Over the past 40 years, hip-hop has evolved from music’s renegade to the most popular genre in the world. And yet, it’s been a boys’ club for most of that time.
Fortunately, with time, the net of artists has expanded exponentially — which welcomed diverse content, backgrounds, dialects and sounds.
Artists like Butterscotch.
The Sacramento, CA native has been coined “the one-woman symphony,” due to her artistic versatility. A singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and... beatboxer.
And — an exceptional one at that.
Butterscotch became a household name after her meteoric rise during the second season of America’s Got Talent in 2007. She wowed audiences with her uncommon ability to sing, play the piano and belt out throaty, bass-heavy, pitch-varying beats simultaneously.
She uniquely intertwines beatboxing into her alternative R&B soundscape. Her gift — Doug E. Fresh would be proud — is an homage to one of hip-hop’s foundations.
Now let’s take a second and talk about hip-hop.
Its content — particularly in the ‘90s and early 2000s — has often been misogynistic, racy and sexist. This is a genre beloved by many, but its often abrasive content shuts out artists like Butterscotch — a lesbian and outspoken LGBTQ advocate.
Although she claims a piece of this culture with her beatboxing, she does not represent its ills. Instead, she chooses to use her platform to uplift and inspire.
Originally, Butterscotch was hesitant about coming out.
“I was scared for awhile, because I wasn’t sure if my fans would love and appreciate my authentic self,” she said in GayRVA. “But after I showed my true self, I received even more love. Don’t focus on the people bringing you down, because there are always people loving and supporting you.”
Times have changed since 1979 — or even 2009 — with the legalization of gay marriage, the #MeToo movement and other empowerment and civil rights movements. The LGBTQ community has emerged from the shadows, louder and stronger than ever.
Butterscotch is on the frontlines of this movement. But she still embraces hip-hop — a genre that has resented people like her for years. It was her out from her childhood depression.
“Beatboxing saved my life,” she said in one of her YouTube videos.
Hip-hop made Butterscotch the world’s first female beatboxing champion.
Hip-hop made her a household name.
Hip-hop gave her a chance to share the stage with Wyclef Jean, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire.
And she sees performing as her chance to give something back.
Butterscotch took a beautiful piece of a flawed genre and used it to showcase her talent and to spread positivity.
Much like how hip-hop knocked down the doors of its ancestors, such as jazz, funk, blues and rock, Butterscotch and hip-hop’s “renegades” are doing the same.
They’re striving for a culture that is more inclusive. And, in the process, making lemonade from hip-hop’s lemons.
Butterscotch will return to the Richmond Jazz Festival stage in August after a remarkable 2017 performance and last-minute heroics. (We are forever indebted to you!) Grab a ticket at www.richmondjazzfestival.com and come check out Butterscotch and our other incredible Richmond Jazz Festival acts!