Jon Boogz Lil Buck & Samantha Long Speak On Dance Competition At Lil Wayne’s UPROAR Festival In L.A.

AllHipHop caught up with all 3 judges via Zoom, to discuss what dance means to them, what it means to be a judge, what they’re looking for, ties to Lil Wayne, and more!

It’s almost that time!

The UPROAR HIP HOP FESTIVAL is slated to take over The Torch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 13th, headlined by Lil Wayne, Young Money, and surprise guest performers.

The first of its kind, the one-day festival will be livestreamed worldwide via official partner Mandolin, producing an immersive and interactive experience for all those attending physically, as well as those who can watch from the comfort of their own home.

Beyond the all-star performances, there will be an official UPROAR Dance Competition, with choreographer and movement coaches Samantha Long, Lil Buck and Jon Boogz.

The competition is open to anyone in California or those willing to travel to the Golden State, entering to show off their dance moves to audiences worldwide and a chance to win $5K in prize money. This aligns directly with Lil Wayne and his lifestyle brand GKUA’s ongoing mission to discover and support creators and talented artists, creating life-changing opportunities while supporting up and coming dancers.

AllHipHop: First off, introduce yourselves for those who don’t know.

Samantha: I’m a choreographer, dancer, and movement coach and owner of A THREAT, which started off as a dance studio in North Hollywood and is now a full-on media company for women and allies of women. I’m super excited to be a part of this project, and can’t wait for the festival to start.

Jon: I’m a director, dancer, choreographer, writer, and producer. I do a lot of different things, I wear many hats. I’m looking forward to the festival. I’m happy that UPROAR, Lil Wayne, and their whole team are giving a platform for dancers. Dancers are always low on the totem pole when it comes to artistry and things of that nature. It’s really great when other artists recognize the difficulty of the craft that we do and try to give it as much prestige and respect as it deserves, because it deserves to be up there with every other art that exists on the planet.

Lil Buck: I’m a dancer, movement artist, producer, and choreographer. I’m happy to be on this call with all of you lovely people.

AllHipHop: How did each of you get into dance?

Samantha: I got into dance when I was about 4 years old. I grew up in a little town called Fisherville, Tennessee right outside of Memphis. I started with classical training first, more into ballet and contemporary. When I turned 7, I started training in other styles like hip-hop. It has been my passion and love ever since, it has really changed my life. I’m doing a lot of different things in my career now, but it’ll always be the heart and soul of who I am. .

Jon: I started off dancing when I was really really young, before I was 10 years old. My mother used to have these VHS tapes of Michael Jackson’s movie Moonwalker and The Making of ‘Thriller’. She’d put those tapes on for me to try to keep me busy. Michael Jackson tapes were babysitting me in a way, I became obsessed with how he moved. My uncle schooled me on how Michael’s style was called poppin’, had a bunch of these old Soul Train videos from legendary street dance groups like The Lockers and The Electric Boogaloos, all these icons that helped Michael. Icons who taught Michael.

I was very lucky to have an uncle that knew his stuff already, and introduced me to the iconic street dance groups when I was very young. I became obsessed with it, it has become the pillar of who I am as an artist now. I’m always constantly trying to take dance, particularly street dance and dances from Black and Brown communities to the next level. That’s always been the fabric of who I am. It started really young with an obsession with Michael and Michael introducing me to the pioneers of these dances, then me trying to find myself through those art forms.

Lil Buck: I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. I was raised there, I was born in Chicago and my family moved to Memphis when I was very young. This is when I stumbled across Memphis Jookin, a style that’s very native to the city culture of Memphis. It was the diamond in the rough for me. I’ve always been deeply inspired by Michael Jackson, I thought he was the pinnacle. This was before YouTube, before we could see what else was going on out there in the world. My family was too poor, we didn’t have a television so I couldn’t watch Soul Train, I had to use my imagination.

We’d stumble across these old VHS tapes of Michael Jackon. My older sister and I loved the way Michael Jackson moved so we religiously watched these tapes until we learned all his tour choreography. This is how I grew that love of dance. We didn’t have a lot of toys to play with, keep us busy or to inspire us, so watching my older sister in love with dance and loving what she did so much helped grow my passion and love for dance. I always thought of Michael Jackson as this mythical being that nobody could move like. You had to be at a certain level in life. Where I was in life, I didn’t see myself being there for awhile, I just appreciated it so much.

Moving to Memphis as a young kid, and then to be able to see these kids out there dancing like professionals was inspiring! Back then, we were wearing baggy jeans and big baggy tall t-shirts. Seeing these kids dressing like me, looking like me, and being able to move and glide and slide across concrete like it was nothing. Moving just as good as Michael Jackson in the parking lot, it was amazing to see. Especially Memphis Jookin and that street dance vernacular coming out of that city, I made it my mission to learn this because it was something accessible for me. I knew if I was to get in touch with the right person here or just living in the city, it’s deeply rooted in the culture so it becomes a part of your life. Whether you’re a spectator or you want to indulge into it, I had to be a part of that Memphis culture. I learned as much as I could and stuck with it for a long time, still doing it to this day.

AllHipHop: How did you all get involved with the UPROAR Hip Hop Festival?

Lil Buck: The UPROAR Festival is being presented by GKUA; Baqi Kopelman, GKUA’s Creative Director and UPROAR Producer, reached out to me about being a judge for the dance competition. He has seen my work, his wife has seen my work and they’re big fans. He told me Samantha Long was a part of it. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of the festival, come and hang out at the festival and have a good time. It was a great opportunity.

It’s always a good thing when artists give movement artists a chance to have a platform to be able to do their thing. Especially to have fun doing what they love, and also the chance to win $5K. This is a no-brainer, I’d love to be a part of this. The GKUA team asked if I knew anybody else and I immediately told them about Jon Boogz; we both share that passion for dance in the same way.

Samantha: There have been a couple things throughout the years. Young Money’s social media, it started with them reposting a lot of my videos. Our teams started to build a relationship, this came about and it was perfect. GKUA reached out to my team, telling us about the whole competition and their idea for it. I was so excited to be a part of this and help give dancers a platform which I know me, Buck, and Boogz all feel the same. It’s so important to give dancers that spotlight because for such a long time, it’s been so neglected and they haven’t.

Jon: Buck introduced me to the GKUA team planning UPROAR. Before I was directing and choreographing and doing all these other things that we’re doing now in film and television, I used to host competitions in Miami. I’m from Miami originally. I used to throw battles and dance competitions all the time from when I was 17 years old to the last one I threw in 2019. Obviously the pandemic hit in 2020, which impacted live events. But I always like to try to do something in the community I come from at least once a year to give back. Even if we’re really busy with a lot of different things, I always want people in the street dance and hip-hop community to feel we’re tangible, we’ll always try to find ways to give back to them. I came in through the backdoor but I’ve been helping the GKUA team a lot with ideas and how we can go about throwing these particular types of events because I’ve been doing them for a very long time.

AllHipHop: What are you guys most excited for as August 13th approaches?

Samantha: I’m personally super excited about the UPROAR Dance Competition. My company A THREAT is co-producing it and the dancers that have made it through are absolutely incredible. So many are viral across social platforms like TikTok, you have amazing dance icons. It’ll be super exciting to watch the duos and pairings, see what they come up with and how they interpret the choreography. It’s going to be amazing and iconic, seeing everybody perform and the energy surrounding the competition.

AllHipHop: What do you look for as a judge?

Jon: It’s really who’s expressing themselves honestly. Like any other art form, it’s self-expression. A lot of dancers are technically great and can execute steps really well, but I try to look to see who they are inside the movement. I’m really looking for individuality, I’m looking for musicality. I love when people are inside the music, not just dancing on beat. Really inside the music, where the music’s taking them for a ride. Getting lost in the music. I’m really looking for creativity, individuality, and musicality. Even if I’m watching a battle or choreography, all those elements still relate in both categories.

You still want to see who’s in the music the best, who’s being themselves in that moment in time. Ultimately, who’s being lost in the music. Those are things I look forward to and enjoy. Of course with street dance, there’s certain styles. I know technical things go with certain styles so you’re looking for technique to some degree, but technique isn’t everything. Sometimes I’ll take a person who’s got more character or charisma over someone who’s super technical. That person can be super technical but no character or charisma, so it’s about finding a good balance between the two.

Lil Buck: Same with me, it’s about finding that balance between the two because I’m looking for it all. I’m looking for their technicality, but also their rawness and how you can move. I’m looking to be moved, that rawness, that killer instinct in you. I want you to show me you want it. I’m looking for all the basics that judges normally look for: that musicality, that heart, that technicality and that rawness. I’m looking for people to give it their all on that dance floor, have no regrets and leave no stone unturned. I want them to be able to say they competed to the maximum level.

Samantha: We have such a diverse group of dancers, so many different genres in the competition. We have hip hop and all these different alternate styles. Putting them back to back for me, I’m really looking for the hunger and creativity, and seeing their drive. Everybody can do choreographed moves, but it’s the emotion that you put behind it. Letting other people read that from you and the feeling that people get from watching is what’s most important. I want to feel that when I watch the performers compete. I want to feel what they’re feeling, that drive is what I’ll be looking for from all the contestants.

AllHipHop: What does it mean to you to be in collaboration with Lil Wayne?

Lil Buck: It’s great, I’ve always been a fan of Lil Wayne and his music. It’ll be amazing. It was a blessing to get the call to be a part of this festival because we get to do our thing with this UPROAR Dance Competition, but we also get to enjoy the festival and everything that comes with it. It’ll be very fun seeing Wayne in his atmosphere and all the people he’s bringing on board to make this festival what it is. I’m excited for the dancing, for the performances. I’m excited because they announced that Polo G is performing there; there’s a lot going on. I’ve never been to a hiphop festival like this. I’m excited for the overall experience in general that Wayne’s providing, a very cool thing he’s doing for the culture.

Samantha: I’m super excited to be working with Wayne. I’ve been working with the Young Money camp, I’ve done choreography for Nicki Minaj. But being able to work with him is such an iconic moment because he’s really birthed this generation. The hip-hop scene wouldn’t be the same without him and his imprint, so being a part of this show really means a lot to me. I’m very honored to be finally working with the man himself.

Jon: Ditto to both of the things they said. I’ve been following his career for a long time. I’m 33 so I remember being in high school when Tha Carter 1 came out, the whole transition from him going from Tha Block is Hot and the whole Hot Boyz era to him being his own individual artist. Him finding his sound, of course No Ceilings and all those legendary classic mixtapes that buzzed around in hoods all over America. Wayne got that pass everywhere, in the commercial space and in hoods everywhere.

If you’re not a fan of Wayne, you’re probably not too much of a fan of rap music. He’s a pioneer, one of the GOATs. It’s dope he’s even open to say “Yeah, let’s do some dance s### at my festival.” That’s cool. Our goal is to try to make it great so they continue to do these things in the future. We continue to give dancers platforms. Our goal is to do it the best and most authentic way we can possibly do it.