Published Feb 01, 2000Since the days of the Fat Boys and Doug E. Fresh, the art of beat-boxing has survived on that principle of simple expression first coined by Biz Markie: "Just make the music with your mouth."
Rahzel, the self-proclaimed Godfather of Noyze, has lived according to this adage for years while performing with the Roots, and now with greater fruition on his solo debut,Make the Music 2000 . With his penchant for emulating everything from the staccato in a Timbaland break, to the vocal tones on "Moments In Love," to the well-known, sonic-caricature of feminine orgasms sampled in house music, the man turns it out like Rich Little and Bobby McFerrin cross-faded at the mouth. However, the essence of Rahzel ultimately lies in his playful approach to sound and words - that child-like sense of enthusiasm that tends to be rare in these post-adolescent years of contemporary hip-hop culture.
"I think we're at a period in hip-hop where everything is pretty much serious," he says during a tour stop in Munich, Germany, "and that leaves a lot of the younger kids out of the music. Someone who's five or seven years old can't really be involved with it because of all the negative connotations about drugs, sex and violence. It shouldn't always be like where you're saying 'Okay, you're too young for hip-hop, so wait 'til you're older.' You want to be able to reach that new, younger generation."
So instead of signifying his ego with advertisements-in-rhyme for high fashion designers and expensive cars, Rahzel's muse gets hype with references to Voltron, Transformers, the Wonder Twins and KITT (with the low-ride hydraulics) fromKnight Rider - all the things that originally brought him into his talent.
"When I was young, I was very impressionable," he explains, "I was always able to imitate different sounds and people on TV and that kind of evolved into what I do now. All kids have that ability, because when you're young, your mind is like a sponge. You're able to absorb a lot - you absorb more than an adult."
It might be impossible to keep that kind of imagination alive while touring with The Roots as well as a solo act, but Rahzel manages to keep his links with the minds of the three-feet-high-and-rising generation. He's just finished doing the voiceovers for a NBA Live video game and is also working on a book for children. And when he's not busy with the industry, he's rehearsing at home with an even more sophisticated audience - his own kids.
"I'm like the cinema in 3D," he says. "I got millions of toys all over my crib. My sons have me doing all the sound effects and voices, recreating different scenes fromStar Wars . That keeps me creative, because I know what they like and what keeps their attention. And to me, whatever will keep a child's attention will keep an adult's attention, because there's a kid in everybody."