“There is something about this place that births original, genuine, rich talent and the world needs to see it.”
From preforming in movie theatre lobbies in McAllen to representing the United States in major breakdancing competitions in places like France and Germany, Abdiel “Keebz” Chapa has made a somewhat impossible journey from small town valley kid to being one of the planet’s most respected breakdancers. Wether it’s doing dance work shops in Taiwan, being sponsored by some of the most notable urban clothing lines, or judging some of the biggest competitions in the world, his passion for his art form has enabled him to make a living doing something he loves. We caught up with the former valley kid to talk about his journey and his accomplishments.
What’s good, bruh? You’re originally from the valley, right?
Yes. I was born in Matamoros, Mexico. Shortly, my family moved to Brownsville. We lived there until I turned 12. Then, we moved to McAllen. Now, live in Orlando Florida where I’ve been for the past 10-11 years.
How did you get into breakdancing?
After moving to McAllen, I attended Lincoln middle school where I met some graffiti writers. They schooled me on the elements of Hip Hop: graffiti, dj’ng, mc’ing, and breaking. During this time, I went to my first school dance and that’s where I saw some of the local kids breaking for the first time. I still remember their names: Cesar and Alex. I saw one of them throw a backspin and It was a wrap. At that moment, I knew I was going to learn all about the art form. I eventually met Rudy Gonzalez who was a legend in the valley breaking scene and we became good friends. That’s when I really started learning. He happened to know the same graffiti writers I knew and they hooked us up with a VHS tape that contained the documentary Style Wars, the movie Beat Street and BBOY Summit 2. After that, the rest is history. I never stopped breaking.
Does your family have a background in performance arts?
My family is full of talent. My grandma sings, plays guitar and piano. One of her brothers, Carlos Garcia Lerma, was a very respected trumpet player from Mexico and toured the world. My father was in a popular Tejano band in the late 80’s and 90’s called The New Variety Band. He plays the drums, sings and plays many other instruments. My brother, Jael, also plays guitar and sings. He’s been part of some dope and well known bands in the RGV such as Damaja Squad and Personal Use. I also have a cousin out of Brownsville who is a well known DJ/Producer in the valley. He goes by Fresco and his music has been supported by some really big names in the dance music industry. My family is full of relatives that write music, sing and play instruments.
That’s a very creative family. You’re in several crews. Which do you rep?
I represent Masterz of Mayhem out of the Rio Grande Valley, Mind 180 out of Orlando Florida and Flipsidekings out of Miami Florida.
Texas’ premier battle is BBoy City. Masters of Mayhem has won it a few times, right?
Yezzir. We’ve won that battle about 4 or 5 times I believe.
The RGV has produced some really respected bboys.
Most definitely. Master of Mayhem is well respected in the national scene. Even before Mayhem’s time, we had an amazing history of very dope bboy crews like Ground control, Freestyle, Rocking The Floor, Dark Side Soldiers, and Frozen Tactics.
What’s up with the moniker “keebz”?
The name comes from the Keebler Elf cookies. As a kid, one of my friends from Mayhem Aud 1 was clowning on me and said I looked like the Keebler elf. He wasn’t wrong, though, because of my ears and hair at the time. It stuck ever since, haha.
Your family actually has another nickname for you, right?
Haha, yeah. All my close relatives call me “Cachito”. I was born in a clinic in Matamoros the same year a local mafia boss and drug trafficker called “El Cacho” was killed. Soon after, my family started calling me ” el Cachito” or “Cachito”. I’ll stick with Keebz, though, haha.
There’s a lot of styles in breakdancing. You’re known as one of the smoothest bboys out right now. How would you best describe yours?
My style is stylish on beat. More traditional. I use a lot of the fundamentals of the dance. For me, it’s about foundation, but yet, I try to be innovative and original. I dance a lot up top with a lots of top rock step and I specialize in footwork, threads and flows. I do dabble with a little bit of it all though. It’s mostly about the groove and the feeling I get from the music. I’m about the soul of the art.
Where there any bboys that influenced your style coming up?
When it comes to the local scene, bboys like Loui, Comic, Break, Elvis , Bobby, Desa, Rudy, Mike, Marten, Danny, Gabe , Crisis, Pozin, Curly, Stika, Steve, and Motion. They were the first I saw really doing the dance how I felt it was suppose to be done. Then of course legends in the game like Ken Swift ,Crazy legs , Easy Rock , Little Cesar, Wicked, BBoy Ivan, Storm, Swift Rock and later Kmel, Megus, Gadget, Abstrak, Smoke Wicket, Lego, Rudi Goblen..sorry, I just geeked out!
Dancing has taken you all over there world. What countries have you competed in?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my passion take me to places like like Austria, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Rotterdam, and Italy. I’ve competed on behalf of the United States in many competitions. I’ll actually be in the Netherlands soon, then in France, and later in Slovakia for Outbreak.
You’ve been involved in a few big projects. One of them was some sort of reality show/breaking competition.
Yeah, it was called The Arena and based in Los Angeles,California. The event was put together by Jon M. Chu and bboy Flipz from skill Methodz crew. They picked the top 16 breakers in the nation and had us battle it out. It was 3 rounds that were timed battles where one of the rounds had an obstacle like a shape on the floor you had to stay with in. It was an awesome experience. The production was documented and released on Youtube and other social media platforms.
When it comes to competitions, there aren’t many as popular as Redbull BC One. You’ve competed in a few of those.
Redbull BC One is one of the biggest. It’s one of the most recognized and most prestigious events for breaking. It’s a tournament style one on one competition. Ive been blessed to be able to attend and battle at BC one in Houston, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Chicago. I’ve also judged in Orlando and in Mexico City. It’s always been a great experience. Redbull does it right.
How has breaking progressed or hasn’t since you started?
It’s definitely progressed. It’s completely different in a way. When I started breaking, there was no internet or social media so every city and state had different styles. Bboys and bgirls learned by watching VHS tapes and local dancers. There weren’t many events, jams or competitions. Whenever a jam happened, the video of that jam would come out the year after and the person who won would be talked about for like 2 years. Now the videos come out in minutes and people are progressing very fast. It’s crazy. It has its down side because you could see who’s influence by who, who original and who’s not. Ultimately, it’s progressed in a positive way. A lot more opportunity has risen and more people are involved.
Got any arch rivals that you love to battle?
I don’t really have rivals. However, there are some bboys that get me hype and who I like to test my self against. Mostly from the states, Europe, and Korea. Dudes like Menno, Intact, Xisco, Jiggz, Born, Yan, and Focus. These are some of the best in the world and we’re all homies. We’ve all battled. It would be dope to cypher it up and exchange a few rounds. There’s a few others, too, but I’ll keep it at that.
Any parting words?
Shout out to everybody representing the elements of Hip Hop in the RGV. The graffiti artists, bboys/bbgirls, the Mc’s like my boy Mic Melt and all the other talent in the valley. There is something about this place that births original, genuine, rich talent and the world needs to see it. I would like to give a shout out to my family, my girl and my son. I love you guys and thanks for all the inspiration you’re always giving me. I want to give thanks to my girl, Carol. She always keeps me motivated and has been there for me like no other. Shout out to my crews Masterz of Mayhem, Mind 180, Flipside Kings. Shout out to SBR, Skill Methodz, Boogie Brats, Renegades, Phaze II, HaviKoro, Floor Lordz, USC, The Squadron, Biggest & Baddest, sweet technique, X Mob, Self X, Mfkidz and all the Florida and Texas friends and family. So many to name, but you know who you are. Peace and blessing to you all. Hope to see y’all soon. Shout outs to all my friends world wide. I’ll see y’all soon.
You can check Keebz doing his thing in the videos below.