Butterscotch “Desire” (XXL Magazine, 2007)
A One-Woman Band Woman Does It All
Though much has been said about the lack of female representation in hip-hop, 21-year-old Antoinette “Butterscotch” Clinton is doing her part to change that perception. By incorporating beatboxing into her multidimensional act, the beatboxer/singer/pianist is putting a fresh spin on one of hip-hop’s oldest art forms.
Brought up in a musical household in Davis, Calif., Butterscotch found an ear for melody early. At age five, the young music connoisseur was taught classical piano by her mom (a piano teacher) and soon added vocal, guitar, saxophone and bass lessons to her repertoire. It wasn’t until her senior year in high school that she became fascinated with the art of beatboxing, after watching a friend flaunt his skills. “It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen, so I wanted to try it,” recalls Butterscotch. “There’s all this music going on in my head, so what’s more convenient than having it with you all the time?”
Studying different drum patterns, as well as beatboxing greats like Doug E. Fresh and Rahzel, Butterscotch worked to refine her new talent. After finishing high school, she enrolled as a music major at California State University in Sacramento and started hitting jam sessions with local MCs and jazz musicians. Singing classic jazz tunes like “Summertime” (George Gershwin) and “My Valentine” (made popular by Miles Davis) while beatboxing and playing the keys, the budding entertainer created her own distinct hip-hop blend. “I like to put my own twist on different songs that I grew up listening to,” she says. “Like Motown, jazz [and] classical.” Taking her diverse act worldwide, Butterscotch won first place honors at the 2005 First International World Hip-Hop Female Beatbox Championship. In July of that ’06, Verizon reps, who had heard about her reputation as a top female beatboxer, recruited Butterscotch to participate in a music project with her idols Rahzel, Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie. Impressed with her skills, Rahzel then hired her as a standby member of his hip-hop band Peeping Tom. “She’s a female, and she’s holding it down where most brothers can’t,” says Rahzel. “Most beatboxers are one-dimensional.”
This past summer, Butterscotch seized an opportunity to compete for a million-dollar prize on NBC’s variety show America’s Got Talent, where she came in third place. With plans to record an as-yet-untitled debut album, the multitalented performer is helping keep the tradition of beatboxing alive. “It’s a really underrated art form. People don’t even need instruments to make music,” says Butterscotch. “I just try to incorporate everything I know into what I do.”
She’s a movement by herself. —William E. Ketchum III