While it’s always been one of the quintessential components of b-boy/hip-hop culture, beatboxing is also one of its toughest to master. With your mouth as the instrument, and the microphone the outlet, natural sounds coalesce and make for some of the most interesting, and at times, jaw-dropping “music” out there. But seeing as it’s an art form unto itself, with skills, talent and swagger all required, only a select few make the cut as true maestros of the beatbox.
Thankfully, a major brand like Verizon was (surprisingly) aware of this fact, and lured said maestros—Rahzel of the Roots crew, Baba Israel and “Kid Lucky” Lewis to name a few—to lend some street credibility to their latest branding campaign. Late last week, the company launched the Verizon Beatbox Mixer on its site, www.richerdeeperbroader.com, which has been an ongoing portal that emphasizes Verizon’s shift from just a mobile carrier to an influential entertainment brand in the broadband era.
“The concept for the interactive component is really walking the walk,” says Richard Marks, Group Account Director for R/GA, the agency Verizon hired to help implement the Beatbox Mixer. “They’ve changed a lot of the company, moving away from being a phone company to being an entertainment and broadband company. They want to provide broadband and entertainment leadership… they’re working with us to help them change their image.”
With image change and strategic shift in tow, Verizon’s already shown they can be hip with the kids thanks to the mixer, which according to the company, is “a cross between a music video, a video game, and a drum machine. More specifically, visitors to the mixer can pick their beatbox pro of choice, choose from several of their vocal stylings, and perform live synchronization with multiple video and audio samples. Additionally, the Rahzel wannabes can create, save, and share their own performances or listen to the most popular ones created.
As for why beatboxing was chosen from Verizon and R/GA’s perspective, Marks explains, “a) It’s such an amazing talent and the genre in itself is great and b) back in the early days of hip-hop, it was a one-person thing. But in the last three years, it has been more of a collaborative effort. It’s got a great soul to it.
He continues, “We didn’t want to pick something that was already done. We wanted to help it happen, and show how broadband and site can achieve the sharing of this underexposed medium. It’s to help the community. We worked with Rahzel, Kid Lucky Entertainment, Baba Israel. Really, in achieving that goal, we’re showing the power of broadband.”
Another plus in Verizon’s favor is that it is eschewing the major online media, and is taking it to the street with offline events touting the Beatbox Mixer and letting the word spread virally from there. “It’s definitely meant to start underground. There are bunch of wild postings R/GA created to launch in East Coast markets–Philly, DC, New York.
We threw a launch event to share with press to demonstrate the mixer, a live mixing performance by [hip-hop troupe] Ill Minds. We had kiosks there. We’re starting with offline, and we’ve launched a couple of videos on Google and YouTube to really create beatboxing session and drive people to the sites.”
With more content set to be added, from both an aural and visual perspective, Marks insists that the microsite will be live for quite a while. But first, he says it’s time for the underground to create a grassroots marketing initiative for it. “Once we build more of that urban mass, that underground mass, we’re going with a street team,” adds Marks. “We’re really hitting underground first. The whole project was about trying to make this a very authentic platform. We didn’t want this to come off as a very commercial idea. But we’re also achieving our commercial goal of [advocating] the power of broadband.”
Want to put your mic-spitting/mixing skills to the test, with a little help from the pros? Lose yourself in the moment at www.beatboxmixer.com