Get inside the mind of DJ Lean Rock as he tells us about his influences

US DJ Lean Rock poses for a photo before Red Bull BC One World Final, at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, on November 30, 2013.

DJ Lean Rock is no stranger to Red Bull BC One. He's been spinning at many Cyphers and even the World Final. His excellent understanding of how to play music for b-boy battles stems from years of experience as a dancer and deep research into how to engage the crowd. Find out what makes his mindset special with this interview, leading up to his set at the Red Bull BC One Camp in Spain.

You started b-boying at a very young age, following your father's path. Which was the most important piece of advice he gave you? What are the main things you learned from him?

The most crucial advice my dad gave me was, it's not about being the best dancer or the best DJ but more about being the best version of yourself. I think this mindset helped me approach life in a more humbling way. It's not about winning or losing, but more about the impact you leave behind. It's all about putting your heart into your craft. He also told me I shouldn't ever hold back and always represent the culture. He also told me not to rely solely on dancing and recommended I try other things in life such as music production, djing, graphic designing, etc. He wanted me to be versatile, and he wanted me to be willing to learn/try new things. The more tools you have in life, the more inspiration you have in life.

How important has been for you to be a b-boy before djing in order to improve your technique, knowing what and how you need to play to follow and animate the dancers?

The two things I benefited from being a dancer before a DJ are timing (the ability to count beats) and understanding energy (in music). It gives you some leverage as a DJ starting off, but I don't think it ultimately decides whether you could be a good DJ or not. I think you have to dig a little deeper into the craft to understand the art. It requires constant research, practice, experience, and adaptability (the ability to read the crowd). Being a good dancer doesn't guarantee you will play good music, but being a student of the game does. When you play for cyphers, the dancers must follow your command, but when you're djing for a competition, you have to be a little more mindful of the dancers. Timing and energy are everything in a battle. As a DJ you don't want to cut in a new song in the middle of a dancer's round, but it does happen sometimes. It can be a difficult task (especially when there are lyrics in the song) because some dancers are hard to read. You also want to make sure you keep the energy up in a battle and make sure the dancers are feeling it.

Which are your main influences? Any records or tracks that changed your life?

My main influences for playing b-boy events are DJ Leacy (R.I.P), Kon, Timber, Just 1, Forrest Getemgump, and B Ryan. All of these guys were/are ahead of their time, and they all motivated me to get better at my craft. As far as the music, every track/record inspires me in a different way. There are some records that I love dancing to, there are some records I love listening to, and there are some records that bring up special moments in my life. At this moment the first record that comes to mind is Manzel "Space Funk". It's a classic funk/b-boy break, but quite honestly I love listening to the record more than I like dancing to it. The musical arrangement and all the layers of the song are masterful. I didn't truly understand how beautiful this song was until my taste in music matured a few years ago.

Do you see many differences in the countries, cultures, environments when you go to perform abroad? Do music and dancing make the people come together?

I see a lot of differences in language, attitude, music, food, etc. But I think most countries have lost their unique identity in dance because of the internet. The scene is more globalised, and you see a lot fewer people picking up on regional/local styles. The only countries that come to mind that have tons of unique dancers (at this moment) are Japan, Ukraine, Canada, and Russia. You can see the regional/local influence in a lot of the dancers, but outside of these countries, everyone else tends to look similar to me. I think most of the kids that dance now care less about local heroes and more about who's winning the events globally. As far as the music goes, in most of the Spanish speaking countries, they tend to like more of the Latin flavour. So you will hear more latin funk or salsa-like breaks. In the USA, I think people tend to like a mixture or variety of music. Aside from the differences, music and dance are some of the few things that bring humanity together.
Which is the best moment you remember during all these years djing for BC One?
My best moment at the BC One was the BC One World Finals in Seoul (2013). It was my first time playing at the BC One World Finals and one of the highlights of my DJ career. It was the ten year anniversary of the BC One, and they invited all of the past champions. Some say it was the best BC One ever and in my own opinion I would have to agree. I felt so confident in my playlist, the level of dancing was super high, the crowd was terrific, and the sound system was excellent!

Is this the first time you play in Madrid? What can we expect of your set for the Madrid BC One Cypher?

I've been to Madrid before, but this is my first time djing in Madrid. I'm going to try my best to play my best set. I'm excited to play for the b-boys of Spain, and I hope they enjoy this moment with me. Hopefully, we can make history together and make it a memorable time.

One love

(written by: J. Sirgado Photos: Nika Kramer / Red Bull Content Pool)