Beatbox Trends  – Part 1

Beatbox Trends in 1990s

Beatboxing, as we know it now in 2022 has evolved in many shapes, forms and trends over the past 40 years. While the history can be dated back for many many years, we will look at it’s modern origins in the 1980’s and see how the trends and styles evolved over those years into the 1990’s.

The Human Beatbox

In the 1980’s beatbox pioneers such as Doug E Fresh, Buffy from The Fat Boys and Biz Markie made their name performing at hip hop shows across New York City.

With beatboxing being so fresh and new to the scene, it meant the sounds these artists created were very unique. For example Doug E Fresh was famous for his clicks and click rolls, Buffy for his breathing techniques and Biz Markie for his signature snare and rapping while beatboxing.

Doug E. Fresh – Interview – Old School Hip-Hop 1986 (source : dutch television – Harlem 1986)

Buffy – The Fat Boys Human Beat Box New York Hot Tracks 1984 (source : LONGLIVEROCKTHEWHO’s Youtube Channel)

Biz Markie – One Two (source : Biz Markie’s Youtube Channel)

From videos and live shows you can see audiences were wowed by these skills that they had never seen before and really put a spotlight on these beatbox legends that paved the way for the modern generation.

Beatboxing in groups

The beatboxer played a key part in many hip hop groups from the 1980’s & 90’s. Their role was mainly to supply a beat for the emcees or add additional texture to tracks that were performed. Buffy from The Fat Boys is a great example of this, being the backbone of some of their tracks and live performances and they even had a track released called “The Human Beatbox”. Doug E. Fresh also used his beatboxing as part of the Get Fresh Crew where he rapped and beatboxed throughout one of their songs, “The Show”, “Lad Di Da Di” and “The Original Human Beat Box”. Going into the 90’s, Rahzel “The Godfather of Noise” & Scratch from The Roots would beatbox at live shows and performances to intro songs, add different dynamics to performances and would also MC on tracks for a true versatile performance.

Doug E. Fresh & Get Fresh Crew (source : N2OH’s Youtube channel)

The Fat Boys (source : kaliner’s Youtube channel)

Rahzel & The Roots (source : RhymanTube’s Youtube channel)

Rahzel & The Roots (source : chambers of hourrors’s Youtube channel)

Scratch – The Roots (source : 5henan1gans’s Youtube channel)

We can see with beatboxers such as Rahzel and Scratch that the style and sound evolved a bit. Rahzel created more robotic and bass synth type sounds and Scratch truly imitates the sound of a DJ and vinyl records.

Source : Rahzel & Scratch on Beatbox TV’s Youtube Channel

What is also an interesting find is the video below of Ready Roc C, the former beatboxer who toured with Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. In this performance he had a solo section in their show and performed covers of well known songs and TV Themes of that era, plus a fun segment imitating a video arcade game of Donkey Kong. This was definitely a great crowd pleasing performance and worked well for this kind of show.

Ready Roc C (source : Jonah Sherr’s Youtube channel)

Notable Sounds

Looking back at available content from these times we can see an amazing range of unique and original sounds. Beatboxer’s core or basic sounds (kick, hi-hat & snare) were strong and identifiable to the artist. For example you can hear the clear difference between a Doug E. Fresh kick and snare against the same from Buffy or Rahzel which made each beatboxer stand out in their own right. Added to this every beatboxer had a recognisable “special sound” or technique. We can hear this in Rahzel’s robotic sound fx and bass, Doug E. Fresh’s click rolls and high pitch synth sound and Buffy’s breathing/vocal technique and lip bass

Summary

Even in the early mainstream stages of beatboxing, we can see these pioneers of the art form really set the trends and building blocks that are still relevant and quite rightly used today. This validates more than ever that you must show respect to those who came before you and paved the way. 

Are they beatbox pioneers we have missed who definitely need a mention? Are there any other trends in this era you can spot? Let us know in the comments!

In the next article, we will look at how the evolution of the internet and more beatboxers being able to connect worldwide introduced different trends into the scene.

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