OC: Tell us about yourself and your company, Cypher Styles?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: My name is Barry Rabkin and a lot of your readers may know me as BBoy GRIZ. My company CypherStyles.com is the Largest 4 Element Hip Hop Video Store and Street Dance Source on the Planet. Our selection is expanding every day to include all the newest releases and over 1000+ Different Training Videos, Battles and Documentaries. We serve as a resource to unite, inform and educate the Global Community of Street Dancers, DJs, MC’s, Graffiti Writers and Hip Hop Heads worldwide.
OC: How did the idea come about?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: I always loved watching street dance videos for inspiration and fresh ideas for my BBoying and House Dancing, but I was disappointed by the lack of selection and service of other stores. Even though I didn’t have any background in business, I knew like the street dance community deserved better so I started my own dream hip hop video store. The rest is history =). We’re now bringing dope Four Element Hip Hop videos to every corner of the earth, and ushering new people into the culture every day.
OC: Tell us a little bit about your background? Were you a dancer or filmmaker?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: My mom had me in dance classes when I was little. After that I got into music and played funk drums and electric slap bass for years, and listened to tons of techno and breaks. To this day that’s really helped me find and ride the beats of whatever I’m listening to. I went to my first rave in 99′ and was hooked on house dancing, then after seeing Israel’s “Freshest Kids” I started learning to break with friends, started a breakdancing club at my college, and started attending and throwing battles. This was near Chicago and Milwaukee, both of which have good scenes, and we made a video while still in college called “School of Hard Knocks,” a battle between many of the schools and colleges in the midwest.
Since then I’ve been involved with street dance full time, teaching and performing street dance styles and distributing the best battles and instructional videos all over the world through CypherStyles. I’m still a devoted street dancer and I practice house, hip hop, club, bboying and rave styles very often. I really love the freedom, self expression and energy of street dance styles, and I feel very blessed to be able to share that with others. Street dance is where it’s at!
OC: So you’ve been street dancing for a long time. What advice do you have for other street dancers?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: I’ll be releasing a series of mass-distributed training videos for house, hip hop, club, bboying and rave/tektonik dance through CypherStyles to share all the secrets I’ve picked up along the way.
I want to share a quick tip that has made a huge difference in my progress with the OneCypher.com audience:
“If you try to do do everything you won’t do anything. The more you focus your training the faster you will progress.” So if you want to pick up new moves or improve specific transitions or combos, DO NOT go to your next practice session without any goals in mind, and just randomly try 100 different moves. For your next practice session pick 2 or 3 moves, transitions or combos you really want to improve at and put the majority of your time and focus into getting those specific moves down.
When I’m just starting to get a move down I do sets of “Triples” and repeat the move 3 times, and if any of the times aren’t on point I start over at 1. Once I progress in the move, and want to get it completely down I do “Triple Triples” and do a 3 sets of 3 repetitions of the move. If I miss any of them, even if I’m on the last one, I start over at 1. I don’t stop til I’ve gotten through the Triple Triple without a mistake.
This quickly builds the necessary muscles and teaches you to concentrate and do the moves reliably with perfect form. This is the best secret weapon I’ve learned to make fast progress adding a vast array of movements to my arsenal. I’ve got a billion more secrets to teach and this is one every single dancer should use to accelerate their progress.
OC: What were some of the struggles you had to go through starting this business from scratch?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: I first started laying the foundation for CypherStyles out of my dorm room when I was 20. I was a Psychology major in school and I had no background in business, so my biggest challenge was educating myself in all the business skills needed to start and grow a company.
I’m 24 now and I’ve learned a huge amount about business law, contracts, customer service, e-commerce, html, social networking, viral video, search engine optimization, video editing, graphic design, accounting, management, pay per click advertising, marketing, beat production, inventory management and more.
Most of it is actually pretty fun once you learn the ropes, but it was hard at the beginning when I was just learning. I have to give a huge thank you to my co-worker John for handling a lot of the accounting and technical work. It’s really freed me up to put more time into new product development and building new partnerships.
OC: What advice can you give upcoming entrepreneurs?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: If you aren’t obsessed don’t bother. You can build a business up, but you’ve got to understand it’s not some fun little side project to spend a few minutes on from time to time. If you want to build a customer following, you’ve got to treat it as a serious business.
I’ve paid my dues and put in years of 80 hour work weeks, endless research and late nights. I would do it all again, I love what I do at CypherStyles but any entrepreneur needs to know, starting your own successful business is a very serious commitment of time and energy. If you are doing it right, your work is a big part of your life.
You also have to remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint. You can’t pull an all nighter like in high school, get your work done and be fried the next day, because you’re going to have more work coming. It’s important to pace yourself and make time for exercise, sleep, friends and relaxation so you can stay fresh for the long haul instead of burning out.
OC: How do you feel about the dance scene today, as portrayed through the media, as well as the local underground Jams?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: I think this is a golden age for street dance. It’s not overly commercialized, and most people at jams and battles understand the culture and have respect for it. In the early 80′s street dance got played out because everyone just wanted to learn windmills and had no idea what street dance was about. Now people won’t give props to a biter with no soul, self expression or originality.
There’s a well recognized line between a BBoy and a Breakdancer and I think that stigma preserves the culture and keeps it from just becoming a gymnastics event. There is an unbelievable level of inspiring talent all over the world in house, popping, locking and breaking. The street dance communities diversity and ability is at the highest level it’s ever been.
As new dancers get involved and veterans keep practicing, the scene’s only getting better. I couldn’t be more impressed with where street dance is at, both at local underground jams, regional jams and globally.
OC: Where would you like to see the dance scene 10 years from now?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: Most great dancers I know can’t make a living dancing full time and have to have separate jobs. I hope that street dance can make its way into the X-Games and Olympics. There are so many dancers with so much love for the culture and so much talent that deserve to make a good living for their ability.
You can take someone who knows nothing about street dance and show them a clip of a dope dancer like Hiro, Physicx, Ivan, Junior or Machine, and they’ll be blown away. These dancers deserve to be respected just like famous pop stars and athletes.
I hope in 10 years the street dance industry is well established enough that dancers can make a comfortable living doing what they love. CypherStyles, America’s Best Dance Crew, So You Think You Can Dance, Step Up, Planet BBoy and Red Bull BC One are all helping to bring street dance culture to a mass audience.
OC: Do you have a review process of each product before posting it on your site? Do you watch each DVD before deciding to sell it on your site?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: I watch every video we sell on CypherStyles and my policy is “If I wouldn’t buy it, I won’t sell it.” If I know a videos going to be good, like Battle of the Year, I’ll agree to distribute it without watching it first, but that’s only for videos with a reputation of consistent quality.
OC: What are some of your “must-buys” that you can recommend?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: I’ve seen every video we carry, so picking from 1000+ Videos is really hard! I can name a top few:
Storms Footwork Fundamentals is the best BBoy Floorwork Instructional DVD in existence, it packs in almost 100 different moves and teaches them all clearly. It’s very well done, and there’s no better video to learn more floor moves.
Brooklyn Terry Footwork Fanatic – This cat is the truth. He’s easily one of the best house heads alive today. Every single step he takes is steeped in oceanfuls of flavor and funk. Getting to share talent like this with the community and give back to pioneers like Terry is the thing I love most about doing CypherStyles.
Freshest Kids is a brilliant documentary about the roots of BBoying and where it came from. It features tons of interviews and clearly shows the birth and evolution of the dance and how it’s tied in with Hip Hop Culture. Props to the director Israel, my fellow Hebrew Hip Hop Head. It’s impossible to watch this movie and not want to become a BBoy or BGirl!
There are tons of videos with endless power, but in terms of pure BBoy Style and Flavor, the most diverse, heated, closest matched, balls to the wall battle I’ve ever seen is Lords of the Floor 2, featuring legendary cats like Crumbs, Ruen, Frankie Flave, Dyzee, Free, Orb, Lil Jon, Bebe, Kmel, El Nino and many more. It’s incredibly well shot, well produced and has some of the best BBoys on the planet in the most heated battles of their lives. Every time I watch this video I see a million new things to love about it! I could talk all day about great videos, but if you’re going to watch anything these are the ones I recommend the most.
OC: What are some of your current specials happening with your store now?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: The newest, hottest items are all bundled together as a discounted pack: The Notorious IBE 2008, The International Battle of the Year 2008 and The UK BBoy Championship 2008. The bundle has been flying off the shelf and if you watch the free previews for them you’ll see why people are eating these up!
OC: How can people contact you?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: Just hit me up at CypherStyles@gmail.com with any questions and I’ll be happy to help you out.
OC: Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. Do you have any last shout outs?
CypherStyles / GRIZ: Lacouir Yancey / BBoy Spirit was the first BBoy to really take me under his wing and show me the ropes. He didn’t just give me instructions on the steps, he gave me a passion for the culture, the soul, the attitude and emotion beneath the moves.
I want to thank Koneerok, Hypno, PoeOne, Cros1, Asia1, Crumbs, Storm, Backspin, Israel, Rishi, Randolph, Swiftrock and the Beloit Breakers for their support right from the beginning. Also thanks to Julio and the BKC Family, Johnnyboy in LA, Christina, John and my fiancee Sarah for all their hard work and support, and to my folks for believing in my vision! Props to everyone out there making contributions to street dance and hip hop culture.