Neighborhood Legends: The Human Beatboxers (circa '84-'87)

January 16, 2012 8 min read

In August of ’84 I had just moved to Ft Riley, KS and was starting my Freshmen Year (there as a Freshmen you were still in Middle School, High School started in the 10th grade). The Hip Hop phenomenon had definitely begun spreading, but there still weren’t a lot of people trying to be Rap Stars yet in terms of Junior High and High School students. The bulk of all the Hip Hop participants were the Army GIs who were a little bit older on the Military Base. That is, with the exception of Breakdancing. This was post the Flashdance movie spark and right in the heat of the Breakin’ and Beat Street craze, so just about anyone who thought they were at least half cool was trying to bust a move.

However, there were hardly any DJs in our school. I don’t actually remember any. There were at least a couple in the neighboring Junction High School, where we would graduate to next year; Quiet Killer a.k.a Jeff Snyder, who would become the DJ for my group, 3D Crew, just a year later and of course, Reggie Jackson was the DJ celebrity around town and rocked it at the Junction City Skating Rink every weekend*.

As far as School-Age MCs, the only ones I remember at the time were my crew, 3D Crew (MC T.N.T, MC Capri, and me, MC Coolie) in the Junior High and Champagne at the High School. We were the young up and comers and she was the BOSS.

It was about the same amount of contributors for the Human Beat Boxers, which was a new skill that was just catching on courtesy of the Fat Boys and Doug E Fresh, particularly his part in Beat Street with the Treacherous 3. There are 4 main names that were holding it down in our part of town.

The first guy I ever remember hearing doing beats with his mouth in person was a cat name Manuel. The funny thing is I just remembered him when I sat down to write this. I had forgot all about him. As a result my memories are limited. I do remember he mainly played the beats from his throat. He rarely opened his mouth. He focused mainly on rocking Electro styles like “Planet Rock”. It was just something he used to do walking thru the halls from one class to the next. Sometimes we would just be walking by and hear him throwing down and make a quick u-turn and walk next to him, out of our way, to hear him rock and then have to run to class and yell out something to him like, “You are Ice Cold man!!”, which seems like appropriate slang for the time. I don’t really remember him rocking for any ciphers or ever trying to jump in Rapping while he was getting off. I was trapped in Fan mode, when I heard him doing his thing I wasn’t thinking about Rapping, I was thinking about listening. I wish more Rappers were like that...ha. I seem to recall he moved away pretty quickly in the school year, so we didn’t get to experience his style too much.

Secondly, there was Eddie Love.  He was the youngest of the three Love Brothers, who were some of the coolest cats in the area. They were smooth, good-looking, and tough. Eddie Love, and at least one of his brothers, were also down with the Ft Riley Breaking Patrol and had the ill popping moves (I still got this VHS tape I need to convert!!).

When I moved away to North Chicago, IL, Eddie Love hooked up with T.N.T to form Phase 3 and did a few demos that had Eddie Love on the Human Beatbox and back-up vocals. I hadn’t seen Eddie Love since ’85, until I was on tour for Scribble Jam in like ’07 and ran to him at the Orlando Venue where he was working security! It was a bugged out moment to just run into him randomly. The world is a small place sometimes. He’s still smooth as ever and keeping himself busy, playing sports, kickboxing and just doing his thing. I suppose I still owe him a thanx for not beating me up in ’85…ha**.

Phase 3-Practice Session:
[audio:|titles=Phase 3-Practice Session Edit]

In the summer of ’85 a new guy moved in from the East Coast. I think New York, but not positive. His name was Albert Williams a.k.a Nikeski. He was the kind of dude you didn’t even have to ask if he was into Hip Hop. You just had to ask him what he did, because you could see it all in him. The way he walked with that strut like one leg was shorter than the other, brushing his waves every few steps, dressed fly, full of charm and this somewhat serious look on his face… Yeah, this dude embodied Hip Hop. We learned right away that his Human Beat Box skills were nice. I feel like he was a bit laid back about it, so he wasn’t always going out of his way to show off, so I only heard him rock a few times. We discussed doing some things with him, but unfortunately it never happened and I moved away. I’m not sure what direction he took after that, but I imagine he kept Hip Hop in his life for quite some time. I’d love to reconnect with him…

NIKESKI ('86 Yearbook Photo):

Once I moved away, my eyes/ears to the Junction City scene were thru T.N.T and I relied on him letting me know what was happening. I don’t recall him ever talking about anybody new coming up and showing skills on any real level, except one cat, Ralo.

I never met Ralo because he moved there after I had already jetted. I called T.N.T over this past weekend to see what he remembered. He only could formulate bits and pieces. He told me that Ralo was originally from the East Coast. He says he was a bit mysterious, kept to himself and was always focused on his Human Beat Boxing. His style and skill gain him quick popularity. That means the ladies were sweating him and the fellas were respecting him. It was clear that he had come bearing an elevated knowledge and skill of the craft.

When T.N.T told me about him I was hyped and needed some proof, so he said he would send me some tapes because they used to let Ralo go up to the local college station*** and go off on-air. He sent me those tapes in ’87 and I just pulled them out of a shoebox last night to share with the world.

There are three different pieces:

Ralo “Going Off”: This is Ralo doing his thing and showcasing his full skill set. He shows that he has the raw beats of Buffy (Fat Boys), the clicks and sound effects of Doug E Fresh, the ill drum rolls like the Mix Machine Wise (Stetasonic), and the beats and dialog like Biz Markie, and plenty of his own flavor. The beats he kicks are pretty ridiculous, particularly Zapp “Computer Love”, “Sanford And Son”, “Everlasting Bass” and more!

[audio:|titles=Ralo-Going Off]

Ralo “Everlasting Bass”: This takes the “Everlasting Bass” routine further and lets him rock beats on top of the original joint by Rodney O & Joe Cooley:
[audio:|titles=Ralo-everlasting bass overdub beat box]

Ralo “Set It Off”: Ralo kicks it off just flexing some skills and then the DJ brings in Strafe “Set It Off” and then he just flips it on top of the beat for the next couple minutes. The sad part about this is at the end the host announces they are going to come back later with the him, Ralo, and the DJ and all do something together and I don’t have that part of the tape…that makes me want to shed at least one tear ☹:
[audio:|titles=Ralo-Set It Off Beat Box]


**When it came to Hip Hop I was always super-competitive…I lived for the battle. It was no thing for my mouth to do heavy talking, tossing out Hip Hop challenges and forgetting some people might want to take it “elsewhere”. Particularly, amongst my crew, because we always used to clown each other hardcore, but one day, “keeping it real, went wrong”…ha. It was before school and we were just kicking it and talking about popping and what not. I had a pretty sweet ticking style that was my signature move. Somehow in the discussion I made a few choice comments like “Don’t nobody want it with me! They can’t get with this! Who? This Guy? Who? Eddie Love? Whatever!” Something crazy like that. Eddie just must not have been in the mood that day because his reaction was real calm, but firm when he replied something to the effect, “Yeah…maybe, but let’s see how you defend a roundhouse to the head after school”… I actually have no idea what he said, but I do recall just imagining a roundhouse to my head all day, I still have that image in my head sometimes. My friends were wishing me good luck like I was going off to war. In first period class the first thing the teacher said was, “Ah, it’s a great day to be alive” and all my friends just looked at me, sad like, “Not for Kev, he’s going to die…” It was RUFF and one of the longest days of school ever. I didn’t speak to Eddie all day or try to apologize or talk him out of it. I saw him a few times in the hallway and he acted like I wasn’t even there. I was never a sucker, so even though I knew I had no defense against Mr Black Belt Eddie Love, I was going to take my beating accordingly, after all I sort of earned it. Plus it would be the first loss on my record, so that wasn’t so bad. Anyway, for whatever reason he never came up to me after school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was sitting around waiting for him...I’m not crazy. I just didn’t run home. I got my stuff, left school and walked home like normal. Within the next day or two we were cool like nothing happened and were good ever since. I learned to tone my mouth down, a little bit, just a little bit…and only to him…ha.

***A bit of internet searching and combined logic seems to suggest that the station was KSDB 91.9 (Kansas State University) and the show appears to be called “State Of Fresh”. While digging for the Ralo tapes I found a stack of tapes that T.N.T sent me. Most of them are radio show tapes and I’m assuming they are from the same station. I’m going to slowly go thru them and see if I can find any more info or gems….

PHOTOS: The only photos I had of any of these guys was Nikeski so that's what you see in here. Well, I do have Eddie Love's '86 yearbook photo, but that might invite me a roundhouse to the head next time I'm in I passed on that...ha. The featured photo (also below) is Nikeski (on right) and this dude John (on left), he was one of school jokesters...

Written By Kevin “MC Coolie Love” Beacham

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