Looking at the visuals presented in Hip-Hop today, you may spot a few dirt bikes or all-terrain vehicles. Some may look at this as just a fad or the trendy thing to do — Supreme and Fox Racing dropping a collab this week is a great example — but unbeknownst to many, bike life and Hip-Hop have grown together over the last 40 years.
As the founding elements of Hip-Hop came together at NYC “park jams” in the late 1970s, motocross simultaneously exploded in popularity. Soon after, people in the inner cities wanted to experience these thrill-seeking machines. Yet, in these large urban centers, there were no nearby trails or tracks, so they settled for the paved city streets. Hence, bike life is born.
In fact, by the 1980s, a dirt bike was a “must have” item for those who could afford it. Especially considering park jams and local parties provided the perfect setting for riders to show off with wheelies down multiple blocks, battling for neighborhood supremacy.
Perhaps the earliest evidence of bike life in Hip-Hop begins with Eric Sermon‘s “Hittin Switches” (1993) and King Just‘s “No Flow On The Rodeo” (1995). Obviously, the influence of the Ruff Ryders throughout the ’90s is undeniable too, bringing an influence that continues today regardless of how how far the law will go to stop Meek Mill on a dirt bike.
However, there’s a familiar face you know who has developed quite a reputation on a Yamaha Banshee. His passion for the culture afforded him the full support of two of the biggest movements in bike life culture: Harlem, NY’s Go Hard Boyz and Baltimore’s Raise It Up crew. You know him as Fetty Wap, but he insists when he’s riding, the name is “HoleShot Fetty.”
Formed in 1999, GHB has morphed into more than just a group of renegade riders. With chapters based in Harlem, the Bronx, Mount Vernon, ATL, the UK and Greece, their message is simple: “Bikes bring bonds.” CEO “11” firmly believes dirt bikes have the power to unite people as one. The group also gives back to their chaptered communities by hosting annual holiday food drives and giveaways for school supplies.
You may have seen or heard of WheelieWayne and RIU, especially after the 2014 documentary 12 O’ Clock Boys. Notably, Baltimore is considered to be the dirt bike capital of the world. RIU sees the dirt bike as a symbol of unity for city streets. Hence, their commonly used slogan “bikes up, guns down.”
We asked Wayne what bike life meant to him, he offered a powerful perspective:
“It’s a passion, and ‘Bike life,’ to me, is bond between you and the bike. That’s a lifetime; [there’s no] stopping or retiring from [bike life] because it’s your lifestyle. It’s not a hobby. That’s why it’s called ‘Bike life’ ’cause it’s for life.”
Both groups also work with the MotoXFreestyleAssociation (MxFSA), an organization focused on building reputable platforms for street dirt bike riders. Each year they host an award show in NYC to honor the best riders. Riders have traveled from as far as France to join in on the action. 2018 marks the 3rd annual award show.
While bike life is still a marginalized illegal culture, GHB’s 11 and RIU’s WheelieWayne work tirelessly to advocate for legal spaces to ride. HoleShot Fetty also aims for the same ideals. In the meantime, expect to see him bring his banshee out soon to prepare for the summer season.