Rahzel Provides Jewels On The History & Evolution Of Beatboxing (Video)

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Rahzel The Godfather of Noyze has become one of the household names for beatboxing. The New Yorker and onetime member of The Roots has worked with a range of artists including Erykah Badu, Ben Harper, Common, Rakim, Everlast, and Sean Paul, among many others. With more than 20 years of releasing records (Illadelph Halflife just celebrated its 20th anniversary), Rahzel has grown to be an educator through Beatbox University, who teaches workshops on beatboxing. Speaking with Doggie Diamonds TV, the onetime MCA Records hit-maker was asked to provide the history of the Hip-Hop vocal skill, as he knows it.

“I grew up in Queens, so I had a different perspective [than someone who grew up elsewhere]. The first beatboxer I ever heard was [Fat Boys member] Buffy from Brooklyn.” Buffy (f/k/a Buff Love the Human Beat Box) was born Darren Robinson. One of the breakout stars of Krush Groove, he tragically died of a heart attack in 1990. The trio would release their self-titled debut in early 1984, containing songs released on Sutra Records as The Disco 3. “The Bronx put [Hip-Hop] on the map, as far as recording. They dropped them jewels, ’cause the first beatboxer than I ever heard on tape was The Fat Boys when they [were known as] The Disco 3. That’s what spawned me to do what I do, hearing Buffy. But when I initially started out, there wasn’t no name [for beatboxing]. We didn’t no equipment. I had my crew; we was Positive Sounds.” Speaking about his own 1980s crew, Rahzel says that they performed in Rockaway, Queens with his beatboxing abilities emerging as a byproduct of having limited resources. “We either banged on the table or somebody did the beat with their mouth. That’s just natural progression.”

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Doggie Diamonds asks about Harlem’s Doug E. Fresh. “Honestly, I think Doug E. [Fresh] was already out,” he says of the early 1980s. Rahzel’s cousin, Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five is who put him onto the Get Fresh Crew front-man. “When I heard Doug, Doug was on a whole ‘nother level. So I gotta give Doug credit, because when I heard Doug [he] already was the man. When I did my research, I was goin’ to Harlem World […] Doug was the man; he was the king of The Apollo.” Like The Fat Boys, Doug’s first music was released in 1984, care of “Just Having Fun (Do The Beatbox)” on Enjoy Records.

“I think back then, I think Doug E.’s style was more advanced. To me, for him to be [that] advanced, he probably had to start at an earlier date—from what I know for my information,” admits Rahzel, who performed with Doug and Nicole Paris at the 2015 BET Hip Hop Awards. “Once [Doug E. Fresh] came out with his records, and once The Disco 3 blew up as ‘The Fat Boys,’ that just changed the game forever. ‘Cause then you had Ready Rock C [of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince], The Skinny Boys from Connecticut, D-Nice was the beatbox [with Boogie Down Productions], Greg Nice, Biz [Markie]—there was a lot of beatboxers. Every crew had a beatboxer in it. You had to; that was an essential thing to have if you had a crew.” While Rahzel would come to prominence in the mid-1990s, he asserts that he was putting in work back then. “At that point I was like the underground king; I was going to every borough, just bodying everybody.”

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Doggie Diamonds also asks Rahzel about his time with The Roots, which lasted between 1995 and 2001. Rahzel was involved in Do You Want More?!!!??!, Illadelph Halflife, and the award-winning Things Fall Apart), among other live and compilation work. “To me, touring with a band was hand-and-glove. Basically, what [The Roots brought] to the table [musically], I did vocally. It was like a perfect match.” He explained that his exit from the group before Phrenology was far from bitter. “Scratch was [brought into The Roots] because ‘All I Know’ took off. With my contractual obligation to MCA/Universal Records [as a solo artist], I had to take care of that. So that’s when Scratch came in.” Scratch, who is listed as a band member since 1996, appeared on Illadelph Halflife and Things Fall Apart. He would leave the group in the mid-2000s.

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Pete Rock also briefly appears in the interview. He worked with Rahzel on 1999’s Make The Music 2000 album.