Episode 3

Battles are the biggest event on a beatboxer’s calendar. Join Tani at the 2018 American Beatbox Championship. You’ll hear about the 2018 champion, Bloomer, and how it took him half a decade to earn his title. You’ll also hear from an up-and-coming beatboxer named Abdulla, who learned battle techniques at the American Champs and used them at a smaller battle soon after.  All that and more in Episode 3: Battles.

American Beatbox Championship 2018
Amit, “Fresh”
Elisii, Brez, Balistix, Bloomer, Ben Mirin, State Street, The Beatbox House
Abdulla Fantasy Battle
Abdulla vs Hunty Beats

HumanBeatbox.com
Beatbox International
Beatbox Talk Discord
The Orthobox, Tyla Dubya, KaO Beatbox, HBB Spit Snare Tutorials

SpeshFX Guests Playlist
Beatbox Basics
www.speshfx.com
@SpeshFX
Email Us: SpeshFXPodcast@gmail.com

Transcript

Tani: You've been into Beatboxing for a while now. Or at least two episodes. You've got your favorite sounds, you subscribed to Swissbeatbox on YouTube, and you even got a shoutout on a major beatboxer's instagram story. Now what? It's time to move from online to the real thing: battles.

Scott Jackson: I say the 3, y'all say the 2 and the 1!! 3!! 2!! 1!!

[Intro Music: Fifty Fifty by Braden Mitchell]

Tyla Dubya: There are people that I’ve now known for years. We see each other maybe once or twice a year but every time we see each other we’re like “Aw dude! Whatsup?!”

Brez: They want to be entertained, so I'm just gonna do something crazy. I'm just gonna entertain them.

Tani: A beatbox battle works as follows. Two beatboxers trade their best mouth sounds, and a jury decides who mouth sounded the best. If that sounds insanely cool to you, that's because it is.

Before we actually get to the battles, we need to go over a crucial element of battle preparation. At a beatbox battle, you get your face melted repeatedly, and thus you need to assemble your grimiest and gnarliest faces to be ready to properly react. So bare your teeth, shake your head, pull your bottom lip back, and practice that shit in the mirror so that when we get to the battles you will be ready to react appropriately. And if you need inspiration, check out the SpeshFX reacts highlights on instagram. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 

Let's practice. When you hear Amit leaning back deep in the pocket I need you to go hard wherever you are listening.

 

[Fresh by Amit]

 

Tani: My teeth hurt from clenching my jaw together. How'd you do? The crazy thing is, that's a recording. I can tell you from personal experience, beatboxing sounds completely different live. The snares slap harder, the basses rumble lower, and most importantly, you can actually see the performance. But it's hard to explain to people outside the beatbox community. Even if you're a world class beatboxer!

 

Elisii: My sister, I would show her videos like every day, I'd be like, “yo watch this watch this” and like she could not get into it. 

 

Tani: But once she came to a battle, it was a different story.

 

Elisii: Since then she's been like watching all the videos and she like, she wants to come to the tournaments and everything just because she's seen it live.

 

Tani: That's Elisii. He's a 2-time Canadian champion and top-8 in the world at the 2018 world champs. He sits at home, beatboxing insane fire, and still his sister needed to come to a live event to convince her that it's worth following. So the battles are a crucial event for the community. But everyone has to get there. For some people, traveling to battles is just a matter of booking an Air BNB and hopping in the car, but for other fans and beatboxers like DKoy from Beatbox Talk, it gets more complicated. 

 

DKoy: I was first introduced to the live scene in early 2015. At the time I was fourteen, so I had to travel to all the events with my parents and it took a while before I could gain their trust to where I could travel to events alone.

 

Tani: The minimum age to compete at most battles is 16, and many of beatboxing's biggest fans are teenagers whose parents aren't so keen on sending their kids across the country for weekends at a time. I met Vanessa at the American Beatbox Championships. She and her family live in Georgia, and she makes her beatboxing son work hard to get to competitions.

 

Vanessa: My son saves his money, pays for the hotel and the airfare for both of us to come to these events. 

 

Tani: So where does he get the money from? Where does he work?

 

Vanessa: He works at Target!

 

Tani: It isn't just up and comers who have to figure out the money issue. Even Wunknown, the 2017 American Beatbox champ, had to put together a Go Fund Me so he could represent the US at the World Champs in Berlin in 2018. Once battlers have their logistics sorted out, they can focus on the hard stuff: you know, the beatboxing? Brez told me about how he prepped for battles just after he competed in the World Champs and won the French Loopstation title.

 

Brez: We are real geeks. I remember before the world championship, June and July I literally stopped working. I stopped all the workshops I had, because I give workshops, beatbox workshops. I stopped all my workshops, so I stayed at home and I practiced 10 hours a day, every day for 2 months because I just wanted to have the most perfect set possible. 

 

Tani: You gotta respect that hustle. And I got to enjoy the final product without doing any work myself at the 2018 American Beatbox Championships.

 

[End of part 1. Transition music: The Baddest by Richard Smithson]
 

Scott Jackson: I'm gonna ask you until you guys make enough noise and we have enough energy to get you going into this half, so if you're ready for the battles, MAKE. SOME. NOISE!

 

[Cheers from the crowd]

 

Tani: I got to the 2018 American Champs in the middle of the second night of the competition. I keep Shabbat — which means that I rest on Friday nights and SaturDAYS — and most beatbox events run from Friday to Sunday. So by the time I got to Brooklyn on Saturday night, I was amped, but everybody else was settled and in the flow of things. I spent Friday night and Saturday wondering what I missed, and they got to see the performances!

 

The welcome table wasn't even set up anymore so I just waltzed in. The scene kind of reminded me of finals in high school. I know that sounds ridiculous, but bear with me. In my high school the entire school took finals in one big room, and before the test we all had to wait outside in the cafeteria while the teachers set up. There were freshmen huddled around a triangle in the corner, and a couple juniors reciting poetry to themselves along a wall, and then the majority of the people chilling. Because, screw it.

 

I saw groups clustered like this around the battle. People circled up rocking a hip hop cypher, a dude standing off to the side with a hand over one ear working on a drum and bass set, and an indiscriminate auditory trail of cheers and beatboxing dragging me up the stairs by my ears. Soon after I got upstairs the inward bass god himself was on the mic. INERTIA!! 

 

[Bass from Inertia and cheers in the background]

 

Tani: Part of attending your first battle is adjusting to the live scene. The sounds are different and you're watching and hearing through your own eyes and ears instead of through a camera and headphones, but more than anything, Elisii and DKoy, explained to me that you have to settle the fact that this thing you saw online is real, alive and unexpectedly mortal.

 

Elisii: It was crazy. The initial reaction I had was “wow, you're all shorter than I thought you would be.”

 

DKoy: I was super nervous and I see all these people jamming and like making music and I was shy to join in but the community is super like opening and warm, and as time progressed I just met new people, became friends with them and performing live now is essentially just like performing in front of your friends.

 

[Beatboxing by Bloomer]

 

Tani: That's Bloomer, he won the title that weekend, and is now the reigning American Solo Champion. Bloomer has been competing at the American Champs since 2013 and until this past year he had never even reached the finals. Winning a national championship is a tremendous honor, and many world-class beatboxers never reach that pinnacle. Ben Mirin has been attending the American champs almost as long as Bloomer, and he told me more about Bloomer's long journey to the championship.

 

Ben Mirin: That kid deserves it. He’s been working so hard. We had a heart to heart before the battles even started. The attitude he had about this championship going into it was different than the way I had heard him before.

 

Tani: One of the things that stood out to me about Bloomer's performances was that they all made sense together. They built up to the final and culminated with his victory. The same can be said for Bloomer's battle career. All the victories and losses, both expected and not expected, made Bloomer a champion worth crowning.

 

[Kaila Mullady announcing Bloomer as the 2018 Champ]

 

Tani: Winning the American Champs solidified Bloomer among the best of the best, and his reward is an invitation to the next Beatbox Battle World Championships, which is held every two or three years in Berlin. He will now have the chance to compete for Beatbox's highest honor. The title of world champion. But for every Michael Jordan, there are a hundred Brad Wannamakers. The majority of people at beatbox battles are beatboxers too, but they will never be national champions. And that's ok. For them, the battles are only part of the allure of the event. All the stuff happening around the battles, that is their moment. And as it happens far too often for me, my moment came in the bathroom....

 

Tani: STATE SIDE BEATBOX. STATE SIDE BEATBOX. TANI LEVITT. WE'RE GONNA LEARN A LIP ROLL RIGHT NOW. All right, get on the mic. 

 

State Street: Yo we're gonna lip roll right now, I'm teaching this man how to lip roll y'all. I dunno what the mic quality is dude, I don’t know what the video quality is dude. (Tani in background: No video, this is for a podcast.) For a podcast?

 

Tani: I definitely stood out walking around with a zoom recorder and a mic in my hand. State Street (aka Xavier) saw me in the bathroom and asked me what was the deal…

 

State Street: This is for Tani: This is a Lip Roll 

 

[Lip rolls]

 

Tani: It was a bit embarrassing. He asked me to beatbox and as we all know, I'm no good at beatboxing. I certainly can't do any fancy sounds like a lip roll. So State Street insisted that he teach me right then and there.

 

State Street: Alright, so we’re gonna learn some lip rolls right now.

 

Tani: As bizarre as this sounds, these interactions are commonplace at battles. Beatboxers love to share and to use battles as a chance to grow. Even national champs like Elisii do this.

 

Elisii: It's basically like a cheat code. Every time I go to an event I leave and I'm like I just leveled up automatically just from being around other beatboxers.

 

Tani: This year the American Beatbox Championship hosted a beatbox workshop with members of the Beatbox House, a collective of champion beatboxers. They did breath work and hosted fantasy battles for participants to work on their stage presence and then get feedback from experts. We will hear from one of the participants in the fantasy battle. We'll hear the fantasy battle itself, his real battle at the East Coast battle a month later, and his thoughts on growth, performance, and the meaning of life.

 

[End of part 2. Transition music: The Baddest by Richard Smithson]

 

Abdulla: I didn't run it by anybody because I wanted it to be a surprise, but then maybe I should have.

 

Tani: Oh wait. 

 

[Record Scratch]

 

Tani: I'm getting ahead of myself. The fantasy battles were on Sunday afternoon. Most of the biggest names chose to sleep late, but the room was full of up and coming American beatboxers. With World Class Beatbox educators leading the class, people were pumped to level up.

 

[Bmm t t Pff warmup]

 

Tani: After a quick warmup (which you might have heard me participating in if you listened closely) the teachers from the beatbox house started calling up beatboxers to participate in fantasy battles. 

 

Chris Celiz: There won't be a winner. But what we're gonna do is we're going to critique the battle after it happens. Uh and make sure to introduce yourself to the people!

 

[cheers]

 

Abdulla: Hey guys, I'm Abdulla. 

 

Tani: And here's our man. Abdulla Jastania ready for his first live battle ever. I didn't know anything about him at the time, but I remember walking away from the battle thinking, this dude is solid. I'm gonna talk to him later.

 

[beatboxing by Abdulla, fades under Tani after a few seconds]

 

Tani: That swing you heard right there? Gets me every time. You just lean back in the pocket and mmmm. 

 

[fast beatboxing by Abdulla]

 

Judge: Time

 

[applause]

 

Abdulla: That was my first time probably battling someone on a proper mic system. I learned a lot about mic technique in that battle. That's probably my main takeaway.

 

Tani: And if Abdulla noticed the mic technique stuff, you better believe the teachers did too. Here's what 2016 Grand Beatbox Battle champion Kenny Urban had to say.

 

Kenny Urban: And that’s one thing I would say to you is you had some really great structure in your beats, and you had a lot of cool sounds and stuff, but I did notice  when you were beatboxing you were *beatboxes far from mic* and the difference between that and *beatboxes tight to mic* is like tenfold. So really getting your mouth - and it takes a while, mic technique is something that is specific to each individual beatboxer cuz we all have different sounds. So it's something we recommend to do is just beatbox on a microphone as much as you can.

 

Tani: Abdulla had time to internalize Kenny's advice. In 6 weeks he would be competing at the east coast beatbox battle. he'd be back on mic and could use the skills he learned at the fantasy battle to chase his first victory. Preparing for a live battle is very different from preparing for a fantasy battle. The crowd and judges at real battles scrutinize every sound and beat instead of supporting the artist. Abdulla had six weeks to put together sets that would get the people going. Remember what Brez said about battle prep…

 

Brez:  So, when I'm on stage, I'm thinking of the people in the crowd. I'm like okay, they want to be entertained, so I'm just gonna do something crazy. I'm just gonna entertain them. Like, so they paid their ticket to be here. I mean let's do something good for them so that they can remember it after.

 

Tani: For someone like Brez who has been battling since 2011, this is a familiar process, and each beatboxer has to learn for her or himself how to entertain the crowd in their own way. Abdulla found a... unique way to do that. He built a set around a 4 year old penis innuendo.

 

Abdulla: I don’t know, I thought it would be funny. I didn't run it by anybody because I wanted it to be a surprise, but then maybe I should have.

 

[Abdulla beatboxing in his battle: *BASS* I heard you like my PP *BASS* i heard you like my WHAT??]

 

Abdulla: Cuz then they would have been like "dude, this is going to be memorialized on the internet forever. You shouldn't do this.” And then I would be like, “you know what, you're right.”

 

Abdulla: I just thought, well you know pee pee kind of sounds like the *inward P* and I was like okay, maybe this could be something. 

 

Tani: Looking back, I'm not sure it was something. And given the whole penis situation I doubt Abdulla will ever battle with that routine again. But the experience of going to two battles in six weeks will stay with him for a long time. 

 

Abdulla: If I didn't go to New York, I feel like I wouldn't have gone to East Coast. Because the people I met there, I met people from my state in New York that I didn't even know existed, and they were the ones that wanted to drive up to Boston and we just like carpooled all the way up there. And if I didn't meet them, I wouldn't have, you know, wanted to do that by myself. After competing, just that one weekend, those three days, I feel like I’ve leveled up more than I have in the past year.

 

Tani: Beatbox is such a grind. I mean, it took me days to poorly learn a spit snare. If I wanted to incorporate that into a set, I would have had to quit the podcast and only work on that. For Abdulla, and for so many other beatboxers, it's the support of the community that drives them to come to events and to push themselves. I want to go out with something my buddy The Orthobox told me. He just brought this up, unprovoked.

 

The Orthobox: Beatboxing, at least when you first start out, is such a... it's a very solitary skill acquisition process. There's such a long period between starting or knowing that you want to beatbox and then getting to a point where you feel comfortable sharing that with someone else. I mean that process, depending on how aggressive you are with your learning, that can be 3 months, that can be 3 years, so I feel like there's gotta be a shoutout to those people who you know they're grinding, learning new sounds and stuff.

 

Tani: The battles are the biggest events on a beatboxer's calendar, but they are so much more than that.

 

[Outro Music: Fifty Fifty by Braden Mitchell]

 

Tani: Family reunions, sources of motivation, lifetime achievements. For each beatboxer the battles provide some sort of magic. No matter if you're competing for a title, or just going to learn alongside fellow beatboxers. And someone has to facilitate all that magic. Next Episode you will meet the people who make that possible. The community organizers, the thought leaders, the teachers. All that and more in the next Episode of SpeshFX.

 

You can find links to Abdulla's battles, Bloomer's championship winning battle, and Amit's Fresh and Clean in the show notes. Special shoutout to Kazu Human Beatbox dot Com for extra assistance with this episode. Don't forget to follow @SpeshFX on Instagram and check out speshfx.com, it’s pretty cool. Also, if you want to reach out, we always love talking about beatboxing. SpeshFXpodcast@gmail.com. In the meantime, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and give a nice rating and review. Until next time, I'm Tani Levitt. Esh!