Those magic words can trigger a special kind of anxiety for New York commuters. It’s the rallying cry that kicks off performances from the city’s “hitters”—groups of young men who do gravity-defying dance routines on subway cars for pocket change. But even the most hardened straphanger has to admit: Some of these kids are insanely talented. WAFFLE (short for We Are Family for Life Entertainment) are Q-train regulars. A loose confederation of teenagers from Harlem and Brooklyn, they perform after school.
Where did you learn about hitting?
Malik “Roscoe” Palmer: I was on the train with my brother, and we’d never seen hitting before. We was so excited, like, “Oh my God!” We wanted to try that, so we tried it in the house, and after that, we’d do it on the R and try not to get caught.
When is the best time for hitting?
Palmer: Summertime’s good, because there’s lots of tourists. Foreigners love us. They give us all their money. If we see a car with a bunch of people speaking another language, we’re like, “This is the car, right here!”
What do you say to work the crowd?
Palmer: It depends. If it’s a loud crowd, packed, we have to get their attention. So we say, “Showtime! Just five sexy brothers getting along!” And I’ll say, “We’re strippers,” and another guy will say, “He meant to say ‘flippers’!”
Favorite subway lines?
Palmer: The Q, J, L, and A have more time between stops, so there’s more time to dance.
Joel “Arrow Ace” Leitch: You can go on the other trains, but you’re more likely to get arrested.
Is there rivalry with other hitting crews?
Palmer: There’s no rivalry. If two crews are at the same train, one will take the train from one side of the conductor car, and the other takes the other.
What’s your signature move?
Geovanni “Geo” Byas: The first dance we did is lite feet.
Leitch: But then we’d incorporate our own style. We started an epidemic.
What’s “lite feet”?
Palmer: It’s not one move, it’s, like, all the moves: breaking, flexing, choreography, everything mixed up together. It’sall from Cry Baby Cozy, from Harlem. He started it in, like, 2007, then everyone got hooked. Before that, the style was break dancing.
What’s the hardest move?
Palmer: Back tuck. It’s a back flip but with no hands.
Have you ever gotten hurt?
Palmer: I fell one time from hanging upside down. Right on my back. I got up and kept dancing, though. And when I got up, the crowd was really into it.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you while you were out?
Palmer: An old man tried to do a pole trick. He was like, “Hey, I can do that, too!” and started spinning around on the pole upside down. He was really good!
Watch the video below to see WAFFLE in action.