This is: Zoopreme

Zoopreme (The Ruggeds, Lack of Crowns, Capsule Corp). Shot by @Thijs.Huizer

ico Coker - better known as bboy Zoopreme - is a tour de force within the bboy scene who is quickly establishing his legacy. Zoopreme is known for his unparalleled musicality and dance fundamentals, which have helped him secure wins at some of the biggest competitions in the world (including Undisputed and Unbreakable).

Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Zoopreme’s presence in the world scene has drawn a lot of attention to the breaking communities in both Scandinavia and his current place of residence, Holland. Though he famously represents “The Ruggeds,” Zoopreme is also a part of two other crews: “Capsule Corp” and “Lack of Crowns,” both of which contain lineups of world-class dancers.

Myth spoke with Zoopreme about several topics including how he joined The Ruggeds, the breaking scene in the Netherlands, and the importance of cyphering.

Zoopreme at Unbreakable 2019 filmed by @LawkSam


Last year was a huge one for you winning Unbreakable and Undisputed. Can you tell us about both those experiences and how you prepared for those competitions?

There are a few jams that I used to look up to when I was young - I knew about [Undisputed and Unbreakable], but you never really know if you’ll ever compete there, you know? So one day I tried, and surprisingly enough, I kept going on and I won. It was really surreal, which is kind of dope.

My strategy at Unbreakable was to dance for as long as possible. I saw the lineup and I didn't think that I’d make it very far because I saw a lot of my friends on the list, like Phil, Tawfiq, Lee, so on and so on. They all do so well all the time in 1v1 competitions. It’s kind of common to doubt yourself at several points. So, I didn't go there like “ah I’m gonna fuckin win this” - after all, on any given day, you can win or lose. I was in the back flamingoing the whole day. So, yeah - I was just chilling, content, and having fun.

I’m one of those people that this strategy works really well for. But, you know, different people have different strategies and restrictions. There are people who train really hard for events because they thrive under pressure. I don’t care about pressure - if I get smoked at this jam, then it is what it is.. I've been smoked six hundred million times. I don’t have a big enough ego and my pride is not that high. I don’t give a shit about the things that other people give a fuck about. I never try to smoke anyone. I just go and do my thing - just turns out that this time I actually won. I was like “oh shit!”

Undisputed... again, I started doing my shit and warming up like normal. I was just proud to cross that one little stripe off my bucket list to have made an Undisputed final at some point in my career. So I was just pretty content being there in the first place. It took place in Malmo, which is really close to Copenhagen. Not gonna lie, I was kind of bummed when I heard that it was going to be in Malmo because every other year it’s been somewhere crazy. I was like “why the fuck is it in Malmo, I’ve been there so many times!” But at the same time, a lot of friends came, which was pretty cool. Also, my dad came, and he hasn’t seen me battle since I was 14... so it was pretty sick.

That must have been a really rewarding victory then.

Yeah, you know how it is with parents when you do something that’s not 9 to 5, educational or “traditional” - they're very dubious about it. My mom was pretty cool about it - she told me to do whatever makes me happy. My dad, though, is more strict, telling me things like “if you break a leg, you're done.” I understand his point of view, though - he comes from a different time where [making a living off of breakdancing] wasn’t really an option.

At one point, my dad heard the MC asking me how it felt to be the world champion, and how it felt to be number one in the undisputed ranking. When he heard that, I just remember him saying “my son - my son is number one.”

He was ice cold with it. He was so happy. It is cool. It was nice. I mean, I was just proud of myself to make that I made the stage.

How is breaking viewed in the Netherlands? Can you tell about how the scene developed?

The scene is weird because Holland has almost... I don't know, they bust out creativity like no other. Many people in Holland are just 100% authentic with individual style from the jump. Like in Hustle Kidz you can tell who is who without knowing, and it’s the same thing with the Ruggeds.

That for me is so important. Because that's your, that's your essential ID. That's how you identify somebody without having to actually explain who you are, what you can do. That's fucking sick. And Holland has so many opportunities.

I wouldn't say that breaking is so super commonly known as known [among the general population]. It's been seen on Dutch television and stuff like that though, and there's definitely a really big interest among young kids that want to start breaking and stuff. Yeah, and in like the different areas, you have a couple of kids that keep coming out of dance schools, like Hip Hop Haus. I also know that some of the guys from Hustle Kidz have some students.

It’s just crazy to see, kids these days are spooky, and especially coming out of Scandinavia. For a long time, we were the kids and then there was this big ass gap where there were no younger people in the scene. Now there's this new generation that's flourishing little by little. It's kind of nice to see. But I don't know.

How did you end up joining the Ruggeds?

In 2007, I did a competition called Street Smart. They had 7-to-Smoke toprock battle, which I entered. I almost beat all seven in one go - I got five in a row. I was only a teenager, so people were like “who the fuck is this little sixteen year old kid with big ass clothes?”

The year after at Floor Wars in Denmark, Skychief came to talk to me. I already knew about the crazy shit that was going down in Holland, with the Ruggeds and the Hustle Kids, Extraordinary Gentleman, and so on.

Skychief came up to me and started asking me about my performance at Street Smart, and said he just wanted to give me props for that. I didn’t really know who he was that point, but I don’t see a lot of black heads walking about [in the European breaking scene] so I was like “oh shit, nice.”

It wasn’t until after I saw The Ruggeds vs Eastside Bboys, that I realized he was a part of one of the three crews from Holland I’d been hearing about. I was checking out the battle, standing on my toes and shit, and I heard the MC say “Skychief...” and I’m like wait a minute, that’s the guy who was just talking to me. I'm spacing. I literally just had a conversation with him.

From there on, it felt like a natural bond; we saw each other at a lot of different jams. I did my first battle with The Ruggeds without being a part of the crew in 2010, and then went on vacation with them in 2012 where we was just chilling back and forth. I got to know the crew genuinely, one by one. So it wasn't a situation where they took me just because I was good. Then we battled together - Skychief and I - in 2014. We did World Bboy Classic… it’s hella jokes if you actually see that clip in the end. You actually me staring at the judges in the end like, are you fucking with me or is this forreal.

After we won, the crew asked me to do Battle of the Year with them in the same year. I did. We lost the first battle. We fucked up so bad.

It happens to every crew. There's some of those moments when you look back and you're like, why did we do this? This was so unnecessary. We could have easily won but we just didn’t.

Back in 2014, [The Ruggeds] was kind of chillin because they made it to the final the year before. They’re like okay let's go nuts, let’s rack it up, blah blah blah. First round - we were out. And I had the last solo as well. I swear, I had to apologize to the guys afterwards. I don't know what happened, I think I got nervous or some shit. I never get nervous. They told me not to worry about it, pulled out some drinks, and were like, “so what should we call a cheers for? Rico, any ideas?”

I said “No.”

Then they replied, “Alright, well, cheers to Rico, the newest member of the Ruggeds.”

There is an incredibly strong rivalry between the Hustle Kidz and Ruggeds. Can you tell us about the history between the two crews?

When you have two top competing crews from the same country that always meet each other in the semifinals/finals for over ten years theres going to be some intense moments and shit talk. But that’s bound to happen. Everyone has gotten older, everyone is chilled out now, and the rivalry has died down. Everyone is kind of doing their own thing at this point. It’s more like nostalgia from the past, but it’s not that current or active today.

Zoopreme vs Lil Zoo at the 2018 Scandinavian Championships. Filmed by @StanceElements

In your interview with HOTSTEPPER you talked about cyphering and its importance in discovering yourself. Can you expand on that concept why it’s important to learn to cypher?

I do think that cyphers are a core essential in breaking. I remember saying in that interview - compared to big stages, one applies pressure and the other applies character. You should use that pressure to develop your character.

Cyphering is more like street basketball. There is no regulation, no rules, or stuff like that. You just need to be able to maintain and defend yourself, and stand by the person that you are. In cyphers, you'll see stuff that you'll never see on the big stages ever. Ever. Most people get really good and can handle themselves because they learned how to stay composed during [atmospheres like that of] a cypher.

The pressure is on in the cypher - everybody is there because they want to get their rounds in. If you just stand in the cypher, minding your business and don't move, you won’t get to throw down. Then the music stops and they're like, “OK, guys, we've got to take a 10 minute break.” Which obviously turns out to be 35 minutes because you know, bboy shit.

The pressure of a cypher is where you need to test yourself. Like you need to demand your spot in the cypher. You need to take it because nobody is going to do a cypher and look at you and go like, “you wanna go? you want to you want to swap places, so you can dance and I can stand where you stood.” And things get rough there - you can get called out, that can happen. And then, you know, you need to learn how to defend yourself. It’s like if somebody said yo mama was fat and you call out his mama back. You know, you keep going back and forth like in school terms like this. It's just a different way of building your character, which you eventually want to apply to the big stage.

There are two winners at every jam, in my perspective - there's the actual winner and then there's the people's champ. Everyone wants to be the people’s champ - it means that everyone agrees that you were the dopest of the night, no discussion - you were the shit. Whereas if you were the trained competitor that wins, it means that you out-strategized everybody, came better prepared with solos and sets, and it paid off. However, the downside is that some people don’t appreciate it or find you genuine. I think that being the people’s champ means that everybody agrees you’re the shit. Of course, the people’s champ might also win the jam, and then there’s no argument there.

That’s the first mile when you’re building your legacy - and then you keep doing it, again and again. People will start analyzing what you’re doing: they’ll be like “his foundation is on point, he’s light, he’s really creative, he don’t give a fuck. Motherfucker got money, hella hoes,” hahaha.

That’s why I think cyphering is essential. It builds character.

What do you think about the Hong 10 vs Harricane format of battle?

Oh, the bullying. I rewatched this with Skychief not too long ago and we both were just like “what is going on?”

There is no such thing as the best bboy. And if you ask me, like, who's my personal best, it would be Luigi and Stripes. But that day [Hong10] was like the best bboy that ever was.

Hong10 just smoked up - that was it. Harricane came out and tried to imitate the same style and show that he has creativity in that area, but sometimes moves are just too high of a level. Respect to both of them for going that many rounds - that’s incredible - but Hong10 slapped him around, he bullied him. It was like bullying your little brother in school, that’s what it looked like.

How did you get into breaking?

I started breaking because a friend of mine from school - my best friend at the time, actually. He took break classes at HotStepper Dance Studio that was owned by Karen Galsgaard and Joel De Andrade, also known as Bgirl Tuff Cookie and Bboy Surprise.

They had classes on Monday back then, so every Tuesday, my friend would show up and show me moves he learned, like flares and stuff. I was like yo...what was that? And then he would teach me and then I would do it. This happened on every Tuesday for a while, and eventually he said that I should come with him to free practice on Sundays.

I was like, bet. I went straight home, and told my mom that I was going breakdancing on Sunday. She didn't give a fuck. She was just tired of me jumping around at the house breaking shit, so she said it was a blessing and just to not stay out too late.

So I went to the studio - I was like 11 years old at this time - and obviously everything looked amazing to me, since I was 11. People were spinning on their head, doing airflares and shit. It is the closest thing you can get to being like the Ninja Turtles. So I started breaking.

My parents couldn’t really pay for the classes, since we weren't really the wealthiest family growing up. Karen and Joel though… they saw that I learned literally every move they gave me. I was actually a powermover before I became anything else, and I learned like every powermove on the same day.

They took me aside one day and Karen’s brother, who was the receptionist, told me that I hadn’t paid for this month's classes. It was like the fairy tale had ended. But Karen and Joel took me to the side and told me that I was a good kid and obviously somewhat of a prodigy at this... so they told me that I could take all the classes for free, under the condition that I practiced. Like, I had to practice and become a complete dancer.

Then when I got a bit older, like when I was 13, 14, the interest and curiosity in women came out. So I started taking hip hop classes, and I also did contemporary for a period of time, without having any idea that it would benefit me. That was weird, but it was fun. I also did a bunch of other shit, like I did a one year dance program, but at that point, when I did all the other stuff, my breaking was trash.

I was so whack. Incredibly whack. Like if you see the footage from now and then you look at the footage back then you think this is somebody completely else. I just woke up one day, realized that I needed to fix my breaking, and I just started focusing more and more on it. Then Street Star (where I met SkyChief) happened, and then came the Ruggeds, and then came traveling abroad and just, you know, meeting other people.

Did you watch a lot of American bboys starting out?

Funny enough I actually watched a lot of Scandinavian at first. A lot of Flow Mo, a lot of Octagon and Ghost crew. Like Ata - this guy was different. He was that white boy fly, he was so dope. Flacko, crazy. King Foolish. This guy Foolish had ground power on a whole different level, it looked so crazy when he did it. And then Winther. Winther... I talk about him now and lots of people really don't understand. It’s always kind of hard to believe if you’ve never seen some of the stuff he’s done. But I swear if he really wanted to he would have been the first one to win BC One twice.

Karen and Joel also had infinite DVDs and VHS tapes, so I got to see like, Circle Prinz, R16, Freestyle Session.

It just started progressing from there. I also used to watch a lot of Rivers Crew tapes with a friend from my old crew, and I personally saw a lot of Skill Methodz and Flipside Kings.

What are your goals for breaking?

I was trying to be one of the freshest that’s ever done it. There are not that many consistently dope people coming out from where I came from, so I take a lot pride in putting Copenhagen, Denmark, back on the map. It’s been a long time and most other regions have been more dominant. I used to want to be the best, but I really don't want to be the best anymore at all. I just want people to be like “ooh shit” when they hear “OK, Zoopreme versus ____” at jams.

I want to be so content and comfortable in what I do, and I want people who see my style and use that as a main source for motivation and inspiration, to develop themselves on the same level or even better, to surpass my level. Doesn’t need to be breaking - could be painting, but it’d be sick to know that whatever I did, I did it so well and so authentically that people referenced me as an inspirational source.

Like “this guy.. he did, so I can do it.” Because in reality, if I can do it, so can you. It's about will and how you get there, and also about the time you put in. Everybody is like “I wanna get there now,” but I've been dancing for 17 years and I was whack the first 15. I've had good moments and I’ve always had potential, but I was fucking about a lot. It wasn’t until 2017 that I got the hang of it and I found my real identity. Now I know what I want to do with my breaking, I know how I want my breaking to look, I have bomb ass crew to get inspiration from, and I have good friends.

So yeah, lots of the bucket list items that I had for breaking are slowly getting achieved. A lot of the people I still look up to, I have a genuine relationship with. I’m in the crews that I want to be: I’m part of the Ruggeds, and I’m in another crew with people from my hometown, Lack of Crowns. Our currency in Denmark is Kronur, which is crown in Danish. And this year, I also joined the Capsule Corp, which I’m proud of - that’s with Pnut, Phil, Luigi, Keebz.

Do you have any advice for those looking up to you?

This is kind of a theory that I've been dabbling for the last couple of months.

You need to understand what it is about breaking that you value, and first of all, you need to do this for yourself. All this competition stuff, that’s nice, but that came along for me later. This should purely be something that you just love to do. If you want to be a world class battler, then try to do that. If you just want a break for yourself, do that. Breaking is not supposed to be on anybody else’s term.

For active people in the scene that want to reach the top tier, I think you need to know two things. For me, I think you should try not to care too much when you lose. I really do not care. I've said it so many times and for some reason people laugh when I say it, because, you know, it's not common to say so. It's funny, but I really don't care. I didn’t start breaking to be the best - I started it because this is the shit. If I lose a battle - and again, I’ve lost more than I’ve won - it’s fine.

“Yeah, but this is a major event and you came all the way to lose!”

True, but I'm well aware that everybody has good days and bad days. Some are more consistent than others. But you don't know what else they have going on. They might be very good at breaking, but struggle to make ends meet. So being able to enjoy competition obviously is easier said than done.

Another thing: if you get called out, you can either accept the call out or not - you don't have to prove nothing to nobody. If anything you have to prove to yourself that you can stand up for yourself. For me, even if I get beat up, it’s worth it because it means that I respect myself so much that I think I’m worth the attempt. For me, “what if” is the worst - I’d rather lose than wonder how I would have done. So what I’m trying to say is that you need to respect yourself enough to try the things you want to do.

Also, don't just constantly hang out with people that do the same things as you. If you're around people that constantly strive to develop themselves as human beings, understand themselves better and as they understand themselves better, that’s awesome. People who know themselves well can articulate themselves better, which can help you gain perspective on yourself, too. So yeah, hang around people that make you reflect on yourself and help you grow. It’s a big ass flex when you learn new things.

Hanging out with different people also really helps you learn more. Like, many things can translate into breaking… martial arts is a common one, but it isn’t the only one. I skateboard, I’ve been skateboarding since I was a kid, so I draw inspiration from that. It gives me motivation, just like music does, just like basketball does, just like architecture does. If you want to be good at something just start doing it. 

Follow Zoopreme on Instagram @griimtheruggeds

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