riot that broke out between Rock Steady and Dynamic Rockers, later on in the subway, no doubt over who actually won the battle. In spite of all the great dancing by my friends in Rock Steady Crew, it was a close contest. The Dynamic Rockers had skills Rock Steady didn’t have, especially in the realm of gymnastics, flips, and novelty moves like “The Helicopter” where one dancer spins another dancer like a helicopter propeller, on his head.

Lil’ Lep was a friend of mine (this is before I created The New York City Breakers) and an independent dancer, meaning, he might battle for Rock Steady Crew one day (which he did that day) and battle for another crew another day, depending on who asked him and his mood. He was brilliant that afternoon. No one in the Dynamic Rockers could compete with Lil’ Lep’s head spins, which was why Crazy Legs wanted Lep to dance for Rock Steady Crew! The Dynamic Rockers of course had great dancers and moves of their own. Another set of dancers that were free agents like Lil’ Lep were two Breakers from a crew I met very early on, called IBM, International Break Masters.

IBM was the very first crew of breakers I had ever met, worked with, filmed, etc. I guess I met Lep through them, but I’m not sure. I probably met Legs through IBM as well, since they all knew each other. IBM and parts of Rock Steady were from upper Manhattan, The Dynamic Rockers were from far away Queens.

Soon after, I was getting IMB gigs downtown, then Rock Steady Crew as well. So I was the manager of three different, seminal B-Boy crews! The IBM Breakers (who also danced for Rock Steady that day) were Brooklyn Rock specialists. I have most of the battle on film (“Catch A Beat,” first Hip Hop film, ever!). My favorite moment was the Brooklyn Rocking part of the battle, of which my guys from IMB (like Lil’ Lep, were wearing Rock Steady uniforms) torched The Dynamic Rockers!
I can’t think of a more important battle to have captured on film, of course not counting the crucial battle between my New York City Breakers and Rock Steady Crew, captured in the film “Beat Street,” the only good thing about the movie, sadly, but the best B-Boy battling, on film, bar none!

But it was The Lincoln Center Battle of the summer of 1981 that set the stage. It is the most important battle in Hip Hop History in my opinion, and I am so proud to have been there and captured it on film.
Hip Hop Old School Footage Licensing Catalogue


1. N.Y.C.B.s perform at “Club New York” (1982) - Chino “Action” Lopez, Tony “Powerful Pexster” Lopez, Matthew “Glide Master” Caban, Noel “Kid Nice” Mangual and Ray “Lil Lep” Ramos give an amazing performance in this NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE, non-stop break dance video. They’re dancing to the B-beats of Grand Master Flash on the turntables! As usual, their moves and combinations are fierce! There’s no crew better!

2. Syndicated Magazine TV Show featuring the N.Y.C.B.s(1983) - Bobby “Flip Rock” Potts joins the crew with a dramatic, 5 man, 6 foot high air-real flip! There’s lots of breaking mixed with interviews with the guys that will satisfy all B-boy fans. The crew reveals how they got into breaking, their warm up techniques, etc. We see them perform at Old School Hip Hop clubs in the Bronx ! This is a well produced piece for tv.

3. N.Y.C.B.s Dancing Outside of Central Park in Manhattan, NY(1982) - This is NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE footage of the crew includes the infamous electric boogie dancer, “Normski”, of “Flashdance” fame! The guys are performing for a crowd just across from the Plaza Hotel and they’re loving it! All the breakers are trying to out do each other with moves, foot work and routines! This piece goes on for a good 15 minutes! Break dance connoisseurs will go nuts!

4. Kennedy Center Honors(1982
) - This is an historic piece. The N.Y.C.B.s perform, with 10 other Breakers Lockers & Poppers, both guys and gals, in a huge, awesome routine for the President of the United States! Some of the other dancers have captured fame for themselves. Mr. Wiggles and Fable were part of this performance as was Mr. Wave, who was so impressive, we invited him to be down with N.Y.C.B. ! The routine is as complex as it is spectacular, danced to that B-boy classic “Just Begun.”

5. N.Y.C.B.s Beat Street Promo Tour(1984) - This piece is a compilation of news and talk show performances by the N.Y.C.B.s as they toured the East Coast promoting the film “Beat Street”, in which they starred. Mr. Wave, Tony Draughon, had just become an official member of the crew and they had just designed and are wearing their new uniforms! There’s one part where some local Breakers try to battle the N.Y.C.B.s and get served!

6. N.Y.C.B.s Rehearsal Footage(1982
) - N.Y.C.B.s Vol. I. ends with another NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE piece of Breaking History where we see the guys working out routines and getting loose and coming up with brand new moves! It’s like “back stage” action where you can see the guys being themselves, having fun, but the piece has been edited so it’s non-stop action! And when I say NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE, I’m not joking. This is a private rehearsal tape that no one, except me, has ever seen! This piece and the rest of this Volume I.(& II.) tape can’t help but bring mad flavor/props to any serious collector of Hip Hop/Breaker videos.


1. N.Y.C.B.s on Syndicated Network Special “Graffiti Rock”(1984) - N.Y.C.B.s Vol. II. jumps off with one of their most hyped performances on TV(Graffiti Rock). This is a memorable performance partly because Corey “Icey Ice” Montalvo, master of air moves, and one of the best Breakers in history, has joined the N.Y.C.B.s and performs in this piece; also because this is a show that I produced, and the production values and the dancing by the crew is no less than genius. And with Icey Ice down, that makes 8, the final number of the N.Y.C.B.s, now the crew is complete.

2. N.Y.C.B.s/Gladys Knight Music Video Performance(1982) - This video was made just as Breaking was becoming popular, so the director built the action and story completely around the N.Y.C.B.s! The Breakers show not only their dancing abilities, but their acting talents as well. The guys are filmed with really wild camera angles and the editor only used the best shots!

3. N.Y.C.B.s At The 50th Presidential Inaugural Ball(1984) - This could be the most amazing performance by the N.Y.C.B.s! Once again we’re performing for the President, and topping this performance and routine might be impossible by any crew ever, even ourselves! The routine is complex with lots of featured Breaking and ariel gymnastics. Also, this is the first appearance in our new, skin tight, silver Hind suits with the circular N.Y.C.B.s logo on the chest. They look like supermen! I believe our black and silver Hind suits were the hippest uniforms for Breakers ever! And President Ronald Reagan couldn’t get enough of the N.Y.C.B.s. It’s true, he told us so at the White House, the day after this performance!

4. Vote Public Address Advertisement(1984)
- This is a 15 second community service ad where the N.Y.C.B.s urge you to get out and vote, complete with a windmill by Powerful Pexter(many call THE greatest Breaker in history) and a pop/lock/wave by Mr. Wave. They’re wearing black, skin tight suits and look crazy fresh!

5. N.Y.C.B.s on Soul Train(1984) - This a classic and much requested piece of N.Y.C.B. History. All eight members of the crew are in it; they tear up the floor as the Soul Train Crowd begs for more! While we were in L.A. doing this gig, we discovered the skin tight Lycra Hind suits in an athletic store in West L.A.. We knew they would be dope uniforms, but could the guys do back spins in them? We bought a Hind top, had Powerful Pexster break dance right there in the store to check it out, and the rest is history.

6. N.Y.C.B.s in Venezuela(1984) - This is a rare performance NEVER SEEN IN THE U.S. This piece starts off the International section of N.Y.C.B.s Vol. II. The guys show Venezuela, and the world why they’re considered the world’s greatest. You can really see their pride as they represent Break dancing at it’s best. You can see the pride in Matthew “Glide Master” Caban as he doe his thing for the cameras and the crowd.

7. N.Y.C.B.s at Amnesty International Benefit, Oslo, Norway(1985) - This is another super rare foreign television performance by the N.Y.C.B.s, featuring Lil Lep, Flip Rock and Mr. Wave, shot in Oslo Norway, and NEVER SEEN IN THE U.S.! Now I’ve seen a lot of Break dancing in my time, and I must say, with all honesty, this is my favorite Break dancing performance, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The guys are in their silver Hind suits, the stage design and lighting is magical and the dancing is Breaking at it’s best. Imagine how I felt when I discovered this tape, years later, and I realized I was looking at the best of the best. Goose bumps...

8. N.Y.C.B.s Chillin’ in Paris, France(1983) - Here’s a guaranteed, NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE BY, collection of home movies of the N.Y.C.B.s in Paris, France. They’re chillin’, Popping, Locking and Breaking on the Champs-Elysees and Breaking at the foot of the Eiffel Tower!

9. N.Y.C.B.s On Streets of N.Y.C. - Squat Theatre - School of Visual Arts(1982-83) - This is a NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE collection of different footage from around New York City of the N.Y.C.B.s Breaking. Rare footage of historic rehearsals and street performances where the guys work on routines, moves and even some Up Rocking!


1. Hip Hop/Rapping & DJing At Club A7 On The Lower East Side of N.Y.C.(1981)
- Vol. I. of Hip Hop Old School kicks off with a NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE video taped performance by Old School MC Easy Gee on the mic and DJ High Priest at the Club A7 on the L.E.S. This video features East Coast styled Old School rapping and DJ mixing that started the whole worldwide Hip Hop explosion. The footage is mad real, and to see it will hip you to what it was like hanging out in the days. Funky dope fresh!

2. TV MAGAZINE SHOW On Hip Hop Culture(1983) - This is a very well produced TV Magazine Show that explains the meaning and the purpose of Hip Hop culture through interviews by Hip Hop luminaries like Phase II., myself, the NY.C.B.s and Aresol Artist Brim. Everything about Hip Hop is explored including; Hip Hop fashion, the Breaking (provided by N.Y.C.B.s!), Graffiti Art, the language, etc. Very well done piece.

3. On Beat TV - Excerpt From Hip Hop TV Show Featuring DJ Jazzy Jay(1982) - This is an excerpt from a New York cable show I produced called “On Beat” that features DJ Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation. We see him at the Underground, one of NYC’s hottest Hip Hop clubs at the time, exhibiting his talents as a special mix DJ. This piece also features Hip Hop dancing and Graf Artists tagging up on the walls of the club!

4. K-ROB & DJ HIGH PRIEST Throw-Down(1982) - Two well known Hip Hop Artists of the Old School crew rock a B-beat Mix; K-Rob on the microphone, High Priest on the wheels of steel y’all!

5. TV NEW YORK!(Hip Hop TV Show)(1982) - A NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE Hip Hop TV Show I aired on NY cable TV, long before anyone was even video taping, or filming Hip Hop events. I like to describe it as the Hip Hop version of Soul Train but hipper, with real kids from the streets doing the funkest Hip Hop dances, real graffiti being made on the spot by Aerosol Artists like Futura, A1 and more with appearances by Old School DJs like Grand Mixer D.S.T.! I think it’s BETTER than anything you’d see on regular TV!

6. Bronx River Hip Hop Throw-Down(1983) - Awesome, historical piece with glimpses of DJ Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Jazzy Jay, DJ Red Alert, The Cold Crush Brothers, Bronx Breakers, Major Graffiti Burners and Hip Hop Kids from the neighborhood doing funky fresh Old School Hip Hop dances and wearing the funky fresh Old School Hip Hop fashions. This short has mad flavor!

7. Fab 5 Freddy On The Mic, With Electric Boogie Dancers(1982)
- This is THE Fab 5 Freddy years before he became famous and began hosting “Yo! MTV Raps!”. He is smooth and funky, no wonder he blew up!

8. FUTURA DELUXE Meets The N.Y.C.B.s(1982) - This is a NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE special documentary on the infamous Graf/Aresol Artist Futura as he busts out a whole wall piece for one of my TV NEW YORK Shows, with great shots/footage of the N.Y.C.B.s mixed in. A double-trouble treat!

8. SQUAT THEATHER Throw-Down(1983) - This is NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE footage of a Hip Hop event in downtown Manhattan featuring Easy Gee and a whole host of DJs, Poppers, Lockers and Aerosol Artists.

9. Hip Hop Old School Vol. I. ends with a 1 minute long interview from my syndicated show “Graffiti Rock”, where I ask a B-Boy and B-Girl to explain their Hip hop fashion. It ends with the B-Boy saying, “I sport it fresh Holmes!” and I say,”Worrrrd!”


- This is another guaranteed NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE video of Hip Hop history from The Underground. This piece features Phase II doing his hit song “The Roxy”, French Female Rapper B-Side on the microphone, as-well-as DJ Grand Mixer D.S.T and the Infinity Rappers. Check the cool New York City crowd in the house too!

2. RUN DMC PERFORM “SUCKER MCs”(1984) - Run DMC perform their first hit “Sucker MCs” on my syndicated Hip Hop TV Show “Graffiti Rock.” No curls, no braids, no glasses in their shades, no gold chains either; at this time in Run DMC’s career they looked real street, hard, black leather and that’s it. Real cool and a brilliant performance of “Sucker MCs”!

- The only televised rapper/M.C. battle ever taped, EVER! And look who it’s between!? The Treacherous 3, of serious Old School fame, featuring none other than Kool Moe Dee, and Run DMC, whom at the time were considered New Jacks!

4. ON BEAT TV(1982) - This is another cable TV show I produced in the Old School Daze featuring the music of DJ High Priest. This piece is an exerpt in which I take the viewer on a tour of the Scribble-Scrabble(Graffiti) covered the trains of New York City.

5. DOUG E. FRESH - THE HUMAN BEAT BOX(1982) - Clock this NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE performance featuring Doug E. Fresh, years before he ever became famous, and he’s doing his Human Beat Box for Ya! By the way, Doug E. is backed up by his long time DJ, Chill Will! Historic!!!

6. MONEY DOG - FEATURE FILM TRAILER(1987) - This is a feature film trailer cut to Public Enemy for a film I made called “Money Dog” about two young friends growing up in the Boogie Down Bronx and their pit bull dog. “One boy wants a killer, the other boy wants a pet, they steal a puppy from Paco, the Psycho, an action they’ll always regret!”

7. GRAND MIXER D.S.T. And The INFINITY RAPPERS(1982) - Hip Hop Old School Vol. II. ends with a rare, NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE performance by Grand Mixer D.S.T. and the Infinity Rappers doing their hit song “Grand Mixer D.S.T.”