Rahzel

The undisputed “Godfather of Noyze” has re-defined the beat box. A self-defined “vocal percussionist,” Rahzel (rhymes with ‘gazelle’) has perfectly mastered this quintessential hip hop art form and has emerged as a “true virtuoso.” To hear him is to be converted. Billboard Magazine proclaims : “Everyone should experience his fascinating rhythms…using just his lips, cheeks, gums, and Adam’s apple he (recreates), with amazing accuracy and detail, tracks from the magic mixing desks of Pete Rock…and others.” His mockery of instruments/arcade of sounds leaves audiences captivated, wondering “is he for real?”

Rahzel is best known as a member of The Roots, hip hop’s cutting-edge live band. Over the past several years he has emerged as the one to watch. His eagerly anticipated debut album on MCA Records, entitled The Fifth Element: Make the Music 2000 boasts guest performances by Aaron Hall, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest on “To The Beat,” and Black Thought of The Roots on the R&B flavored “Suga Sista.” Brandford Marsalis and Me’Shell N’Degeocello guest star on the psychedelic jazz/funky track “My Soul” and Pete Rock lends his production skills on the first single, “All I Know.” Rahzel’s band mates The Roots also produced and performed on several tracks on The Fifth Element: Make the Music 2000. The project is drenched with an urban eclectic edge/uniqueness that rejects categorization. A collage of almost every musical genre, it is well-positioned for classicism. A glance at Rahzel’s musical influences speaks to his appreciation for the art of making music. He draws from the line of Doug E. Fresh/Biz Markie, of Bobby McFerrin, and of Al Jarreau. He explains: “With my vocal percussions, I want to bridge the gap among various musical genres. I want the beat box to be respected as a true art form.”

Though his tastes do run far and wide, Rahzel is quick to acknowledge first and foremost his hip-hop origins. Growing up as a youngster in New York, Rahzel admired his cousin Rahim, a founding member of the pioneering Furious Five. “I remember watching Grand Master Flash before I could even see over the gate,” recalls Rahzel. “Having that influence alone was incredible.” Later, Rahzel roadied for Ultramagnetic MCs. “In every important phase of hip-hop, I was there,” he says, “absorbing everything that was going on.”

Rahzel grew up in Queens, New York and recalls that “not having” was never an excuse for “not doing.” Just as in its most organic state the essence of hip hop is ‘ making something out of nothing,’ Rahzel learned how to feed his need to be creative. “We didn’t have the turntables inside the locker room and we couldn’t bring our boom box in there. Either we were banging on the locker, or somebody was (making music) with their mouth. I was the one who made the beats with my mouth. I worked hard so that if you closed your eyes you would swear that you were hearing a record, a radio, or a band.” Over time, Rahzel’s own gifts for vocal percussion led him to seek his own career as an artist. Others, like Biz Markie, Doug E. Fresh, and the Fat Boys’ Buffy had made strides in the form, but Rahzel possessed a talent so great, he was soon recognized up and down the east coast as the premiere human beat box artist. He already had a thriving solo career when The Roots asked him to join their group. “Being with The Roots enhanced what I was doing even more,” says Rahzel. “We’re colleagues, and we have tremendous respect for each other. They respect my history, I respect theirs.” So how has this “Super DJ” maintained a raw, artistic integrity amidst the wave of commercialism that has conquered the hip hop scene? And how does he expect to keep us interested in what some might call an out-moded form of entertainment?

Perhaps The Source Magazine says it best: “Rahzel’s vision of hip hop, as with his sound, is poly-chromatic. (He) is the movement, the bridge where hip hop ffusions can meet.” Nay-sayers not yet initiated to the mystery of sound best prepare. A new wave reverberates the existing sound barrier. Rahzel “The Godfather of Noyze” has emerged as the new triumph.

Probably best known in the semi-mainstream world as a member of the Roots, Rahzel is an MC that specializes in the "fifth element" of hip-hop culture -- beatboxing (which comes after graffiti spraying, DJing, MCing, and breakdancing). He actively discourages classification of his sound, attempting to remain on the eclectic edge of the commercial music. According to the artist, his influences include Biz Markie, Doug E Fresh, Buffy of the Fat Boys, Bobby McFerrin, and Al Jarreau. His goal is to gain respect for beatboxing as a true art form on its own merits. Growing up, Rahzel looked up to his cousin Rahim of the Furious Five, and went to Grandmaster Flash's shows regularly. He later became a roadie for the Ultramagnetic MCs. Rahzel has in fact mastered the art of beatboxing, able to recreate full songs, with accompaniment by himself without instrumentation, able to sing a chorus and provide a backing beat simultaneously, able to invoke impressions of singers and rappers on a whim. Any fan of hip-hop should definitely invest in his Make the Music 2000 album.