It all started in 1993, when Forrest Getem Gump and Dre Live met at Pocket Town records studio in West Akron — which no longer exists today — and began to engage in B-Boy activity, like breakdancing, together.
Gump was living in New York and a part of the legendary Rock Steady B-Boy crew. He would occasionally come to Akron to visit his grandmother. That led to Gump linking up with Dre Live, along with Bobby Blaze, Dome FX and the late Kuba and DJ Besto (RIP) to form Illstyle Rockers around 1994.
Through the mid to late ’90s, Illstyle Rockers would make their mark on the hip-hop scene within Akron as well as outside it. By ‘95, they had their first B-Boy show/party at Annabell’s, which led to their first annual Xmas Jam in ‘96. The Xmas Jam is still rocking to this day.
1996 was a big year for the crew, because they won one of the biggest B-Boy battles in the country at Scribble Jam in Cincinnati. One of these events was where rapper Eminem broke through as a battle rapper. From there, Bobby Blaze would go on to win The Rumble In The Bronx B-Boy battle in New York.
We also can’t forget about the endless appearances they have made at The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland as educators of The Culture, doing shows with LL Cool J, as well as being part of Zulu Nation and Rock Steady Crew anniversary parties.
By 1998, Dre Live and Bobby Blaze would make an appearance in Kid Rock’s Welcome To The Party video. Gump hit the streets of Detroit to hang with the local B-Boys.
Although the term B-Boy was created by mainstream media, Illstyle Rockers have lived up to what being a B-Boy is all about, from breaking to getting busy on the ones and twos. Most importantly, it’s about having the courage to keep pushing a very important part of the culture forward, even though it may not be as popular today as trap or drill music.
Today, Forrest Getem Gump, Dre Live, Bobby Blaze, and the latest members added to the crew, Suave and Magic, are still rocking 25 years later. They’re still sharing stories as they create more stories to tell, like the time when Forrest called out M.C. Hammer on the last episode of Yo MTV Raps and Hammer didn’t want any smoke.
When it comes to hip-hop culture, you have some people who enjoy it and then you have some that live it. If anyone in Akron is having a conversation about people who live hip-hop and Illstyle Rockers don’t come up, in my opinion, you are out of line. When I think about people who I consider to be living hip-hop, it’s all in the way you talk, the slang, the rhythm of the way you walk. It’s the way you present yourself to the world.
I asked Forrest if any of the younger cats that came after them wanted to be a part of Illstyle Rockers, would they open the books for them? He said, absolutely. That’s how we are going to keep the legacy going.
The Illstyle Rockers’ 22nd XMAS Jam is Saturday, Dec. 29 at Annabell’s. Doors open at 10 pm. $5 admission.
Jimmy Smooth is the former co-host of Hey Young World, an event planner and promoter and an Ohio Media School graduate.