by Sky Disco
Awestruck, as I arrived at Le Poisson Rouge for the American Beatbox Championships on Sunday, I found it packed with earlybird fans and had to wiggle my way toward the stage for a better view. I had no idea that beatboxing was as popular as it indeed is. The first round of battles had already begun and the 3 celebrity judges were deliberating. Among them were Rahzel of the Legendary Roots, Butterscotch who was an America’s Got Talent finalist as well as the world’s first female beatbox champ; and Canada’s champion KRNFX (pronounced “Korean Effects”). Their decision would determine which competitor in the present battle would continue in their quest and which would exit the competition. The tension in the air grew thick as the judge offered their evaluation of abilities. They gave thoughts on showmanship, clarity, creativity and vigor. Sixteen prospective champions came from all over the country, hailing from seven different states.
It was stunning to witness full songs complete with lyrics, drums, bass, synths and special effects all created with a person’s voice and a microphone. Apparently, hours of rehearsal is required to achieve the precision and flow that many of the competitors brought Sunday night. The intensity and hunger to win radiated in different ways from all of the beatboxers. I felt a bit squeamish each time the mic was passed after I witnessed the furious spit and sweat that doused it during each battle.
The first battle that stood out in a big way by causing controversy within the venue, was between Atlanta resident, Heaven and Delaware’s, Orthobox. Both performers delivered strong, catchy rhythm’s with clever vocal lines. It seemed a shame that either one of them would have to leave the championship so early in the game. The judges had difficulty making a decision and asked for an audience meter to help sway their decisions. By the strength of their applause, it appeared that Orthobox had the audience vote. The final vote rested on Rahzel. His vote rested upon Heaven, for the sake of his crisp sound and musical style. An uprising from the audience detailed their disdain, but according the rules, one contender had to vacate the competition. Moving forward through the night, Heaven landed a spot in the final bout for 1st place against Rizumik from NYC. The entertainment value that Rizumik brought in conjunction with passion and impeccable technique had everyone at his beckoning when he called for crowd participation and resulted in a championship win. The second and third place winners were, Heaven and J-Flo respectively.
Similar to many music festivals, the show never seemed to stop. Between rounds, there were at least 7 quality performers and a live band. All three judges displayed their amazing skill, further proving their qualification to sit on the panel at such an event. Additional sets included: Grammy winner - Maya Azucena, MCs Hasan Salaam and Eternia, Word of Mouth and more.