Who Is Tommy the Clown, The L.A. Legend From Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Not Like Us’ Video?

If you’ve been paying attention to hip-hop — and particularly Kendrick Lamar’s moves the past few weeks — you may have noticed a colorful afro’d character named Tommy the Clown. He was on stage dancing at Kendrick’s “The Pop Out” concert on Juneteenth during DJ Hed’s set and is also one of the stars of Lamar’s “Not Like Us” music video.

Kendrick Lamar – Not Like Us

Many of you may be wondering, “Who is this clown?” But for those in the know, he’s a legend that may be just as important to Los Angeles as Lamar himself.

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Who is Tommy the Clown?

Tommy performs at birthday parties and other celebratory events as a way to entertain guests just like any other clown. But his influence and impact go way deeper than that. In South Central Los Angeles, he’s a living legend.


Tommy Johnson was born in Detroit on Jan. 9, 1969. He was raised in South Central Los Angeles, where he created the “clowning” style of dance in the early 1990s as a form of entertainment and establishing peace. This style of dancing later evolved into what many hip-hop fans know today as “krumping.”

“The climate of this movement is important because it gives children, people and kids an outlet,” Tommy told the Los Angeles Times. “It gives them a sense of direction where they can do something that’s creative and express their talents and energy on the dance floor.”


“My favorite part about my job is creating smiles and laughter where they don’t exist. I like to create an atmosphere of joy, entertainment, laughter, energy, and it makes me happy to see people happy.”

History of Tommy the Clown – The Godfather of Krumping

Thanks to his prominent influence, young adults and children for the last three decades have joined Tommy’s crew, known as the “Hip Hop Clowns,” and have performed at parties and events throughout Los Angeles.


Even folks not directly associated with Tommy have created clown crews of their own to show off their dance moves. There are now dozens of clown crews in Los Angeles. But there are no violent clashes between clown crews — everything is handled on the dance floor.

These battles between crews became so popular that Tommy organized an official event for dancers in the community to battle it out, known as Battle Zone. This event was put on the international stage with the 2005 documentary, “Rize,” which tells the story of krumping and clowning and ends with the legendary Battle Zone event.


To this day, Tommy still organizes and hosts this iconic dance competition.


For parents who want their children to express themselves in the form of clowning and krumping, Tommy offers classes at his Tommy the Clown Hip Hop Academy.