FAB Interview #17: Marlon Chambers – helping start “Total Impact” dance group, footworking in the late 80′s-90′s, and pioneering south suburban footworkers
FAB was honored to get a chance to chop it up with a large contributor to Chicago footworking, Marlon Chambers the founder of Total Impact dance group. He speaks on the birth of Total Impact dance group, footworking in the late 80′s-90′s, and how Total Impact was a pioneer to South Suburban footworkers in Chicago.
FAB: Long time no hear from bro, its a pleasure to be speaking with you right now. You got a lot of history in your story.
MC: Yea ..Its so much fam I we could sit down and talk for hours and hours.
(click the jump for full interview!)
FAB: Ok, seeing that your story goes back, when did you first start footworking?
MC: I started dancing 1986. My first mentor was Jason Duncan.
It was house dancing back then and when house first came out we was stepping.We had a stepping clan.
FAB: What group were you with first?
MC: First I was in a group called “Task Force”, and my mentor Jason was the one who started that.He was from Robbins,IL which is where Im from. It was groups like House O Matics, U Phi U, Phase 2, and maybe a few more that we were battling against most the time. They were all city groups though, and we were from the south suburbs, so we had to go hard for our respect.
FAB: Wow, so that was way before Total Impact?
MC: Yea before TI and before House Arrest 2. Task Force dismembered and Juan from House Arrest was also in Task Force because he was from Calumet Park, which is not too far from Robbins. U Phi U and House O Matics started recruiting in the burbs.I was recruited but never went to practice.I went to the military when I came back then that’s when we started going hard.
FAB: So yall really pioneered a lot of the footwork groups for the south suburbs?
MC:Yea its started when I bumped into my brother, Softball, and he had started the group Magic Feet. Magic Feet had all the battlers. Juan kicked off House Arrest,but they had more so the routine dance type dudes. Back then Softball,this cat named Reggie and Panky, maybe one more person was always battling everybody. Final level, Fade Squad, Main Attraction they were all the west side groups that were out then but we held down the burbs.
FAB: Then after Magic Feet, what group where you in?
MC: Then from 94 to like 97 I was repping House Arrest. Juan pretty much adopted the whole Magic Feet group to House Arrest. House Arrest was so deep, but then Juan had left them. Ricardo Archer who was from House o Matics joined House Arrest as a consultant to help with routines and stuff. Juan taking a leave of absence due to his mom passing led to him appointing Ricardo as the president in his absence. When that happened, a lot of people fell off. I stayed in it. Eric and Korey ( who both became Total Impact leaders), and me was in House Arrest.I brought Korey into it, he was my boy from around the crib, we grew up together. So it was like family.
FAB: So You and Korey were boys from Robbins, joined House Arrest and later created Total Impact together? I see how it all comes together.
MC: Right, and then I met Erick (Total Impacts founder) in House Arrest and we got tight. Me and Ricardo had a misunderstanding , not really falling out, just didn’t see eye to eye on some things. I just wanted to do my own thing, so thats when we left and started Total Impact.Juan was a part of Total Impact even, for a week or two then he left because he felt he couldnt do that to his group, House Arrest.
FAB: Wow so House Arrest 2′s founder was once in Total Impact?
MC: Yea and Total Impact leaders were once a part of House Arrest, the original House Arrest though. They how they became House Arrest 2,that was after Juan came back to them and started fresh.
FAB: So at that time House Arrest 2 and Total Impact were like the main groups from the South Suburbs, yall battled each other?
MC: We were t could touch my girls or shorties! We had Biscuit, Puff..man.. we prided ourselves in our shorties. When the shorties can get down that makes the group look good.! People will look at the younger members and be like who taught them?!
FAB: Yeah they say good students come from good teachers. How do you feel about shories learning from the group then going to other groups?
MC: Man listen, we took dancing as serious as we did gang banging back then! Dancing was real serious! We fought over the sh*t! It was all kind of fights to be honest bro. Im talking fights like shut down arenas! I always been affiliated with U Phi U and House Arrest as well though. Ronnie Sloan (House O Matics founder) was an inspiration or mine, him and Darnell Payne (U Phi U).
FAB:Who are some of your students or people who came through Total Impact that people may have heard of?
MC: Juan from House Arrest 2 came to the group for a short while, like 94. Juan had 4 or 5 people in the group he brought with him.Juan was one of my students in a sense and like almost all Wolfpak was my shorties. Phil, Derryon, Nate, Que they all got a part of me. They used to come to my house and them boys got cold. I never hated on a person unless you bashed my group. Of course you (Kent), I work with cats like Kurt Kobangz (he was like my little brother), I showed his bro Xavier (RIP) some stuff. Troy from HOC. Darris aka BB was in Total Impact.Harlo aka Harlem was one of my students. Mano aka Million Dolla Mano messed with Total Impact. He is touring the world now with Jayz and Kanye West. Man, so many dudes from the south side messed with Total Impact through the years, um.. Rashad, Spinn, DJ LB aka Bruce, I couldnt even name em all to be honest.You would be surprised bro, I worked with a lot of people man. I impacted a lot of dancers.
FAB: You were deep into it at that time Im sure. It wasnt all the media like now so to get your name out you had to be really grinding.
MC: Its crazy because I was so into the battling and footwork. I breathe it. Im talking eat, sleep, and sh*tted it. I remember going to see You Got Served and was blown away, because me and Eric wrote a script for a movie identical to that based around footworking though. I was salty they took our idea. We was like that is our movie!
FAB: Thats wild! Maybe it was one of those great minds think alike situations. Whats some of the other south subs groups you remember?
MC: I remember House of Creation aka HOC. Although, they wasn’t even first group out the Heights, Kaos was, and they used to always invite us to parties. Fred was the president of Kaos. Snoop who was a leader in House of Creation even tried out for Total Impact.You had groups like Wolfpak, The Phrym, HOC, Panic, Anotha Level, Kaos Posse.
FAB:Wasnt it even some alliances formed with groups?
MC: Yessir we had an alliance with groups called “The Coalition” , which was us, Total Impact, House O Matics, Phase 2, K Phi 9, House Arrest 2, and Main Attraaction. I dont think U Phi U was in it though not sure.I remember when we all performed at the Regal. We had a Coalition track too, it was DJ RP Boo, or Clent or maybe DJ Chip who did it, was so long ago kind I forgot. I know somebody still got it though.
We had another brotherhood alliance with some south burb groups It was Panic, HOC, Anotha Level, and Total Impact. This was after the Coalition thing and we were just brothers, did shows together, and had each other back in battles.
FAB: Thats interesting. Well I know a lot of dancers were impacted by you. Who are your top 10 footworkers of all time?
MC: Id say
1Ant Brown (The Dungeon)- he showed me some stuff before, I remember him showing me the gorilla perculator. Its like the perculator but with your hands up waving.
2/3.Starksy and Porter (U Phi U) nobody give them they props no more, they was raw before Ant. They was homies always did routines together, at the time in their prime, they were better than Ant
4 Davette (House O Matics) I swear bro that girl was like the female Ant Brown! She was cold. I seen her dismantle whole groups by herself fam!
5 Kurt Kobangz (House Arrest 2) he would be my number 5
6 Xavier (House Arrest 2)
7 Nick da Man–(House O Matics) that boy was cold!
8 Softball (Magic Feet, House Arrest) my brother, He was one of the few battlers in House Arrest that was killing like he was.
9 Scooby (U phi U)
I cant just name just ten! I been dancing for a minute. Too many to name fam would say..
10 Reggie (House O Matics)
11 Panky (House O Matics)
12 LaMicheal (Wolfpak/ Kphi9)
for the shorties…
Oh! Could got to put you in there for the shorties back then
1 Kent aka Kenlo Key (Total Impact) you got raw fast, you was killing. I used to love watching you battle.
2 Biscuit (Total Impact) Ronnie offered us some bread for him to dance with House O Matics!
3 Twan Twan
FAB: Thanks fam. Yea, hey I cant be good by calling myself good. Someone else has to say it.(laughs)
MC: What..Boy…You was cold! Ill definately put you in there! You was one of the coldest shorties Total Impact ever had. You passed me up. I always got excited seeing you dance because I knew you came a long way! You made me happy as hell.
FAB: Thanks bro thanks man I had a great teacher. I sucked when you let me in the group, I was determined to come up.
MC: Yessir! You came up fast as a shortie. Thats how Que and Nate was when they came to Total Impact for a short time too. I took pride in the shorties straight up.
FAB: What do you feel make a footworker a legend?
MC: Respecting the craft, loving the art of dance, and being humble. Not being arrogant but having confidence. Understanding you lose some battles. I lost a lot of battles. You got to admit that to get better. I went to Markham Skating Rink and balled up the whole House O Matics by myself when they became the The Phyrm, I remember it was right by the speakers. I went bannanas on everybody after I went out no one came out. Thadz damn near stopped the music! You got to have a real passion for it. I had passion for this for many years. I still dance to this day. Me, Korey(Co-Ceo of Total Impact #2), and Erick (founder of TI) we all still dance. We dont do it on a competitive level, we do it because it never leaves you. My whole day back then was dedicated to practicing.I was serious about my group getting better and I would tell you if you suck. I didn’t sugarcoat nothing. But a legend has passion and he makes a name for his self that lasts through the years.
FAB:Who had an impact or influence on your style?
MC: Jason Duncan. I was basing myself and my style off of him Ronnie (HouseOMatics President) and Darnell Payne (UPhiU President) thats who I was influenced by. I knew a lot of presidents personally. We go way back. I went to a lot of they shows and supported. I got a lot of insight from them.
FAB: How did it impact your life?
MC: It opened up a lot of doors.We made it possible for the new school now. Nobody recognized footworking like that. They thought it was some ghetto stuff that was too raunchy or provocative. We defeated the odds. We used to fight to be in shows and perform. We was hardcore. Im glad to have been such a big part of that you dont understand how much I love it.got to see and xplore things I would have never seen, a 12 city tour, met entertainers, I remember I went on a job interview and got hired on the spot because the lady recognized me from a show we did.I did a lot a positive stuff for kids and got good feedback from parents.
FAB: How do you feel about footwork now?
MC: I dont like some of the styles they got now because Im from an era where footwork was footwork. Wasn’t so much other crazy stuff going on, either you had works or not. All this sliding and gliding grabbing shirts wasn’t popping like that. We opened doors for these guys. I go to a warzone or something like that and I’m not even excited to see it like I used to be. It has gotten water downed a little since its been commercialized but to each his own! I understand everything evolves so Im glad that they are still doing it though.
FAB: What do you think about the commercial success of recent footworkers?
MC: I remember first seeing the cell phone commercial with King Charles! Im like finally they starting to realize footworking! It brought tears to my eyes because back in the day we didn’t get opportunities that big. We were fighting to get respect and exposure.. love that they are taking it further though.I need to meet this King Charles. I heard so many good things about him. Kurt come over my house a lot though.
I seen the Nikki Minaj and Willow Smith video. I see sh*t like that and it moves me. I still hit up Kurt every now and then. I seen when he did the United Center. I was so happy. He tried to get me to come out but I had to work. Im in touch with a lot of the dancers now though.
FAB: I know a lot of footworkers won’t get the chance to be mentored by you, whats some advice you would give?
MC: If its not in your heart, then dont front. Stay true to it. Lot of people I know got killed over this footwork sh*t. In my time it was that real. People literally died. Thats why it brought a tear to my eye when I seen the pics you had on FB with Boo from HOC (RIP) and Tink (HOC) rest in peace. I remember Boo, he was my n*gga for real. He loved this dancing sh*t. Practice hard, if this for your spare time don’t do it. Dont waste my time. I slept, ate, sh*tted dancing. I got of going to jail because of this.I used to battle with my shadow to get better. The secret is being humble. Its people out there that’s way better than you. You gotta dap a n*gga and say you got me, but come back later and get them.
I remember getting out of school, rushing to do my homework so I could dance the rest of the day. Id be with my group in the basement to 2-3am and have school the next day. That was my dedication to it. You got to be dedicated. Stay true to the art!
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