by Victor Simoes
Celebrating 24 years of evolving a distinctly Seattle hip-hop culture, Massive Monkees will kick off their yearly celebration, Massive Monkees Day, on Saturday, May 27. The three-day event will include a hip-hop breaking competition with cash prizes for the winners, outdoor events with vendors and food, and live performances from Seattle’s legendary B-boy crew.
Born in 1999 in Beacon Hill, Massive Monkees started as a group of high school teenagers who loved performing. Even though the crew was initially composed of only dancers, DJs and MCs were incorporated into the team as they grew. The collective has accumulated enormous success, winning prizes and competitions, world championships, appearing on TV shows, and working with artists like Missy Elliot, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé.
In 2004, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced the first Massive Monkees Day on April 26, commemorating the crew for their work in elevating the city’s dance communities to a global stage. The special date started as a small gathering at Jackson Community Center and is now a three-day event series all across the City of Seattle, celebrating different styles of dance within hip-hop culture. From 2004 on, the Massive Monkees reserve a day in the year to celebrate their history and give back to the community.
The 2023 Massive Monkees Day will begin at Pier 62 on Saturday, May 27. Celebrations will include a Waterfront Park Jam with a competitor showdown that will serve as the preliminaries for the main event on Sunday. Local vendors and food trucks will also participate throughout the day.
The main event at the Neptune Theatre on Sunday, May 28, will decide the winner of the Massive Monkees festival. The competition will be divided into three styles: breaking, a dance style that involves a lot of spinning, jumping, and acrobatics and is usually performed in circles in which B-boys and B-girls perform individually; open style; and footwork, a specific element of breaking that involves rapid movements of the feet with twists and turns. Attendees will also have the opportunity to see a judge showcase, where the Massive Monkees crew will perform their signature routines.
“It’s nearly one of the largest events in our community worldwide. So it’s a really unique experience,” said Massive Monkee member Hocine Jouini. “People get to really live and breathe what hip-hop has shared with us, how it has changed our lives, and how we jam.”
This year’s Massive Monkees celebration was sponsored by the Neighborhood Economic Recovery Fund, an initiative by the City of Seattle to directly help community groups in the process of recovery from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
“The Neighborhood Economic Development Fund intentionally supports Massive Monkees Day because it is a community-driven event that celebrates the rich hip-hop culture in Seattle,” said Bennet Vining, community development specialist at the Seattle Office of Economic Development. “It is a creative strategy in bringing community together, supporting artists, and drawing foot traffic to local businesses as we recover from the pandemic.”
On Monday, May 29, the crew will prepare a kid’s dance battle called the Massive Break Challenge. This last part of the series will happen during the Folklife Festival at the Seattle Center from 12 to 2 p.m. Later on the day, from 2 to 6 p.m., Massive Monkees will take it back to where the celebration kicked off in 2006 at the Jefferson Community Center, closing the celebrations with a “BBQ Jam,” a kickback, dance-centered hang out with live DJs and free food.
Jouini sees this celebration as a continuous process of giving back to the community. This same feeling inspired the collective to open The Beacon, a community hub and dance studio dedicated to producing, performing, and teaching art. Because of the pandemic, The Beacon closed in 2020 after seven years of operation. In December 2022, it reopened its doors at 812 Rainier Ave. S.
“It’s been like a huge blessing, being able to reopen our doors, the whole community showed up and supported, and the studio has been thriving,” said Jouini. “We are super excited, this is our way to impact the community and bring kids and adults to come and learn the dances and host their own events there.”
You can buy tickets online for the Sunday performances through Ticketmaster and stay up-to-date on the Massive Monkees Day schedule and future events at The Beacon by following Massive Monkees on Instagram.
This is one of a series of articles sponsored by the Seattle Office of Economic Development in recognition of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.
📸 Featured Image: The Massive Monkees crew pose for a photo. This weekend’s festivities – which include dance battles in multiple categories with cash prizes – commemorate over 24 years of Massive Monkees’ contributions to Seattle’s hip-hop communities. (Photo: Andre Reminisce)
Before you move on to the next story … The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!