Getting Ready for the Finale, Lil Mama Stands Tall as ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ Judge

It’s B-Girls, Beat Freaks versus B-Boys, Quest Crew in the season three live finale of MTV’s  Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) on Thursday, March 5 (10 p.m. EASTERN). The winner will receive $100,000 and the title, America’s Best Dance Crew.

The road to the finale wasn’t easy. In addition to battling their fellow competitors in weekly challenges, the crews had to endure the pointed critiques of three very tough judges: choreographer Shane Sparks, former N-Synch member and producer JC Chasez and hip hop artist Lil Mama.

I see you getting stuck on Lil Mama.

Don’t let the name fool you. Lil Mama is no shrinking violet.  She’s no Paula Abdul who is quick with the soft touch and kind words in the even presence of a bad performance. No, Lil Mama gives it to the crews straight. She’s just as quick with criticism as she is with praise and is never overshadowed by her fellow judges.

Lil Mama more than knows how to speak for herself.  Here’s what she had to say about her beloved Brooklyn, ABDC and hip hop.

The Ride: I was born and raised in Harlem but I now I live in Brooklyn and loving it.  Where in Brooklyn are you from?
Lil Mama: I’m from East New York, Brooklyn. I’ve lived all over Brooklyn though, Bedstuy, Bushwick, Brownsville, Coney Island, Crown Heights…I can go on and on. I also lived in Harlem most of my childhood. It’s kind of confusing but honest. [Laughs]

The Ride: I guess you can kind of guess my next question.  I know you are kind of tired of hearing about it. You got emotional seeing the Brooklyn crew, Ringmasters when you saw them perform for the first time. Why do you have so much love for your borough and its people?
Lil Mama: I have so much love for my borough, my state and anyone I can relate to. Most people who are from the original grounds I have walked on are struggling. I don’t mean we were suddenly devastated because the market crashed.  No. We’ve been in a recession for the past few decades. We naturally inherit poverty and lack of opportunity. We are very strong, so we know how make the best out of our situation. I get emotional when I see a group of young men like Ringmasters choose dancing over drugs and violence.

ABDC Judge and Hip Hop Artist Lil Mama    (photo: Just Real Eyez)
ABDC Judge and Hip Hop Artist Lil Mama (photo: Just Real Eyez)

The Ride: Enough about that. I just love you as a judge. Sometimes you make Simon [Cowell] from American Idol look soft.  It’s like you are telling them: “Go hard or Go Home”.  Do you think you are hard on the crews?    Why do you come at them like you do?
Lil Mama: As a judge, I am a very honest and open person. I give the crews advice — like “go hard or go home” — that was given to me and passed on because their success matters to me. To know that my words have a reflection on their lives and performance in the competition is a huge responsibility. I am not hard on the crews. I am honest! It’s a tough world out there. I’d rather be the one to say, “I told you so” as opposed to “Sorry I didn’t tell you”. At that point, what difference would I make? I am the Voice of the Young People!

The Ride: What has been your best moment as a judge?  Your worst?
Lil Mama: The best moment as a judge for me is watching the crews enjoy their artistry. Performing well, with great energy and delivery is very important to me. I also get an opportunity to reality check myself. It’s a beautiful thing. [smiles]

The Ride: Personally, I am loving this season.  There seems to be more variety of styles represented – from clogging to stepping. How do these crews stack up to the ones from previous seasons?
Lil Mama: This season compared to the previous seasons, doesn’t compare. All three seasons have been very unique and personal. You mentioned you are enjoying this season; I am enjoying season 3 also. It is a platform for a whole new level of performance.  New doors have opened for different styles of dance like clogging, stepping, flexing/bone breaking and B Girls. Now there will be groups who feel they can bring those styles even better or be inspired to bring a whole new style we have not seen on the show yet. I’m excited to see what season four has in store!

The Ride: Do you think the show has changed people’s minds about hip hop and dance?  And if so, how?
Lil Mama: I don’t think ABDC has changed anyone’s mind about hip hop dance. Hip hop dance is classical. I think we have reinformed people what it’s all about! With groups like Jabbawockees, SuperCrew, and Season 3 championship competitors, Quest Crew and Beat Freaks, we are reliving the 80’s with a new school twist. Hip Hop will live forever. It’s one of the most energetic eras. And everybody knows it! I am hip hop.

The Ride: That’s it. Thanks for representing both women in hip hop and of course, Brooklyn.
Lil Mama: Thank you, and your welcome. Peace!

Just in case you missed it, here’s a clip of Quest Crew doing their thing as they battle for a spot in the finale.


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