An Interview with Grudge Oneski - the realest bboy in the UK
Worcester bboy and ‘4th generation OG’ Grudge Oneski (formerly Gregory Wontokowski) has quit his job in the cement factory, or ceement factory as he pronounces it, in order to dedicate his life to hip hop. Following the move to quit his day job, he now holds the self-proclaimed title of the UK’s realest bboy and lives his new life according only to the rules of hiphop. I was on the clock for Ink Cypher to get the low-down about what it takes to meet the tough standards of the UK’s realest bboy and live a life devoted purely to the rules of breakin and hiphop.
We arranged to meet in Grudge’s local park and as I wait I admire some graffiti murals. Kids with spray cans are honing their skills, pigeons pace impatiently along the red brick wall, as though they too await the arrival of Mr Oneski. Grudge is several hours late, but he explains that being late, like hiphop, is a way of life. More than a way of life he points out, it’s life itself. Worcester gardens is a few degrees above freezing and I can see my breath. I go in for a handshake instead of a fist to fist ‘safe pound’, Grudge slaps my hand and meets my fist bump with an open palm. His hand is cold and his callouses map out a complex, psychedelic topography in which his callouses have callouses and those callouses have even more callouses. Markings of pride for such a heralded practitioner no doubt, but now they’re on the verge of a concerning medical condition. I try to maintain eye contact.
“Nice to finally meet you” I almost bow. Grudge does not bother with formalities. He only nods towards my trainers. I recognise the reference immediately. He is wearing an adidas tracksuit, the timeless firebird 3-stripe variety. In our correspondence, Grudge had requested I follow suit as it was important to him for our brands to match at all times. The branding continues above his collar by the means of three stripes tattooed onto his skin which meander up his neck and finish like a sideburn in front of his ear, but below his Adidas beanie and orange tinted ski goggles. For today only, I left my favourite Reeboks at home and worn my Gazelles which I had given a thorough clean and a new set of laces for the occasion. After the awkward handshake I take much solace in the potential nod of approval.
I have a lukewarm cup of coffee which I have been nursing since the station. Grudge has a flask of potato soup which I comment on. As we crouch down on the icy concrete he outlines his strict diet, consisting of exclusively liquidised meals which he makes in a ceement mixer he stole from his former workplace - the ceement factory. He explains eating solids to be a mugs game . “If you chew you are a chump” he explains “Only biters bite.”
You may not have heard of Grudge Oneski but you will be aware of the move The Flying Knee - the most sampled street dance image of the 21st century. The Flying Knee (TFK) has been recreated in every format and on every continent. The angular silhouette has been lit up in the bright lights of Ho Chi Minh, collaged on home printed posters in Accra and plastered around the internet on every beginner’s street dance e-flyer made since 2015. Sure, the windmill was huge back in the day but it was 1) pre internet times and 2) way too difficult to learn for most. TFK was beautiful in its simplicity, it could be replicated easily and sampled, giffed and memed in seconds. It garnered a cult following and Flying Knee culture began to spread in jams from Newcastle to Norway. The move was often imitated but the shape was never quite the same. During all this time, nobody stepped forward to claim the move. Then it blew up. A flying knee Tiktok dance craze started in Taiwan around 2019 and permeated mainstream culture during the first lockdowns in 2020 going more viral than the actual virus. What if I told you that all of that began with Grudge, at the infamous Rawgust concrete jam in East London 2011. A singular moment, in the heat of the battle, a dancer doing the ‘throwing the dick’ gesture in his direction. Possessed by pure rage, Grudge responded by lunging, slicing through the air like a manga character before landing in a knee drop, tearing a not insignificant portion of meniscus and altering the course of dance history. Courtesy of one timely photograph.
Not a believer in the internet, “a global platform for e-boys, e-mugs and e-biters” and with no real communication with the scene, it took nearly a decade for Grudge to find out TFK had gone viral. By the time Oneski tried to take credit for the move, it would have been better if nobody believed him. TFK was considered a joke, played out and stupid, ironic rather than iconic. The internet went mad with it, had its fun and rinsed it dry. As for Grudge, he was left with nothing to show for it apart from a limp and a heightened paranoia towards biters. It is a topic I have been warned not to raise with him.
Grudge is perched in what would be considered a footwork position by most in the breakin world - only his thumbs and the bases of his fingers hover above the ground, so I make sure I do the same to avoid causing offence. During my research  this posture has come up as something of the highest importance to Oneski when it comes to earning respect. I ask a question about the direction of hiphop in 2023 but receive no response. He reaches into his pocket and starts to play a metronome from an app on his phone: If someone said something to me off beat, I won’t reply he explains unapologetically. If it wasn’t on beat it didn’t happen. Got it?
I catch myself whispering in agreement. “Hardcore”.
He looks over at the young people practicing graffiti and mumbles the word mugs perfectly on beat. It’s the second time in a minute he’s said that word so I decide this would be a good place to dig a little deeper. ” What is a mu...”
Before I finish the question, Grudge begins his answer. “Rule number one, everyone is a mug. If you even have to ask, then you know wot you are. Second of all, you come up to me for “advice” in MY session in MY ends. You are a mug. Try to shake my hand, have a “chat”- what!? - MUG - “Cypher” with you. Forget it. You cypher with too many mugs it’s toxic. It’s called style pollution  - look it up!”
I didn’t expect Grudge to use air quotes, but when he does, his sentences appear in mid-air written in the bubble fonts of yesteryear, a golden age in which he sees it as his responsibility to preserve Hip Hop exactly as it was, like it’s 1987 and we’re in Worcester Gardens. He continues to explain the rulebook of keeping it real and the rules which he is shaping his life by.
He moves on to have a dig at previous Ink Cypher essayists Raygun and Fez, although I’m not sure he read their article in its entirety: “These guys Raydon and Fuz or whatever are perfect examples of mugs. Focused on their ‘real’ jobs where they won’t even tell their colleagues that breakin is their lives. They’ll just say something generic like they “like to dance” because they’re too scared of the truth. And write fucken “essays” on the internet. Why write an essay on the “internet” when you can write a rap? Trick question! Only mugs write raps, real MCs freestyle. Freestyle is the key style. I freestyled through my whole life, didn’t I?! Didn’t think beforehand about a single thing I’ve ever done or word I’ve ever said. That’s hiphop! The kids posting their reels on Instagram that ain’t real. Or filming their “training sessions” in real time, or going to their so-called real jobs instead of dedicating their every breath to it, that’s unreal man.”
From his parallel universe, Grudge has no shortage of analogies about what is or isn’t real. I try to work out what a “mug” might mean in a broader sense. Someone who doesn’t meet a prescribed set of values, maybe? Before I can respond he takes down another Ink Cypher essayist, this time Brian Toh: “This guy is obsessed with a fear of being an imposter. Look at me, do you think I ever feel like an imposter? I got nothing to worry about. When you become Hip Hop, Hip Hop becomes you. Then you make your own rules. Imposter syndrome? Bboy or die syndrome is all I know!”
I wonder if Grudge had an identity crisis that led to this or if it happened naturally. Is he what Brian would describe as authentic? On top of Oneski’s own rules, Grudge mentions that there are some fundamental laws of hip hop that should be abided by, so I use this as an opportunity to quiz him on some legal disputes that have been pursuing him in recent months.
For those not in the scene, Grudge was banned from the local gym where he used to practice his knee spins. He was warned, then eventually forcibly removed, after claiming a man on the pull up bar - wearing a pair of Nike Huaraches - was a biter. He began chastising him before pulling the man’s pants down (a signature Grudge one ‘burn’) while still on the bar. The staff recall Oneski yelling “you don’t even know what those trainers mean” repeatedly as he was carried away by security. A second incident involved Grudge pouring a bottle of cold water over a woman doing exercises with “bad footwork form” and resulted in a nationwide ban of Grudge Oneski from all Sure Gyms.
He’s currently involved in a legal battle with Sure Gym, but his counterclaim is that he is being discriminated against on the grounds that hiphop is his religion and these things are very disrespectful in hiphop. His defence (of course he represents himself) argues that these incidents were appropriate responses to the mocking of sacred attire and that using bad footwork posture knowingly within his vicinity was like spitting on someone during a holy prayer. CCTV footage shows Grudge shooting an imaginary hole through a member of staff with an imaginary bow and arrow and throwing the dick which he describes as ”the most offensive gesture on the planet”. 
Grudge stresses that he doesn’t want these incidents to be the focus of the interview. “I don’t need to talk about that stuff. I taught those fools a lesson and they won’t be disrespecting hiphop again. If Sure Gym wants to discriminate against me, I’ll see them in court.” Unsettled, he gets up on his feet and suggests we walk around the park. He wants to show me something.
A lot of my questions remain unanswered. But after a 1 hour 47 minutes breakdown of Grudges guiding principles and the tour of his turf, I am starting to get my head round him. He sees himself as a guardian of hiphop, but I’d also call him an expert in preserving his version of it. I start to question the rules he lives by and this leads me to think about my own rules. I definitely share some of Oneski’s values when it comes to the artform: creativity, integrity and following instincts. Like Brian, Raygun and Fez I wonder if I take those same values I rate in hiphop into the other aspects of my life, or do I apply different rules, or simply accept the existing ones that are conveniently already in place? In other words, do my brands match?
The story is getting complicated but the Grudge Oneski preservation technique is simple. If you want to preserve an ageing and precious item like Hip Hop exactly as you found it, let as few people touch it as possible. And put up a defensive forcefield of posturing and shit talk to protect it at all costs, even if you must do it single-handedly.
Grudge was not always defending hiphop on his ones. His former crew ‘Universal Shelltoe Nation’ contained similarly strong personalities.  The crew dissolved in the early noughties after the members distanced themselves from Oneski following an earlier run of inappropriate behaviour. USN began to distance themselves from each other, one by one, as scandal after scandal emerged (off beat steps, poor cypher etiquette, reckless dick throwing). Eventually they distanced themselves from themselves after identifying that inner peace, self-love, unity and any sense of fun were completely absent from their individual lives. Finally, following extensive therapy and a long period of what could only be described as “healing” the members all fully distanced themselves from hiphop - which they said ”had too much negative energy attached to it.” Grudge, who did not undergo any major transformation, is no longer in touch with USN and explains that he doesn’t need anyone else. After all the drama, I can’t help but admire his determination and dedication.
Fez and Raygun talked about the ethics of all this and how what would be realer than real would be to create meaningful and positive impact in the community rather than only looking inward or trying to be cool. According to the rules of society he is rude, arrogant, aggressive, and condescending. But according to his rules, arguably hiphop’s rules, he’s living with pure integrity. Grudge is living on-beat.
As we walk, we talk music and I’m surprised to find that we share much common ground. Breaks, DJ Leacy’s legacy, selectors and collectors, the way most breakers don’t listen enough, the boom bap years, jazz samples - Ahmad Jamal, Donald Byrd, Ronnie Foster, the usuals.
In his spare time Grudge goes digging. Originally, he would dig for records like the rest of the so-called DJ mugs (not to be confused with the actual DJ Muggs). But these days Grudge aims to get closer to the source. He takes me to a patch of dirt behind the basketball court. In one fluid movement he pulls out a spade from the bushes and plunges it into the earth, all to the clicks and chirps of the metronome. I try not to look perplexed. He tells me that this generation don’t understand digging culture. “Everything is on their Spotify and Netflix accounts, but they don’t understand the value of digging.” What is he digging for? Plenty. He likes rocks for example. “Rocks are old school. Before funk there was rock. Before breakin there was rockin’”.
Rocks are important, so he collects them. What else? On one dig he unearthed an artefact he believes to be a fragment from Kool Herc’s turntables from the pioneering party at 1520 Sedgwick which were stolen on his unannounced visit to Worcester Ballroom in ’89. This account has not been verified by the local archaeology society who believe it to be a part of a ring pull from a 1997 can of Lilt.
We crouch down on the earth in footwork position. Grudge opens up a pack of rizla and proceeds to roll a joint. A three skinner. He peppers it with small rocks from the dig and laces it with a grey powder that he describes as “high-grade Portland ceement, good shit, raw”. This is a Grudge original. “The electric doobaloo.” He has both christened and patented it. Hyper aware that people may copy the ingredients, even now, we stay low beneath the eyeline of potential biters and mugs. He passes the joint - I marvel at it, bursting at the seams, heavy with the devil’s lettuce, unearthed gems and Portland ceement. I breathe in, hold the bitter smoke in my mouth before sucking it down the dark pathway to my lungs.
Right there, in the dirt, something felt pure for a second. I listen to Grudge Oneski expand on his rules to live by as the effects of the electric doobaloo start to infiltrate my thoughts. I wanted to ask Grudge if some people might say he’d gone too far, if such commitment was a burden, if he was worried about Sure Gym, or a lack of practice spots. Dare I mention the Olympics? It felt like we were just getting into it. Maybe I did ask him, but I have no way of translating the answer. I was spinning out like a poor man's Ethan Hawke in Training Day ('didn’t know you liked to get wet though’). Grudge was on the edge too, having inhaled the majority of his invention. Paranoid about nearby biters and thinking he heard someone, he hurdled the fence like a racehorse in a tracksuit. For a second, I was certain I glimpsed the essence of ‘the flying knee’ and then he pegged it. As he launched himself I couldn’t move, I was stuck to the ground, ceemented there, frozen in time just the way Grudge likes it. In the distance I watched him pause to tag the word ‘mug’ over the mural we’d met at. I looked down at my gazelles, scuffed up from our endeavour, and when I looked back up, he was gone.
Still frozen, I reflect on the encounter. I try to climb a metaphorical mountain to get to some sort of neutral high ground. But as I start to climb I feel myself slip away in a landslide of self-doubt. I realise I had been judging Grudge Oneski. Something I told myself I wouldn’t do. And in doing so Grudge held up a mirror. My life which is eventful, full of friends, career prospects and comforts suddenly seemed empty. What is being a mug - a failure to follow your own rules? No! Music changes, so do priorities. That doobaloo!! I have lost my grip on reality. Is keeping it real real? I question his rules. Throwing the dick? Earning the respect of strangers? A never-ending bitterness washed down with a strict diet of liquidised hater fuel. But then what about my own life? No! It's more, something more, not being a mug is knowing what you’re about, knowing what your rules are. But what are my rules...and do I stick to them? Grudge was not right about everything, maybe not about anything, but somehow yes, about the main things he had a point. I should have dedicated myself to the four elements, why didn’t I? Is it too late? Have I found balance? Or in trying to live a double life did I make too many compromises? What does one...oneski...do with all this as one gets older - write essays about it? Why do I tell my work colleagues I dance but never specify the sort of dance? What am I embarrassed of and to who am I embarrassed?? Grudge Oneski wears his passion on his sleeve and tattooed on his neck. But I am ashamed. And I am ashamed that I am ashamed. And I am ashamed that I am ashamed that I am ashamed. What will make oneski content? What kind of legacy is a few clips online drowning in the infinite ocean of content? Am I polluting the ocean of content? Am I causing style pollution? Have I been living off beat this whole time? Am I a mug? I probably am.
 Breakers Appetite: A Nutritional Review, Don’t Bite, Blend. The Damage Caused by Biting, 2019. N.R. Chus et al (funded by the Huel foundation)
 Glyde Mag, Posture & Gestures that won’t get you killed, September 1988, Scrambles et Al
 Style pollution: a rarely used term originating at the intersection of hiphop and environmental activism. First coined by Skill Billski and the Cement Kings on the VHS tape Concrete Love (Save the Whales) which was supported by Greenpeace and distributed around the Scandinavian scene during the late 90’s
 In his paper, Offensive Gesture Classification, University of Polverhampton Sociology professor Eric Spoons put ‘throwing the dick’ in a list of offensive gestures alongside: ‘the chin flick’, ‘the fig’, ‘the forearm jerk’, ‘the moutza’, ‘the hump’ and ‘the bird flip’. While responses varied geographically, according to the R.U.D.E offense measuring criteria set up by Spoons the ‘throwing the dick’ gesture was rated as “very offensive” (the second highest classification) based on its sexually aggressive nature and the apparent absurdity of it.
 Universal Shelltoe Nation Get the Boot at Dance Awards Ceremony for Crimes against Hiphop, The Sauce, Worcester Hiphop Journal, Perrins et al, June 1994
Commissioned for Ink Cypher, May 2023
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Iain Bru is a bboy and organiser among other things creative. He started his hip-hop life in Edinburgh where he honed his craft battling and performing, and has been active on the breakin scene around the UK and Europe since the early 2000s. In 2010 he moved to East London, where he fell in with the #Unity collective: a group of likeminded dancers, DJs and artists with the aim of making cool shit happen while bridging the gap between the music and dance scenes. He cofounded their breakin chapter LMNade Associates before cocreating JAMuary: a dance jam inspired by house and pub parties, London club culture and their favourite dance jams. While remaining relatively underground, JAMuary has gained a reputation as one of the best nights around from music lovers and dancers alike, attracting a following from across the globe over the past eight years.
Iain Bleakley, Credit Raw Logik Clothing