I’ve had the pleasure of conducting an interview with one of my favorite Bboys out there, Thias Kem Lopez a.k.a. Bboy Thesis.
This isn’t your typical interview with a dancer where I talk to him about Bboying, how he practices, how to become a better Bboy yourself or even about Hip Hop per se.
What inspired me to reach out to him was when he posted on Instagram here about how winning a huge Bboy event (Silverback Open 2016) was an extremely personal thing as it reflected his struggles in life, including depression.
When I read that, I just knew I had to reach out to him as I am sure it’d help a lot of young people out there, Bboy or not.
So here it is, the interview in all its authenticity. I hope it inspires you as much as it does for me.
1) Yo Thesis! Aight, give us a little introduction about yourself: Who you are, where you’re from and how you got started Bboying.
• My name is Thias Kem Lopez. I was born on December 26th, 1991 in Tucson, Arizona, bred Mexican/Native American.
I moved to Seattle when I was 1 year old and was raised there till I was 7 years old, then eventually moved back to Tucson and moved to numerous places in Tucson, went to San Antonio for half a year then back to Tucson.
When I was 15 I moved back to Seattle, at age 17 to 24 I lived on my own in Seattle till I decided to move to Brooklyn, NY where I currently reside.
I’ve always had a dancing spirit, constantly needing to move when music came on since I had the grasp of rhythm. I first saw breakin in Seattle while walking around Westlake Center.
“When Circle Of Fire were young and doing street shows/cyphers, I was that little 7 year old that would tug my mom’s arm and beg her to stop and watch.”
Kind of crazy now because I can call these guys humble friends of mine. They even trip out when I told them the story. Life has a funny way in placing you where you belong, doesn’t it?
After the ignition, when I moved back to Tucson, it was really hard times for my family. They were confusing and heavy times, but luckily I had a young passion for dance and couldn’t get my bones to stop vibrating.
Luckily, out of chance I met two people who really helped me grow to become the person I am today, Joseph and Manuel Anaya, two brothers that quickly went from best friends to family. They were already breaking at the time and I wanted to join in on that. We watched movies like Beat Street and Breakin 1 & 2 and tried almost mimicking them, being that we had little knowledge of what we were doing.
Three years went by with just us in the front driveway with cardboard messing around.
We saw an ad in the paper that said there were breaking classes taught by a man named Christopher Pinedo AKA Paranoid Android.
We tripped out because we thought we were the only ones in our city trying to bring that back. Besides him, there was one of our South Tucson friends who we went to elementary school with named Ismael Ortiz. He actually was the first one to show me what a windmill was when I only had coffee grinders… We went to the class and there he was, along with many others and Paranoid Android instructing.
We learned so much from that time period from age 11 to 15. It’s all history from there. I am now in 4 crews: Knuckleheads Cali, Massive Monkees, Fresh Descendants & TheM Team.
2) I’m going to start off a little strong here.
You mentioned in your Instagram post that the win at Silverback Open 2016 was a very personal thing to you as you as it was a win over the struggles, hardship and even depression in your life for the past year.
Could you share with us what happened that made you feel so down in life?
•I don’t want to get into too many details, but I can share with you what I feel comfortable with.
As we all know, life is a learning experience. Even when you “give up”, you are still learning.
The struggles I went through were manic depression through emotional stress… from things like being as young as 17-23, having to pay sometimes $1000 in rent as a starving artist, maintaining a girlfriend, a dog and irresponsible roommates (not all of them but most.) It can be a very heavy thing.
With my lifestyle I always try to be positive and happy, but I learned if you don’t confront your struggles and problems, they do add up.
Ignoring them really brought me down a bad path. I didn’t care anymore.
“I went down such an unhealthy route which didn’t just affect me, but also the people I loved. When they couldn’t handle it, I blamed them when I was the one to blame. I lost it.”
This went on for over a year, almost 2 years.
Then I had one of the most serious injuries of my life. I tore 3 tendons in my ankle and couldn’t walk for almost 6 months. I’m still recovering, but have almost fully recovered.
I wouldn’t have made such a comeback if I didn’t take it as a lesson and a guide to my health. I woke up, got my health cleared up and strengthened. The process was so hard, but I had no choice but to start over. If that blessing in disguise didn’t happen, I’m not sure I’d be even capable to be doing any interview in general.
I thank the universe for teaching lessons to the human race. I truly believe we have a certain energy higher than we think, that guides us. And it doesn’t come from out there, but within yourself.
3) How then, did you find the strength to pick yourself up and take on the day ahead? Heck, how did you even motivate yourself to want to take on the entire championship that was Silverback?
I’ve friends who told me before that depression can be so draining that it makes one not want to get out of bed at all.
• I definitely went through the “not getting out of bed” phase. It was crazy!
I didn’t even know who I was anymore… I moved back in with my mom when I had nothing.
I lost the love of my life, my dog, my ability to walk and everything I worked so hard for in Seattle… I can’t say it was a certain day because it slowly progressed.
I had a mask on when I would speak to my friends, but they saw in my eyes that I wasn’t happy. I could tell it was an uncomfortable experience to spend time with me. I couldn’t even look at myself.
I am actually barely starting to express to my loved ones about what I have been through and going through. Luckily I have amazing, strong friends. They never put pressure on me, but slowly told me my worth and I appreciated that they didn’t put any force on my situation and made me think even more for myself.
“I knew it was only up to me to turn it around and get back up. I got up everyday, searched music, worked out, practiced stacks, flow, one legged footwork and back/shoulder threads and concepts. I was becoming stronger.”
I rode the bike everyday and lost 40 pounds in 3 months which was much needed. I felt like a new man. I feel like a new man now!
I’m forever grateful for the eyes I have. They connect so strongly to my heart, mind and soul. Life is crazy, but its currents is always teaching us lessons.
Some people won’t or even can’t listen. I’m strong enough to, which I am grateful for. I used to hate life, ever since I was 7 years old. It’s the connection from then, the way breaking kept me going and LITERALLY saved my life which makes me appreciate this dance, this life, and the lessons it teaches us.
Life is a trip.
4) I personally think breaking is an outlet for Bboys to channel their emotional energy into the dance itself, be it anger, sadness, frustration or even depression.
How do you convert those emotions into a throwdown? What do you FEEL when you’re dancing?
• Everything I do has history. A memory from a certain time. Certain experiences with certain people and certain feelings from the place and time.
“Everything I do has FEELING. The music is what guides me to express it. I think a lot of people forget that this is a dance and it’s best to dance with your past, future and present.”
If you can find that within yourself, you can be capable of anything and show yourself who you can truly be. It’s not just sadness that goes into this dance, it’s also happiness.
If you aren’t enjoying it, then you haven’t learned anything from your struggles.
5) I think it’s easy for any Bboy around the world to think that you had it all, especially since you’ve had many wins and titles under your belt even before taking the win at Silverback.
Could you share with us why, despite all your past achievements you didn’t feel like it was enough?
• Man, this shit is crazy. The majority of breakers (at least the ones I know) come from a hard and ghetto background. We are just children of the culture preserving the history of our creators and finding ourselves and learning that time never stops to keep creating.
We aren’t superstars, famous or “bigger” than the person next to us. We are just people trying to live happily through dance.
I’ve definitely done a lot at a young age through this dance, but that took WORK. Long and hard years of WORK. Blood, sweat, broken bones, torn tendons and tears.
“You can’t expect for someone with the drive I have to stop and look back and say ‘Well, I’ve done enough.’ I don’t look back and I don’t recommend anyone else in this dance to do so.”
Respect your history, and keep making it. That’s all I can really say for the observers.
6) Any advice for Bboys out there who feel caught up by the stress of competitions, battles or just plain crashing their rounds?
. “I get a lot of people who write me personally and ask, ‘What can I do to get better.’ Well first, you can get off your computer and get in the lab!”
I never asked for anything. If you don’t feel comfortable in the battle realm, then don’t enter it until you feel ready! I didn’t enter my first battle till I was 5 years into breaking. And even still I didn’t feel ready, but I learned from it and kept learning because I felt ready enough to learn from a different aspect of the dance.
Battling is just one aspect. Learn the other angles first! Learn to love it, so when the pressure comes it’s not too hard to make you crash into the ground. Learn to be yourself first, before you can feel ready to show and prove and smoke a mother fucker LOL.
7) You mentioned that your mom, friends and family all played a part in helping you get better. How did they help you? Getting help from others sounds like an obvious solution, but I think it’s important to talk about it as a lot of us, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, think that we’re alone in this world or that we can take care of it ourselves.
• Man… so my mother and my ex-girlfriend Kathy stayed in contact after we broke up, while I was out there kicking in doors and breaking windows.
They really had to figure out a way to get me out of the bad situation I felt so comfortable in. Without them working together and pretty much forcing me to leave Seattle, I wouldn’t have found time to find my true self. I put them through so much pain and worry which we are all still recovering from, but it’s getting better… a lot better.
Thias and his mom
Kathy and I can safely say that we are friends. I respect her for taking the sacrifice of letting me go because I now know how much she loved me and how much she went through trying to be there for me.
My mom really picked up her weight. Without their love, I would have never known what true love was. I didn’t find the true meaning of love till I was alone. Isn’t that a trip?
“In a nutshell, they were there for me when they really didn’t have to be or even should of been. That’s what gave me strength… to see how amazing human beings can be.”
It gave me hope and strength. The reason why I have such strong beliefs in making the impossible possible. You might lose things on the way, but change can be great if you are willing to rebuild. Or even be reborn in a sense.
8) I love how you talked about believing in yourself to fight for what you believe in and also being a natural, gigantic-hearted expressionist. It’s easy to see that in your style, and I agree that being a Bboy is about expressing your identity rather than following trends or learning popular moves.
How do you believe in yourself just so you can believe in yourself in the way you dance, especially when so many Bboys all around think that crazy tricks and power “win”? (Some description on the way you process your thoughts in a battle would be great here)
• I come from an era where if you and everyone were practicing the same thing, it would be wack.
If you were focused on the same concept, you would have to flip it in such a way where you can be respected and be able to claim it as your own.”
“Growing up, if I were to be called wack once, I’d say, ‘Fuck this, I’m not gonna be wack’ and change it like that.”
That’s one reason why I have the strength to stand up and change my ways, and also why I believe in being yourself is the true gateway to the light you’re searching for.
You get to see clearer within yourself. Not only because you know yourself, but you know how different you are from others, which makes you recognize others in their own way.
“My battle mentality is definitely a ‘Fuck you, what you gonna do about it’ mindset hahaha.”
But I do have full respect unless you disrespect me. Then the vibe can change real fast.
I just appreciate where I come from and represent it the best way I can. It’s really as simple as that.
9) How do you feel when people comment that your style changed over the years, most notably on the fact that in your battles, you use a lot less power moves?
• Here’s one of the best quick conversations I had with someone…
“He said ‘We miss the 2008 Thesis, bring it back.'”
“And I replied, ‘Nah, I like the 2019 Thesis better.’ Hahaha.”
He looked so confused, but that was the point. It flew over his head because I haven’t stopped evolving and will continue too and think ahead. Not just the present, but the future.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been a natural. It’s like a superpower. But with that power you have the capability to be ahead of your time. And I’m all for that! I’m sure there’s many out there that agree. You just gotta accept it and take advantage of it.
10) Personally, being a Bboy is so much more than just dancing, battling, performing and practicing. The passion would seep into our everyday lifestyle off the dance floor.
So what does being a Bboy mean to you? What is the relationship between being a Bboy and your everyday life?
“Even when I go out dancing in the nightlife, I don’t even break, but I be groovin, and if I’m not breaking or dancing at the club, you might see me on the skateboard getting pulled by my dog, cruising.”
The way I live is so humble. I don’t brag or boast about what I do. I’m more of the kind of person interested in what others do or who they are. I always want to learn.
Currently I make Native American jewelry and am learning how to brew my own beer.
“Everything has culture. Hip hop is just one of so many. What’s dope about hip hop is that it can be intertwined with other cultures, which I find so fascinating.”
Don’t get me wrong, Hip Hop/breaking is my savior, the start and my life. I am a Bboy more than anything else. But 17 years of doing it definitely leads you to other worlds, it being such a open culture.
Shout out to the die hard hip hop heads though. Truly they are leaders in so many ways even if they don’t know it. Respect.
11) Any last words for Bboys out there who feel like they’re struggling in life?
. Do you. Do it for yourself. Just remember why, and more importantly WHO you’re doing it for. Family is everything. If you don’t have one, CREATE one.
That’s what we do. We create.
If you feel this interview could help a fellow Bboy out, or perhaps just a friend who is going through some emotional struggles, share this interview!