19 May 2017

The father and daughter beatboxers

From Nine To Noon, 9:39 am on 19 May 2017

The skilled beatboxing and sweet banter of Missouri father and daughter Nicole Paris and Ed Cage has made them stars of social media.

Ed Cage and Nicole Paris

Photo: Carolina Hidalgo / St Louis Public Radio

Ed says that when hip-hop came to St Louis in the '80s, he gravitated towards DJing, but he didn't have enough money for the equipment.

Beatboxing – a form of vocal percussion in which the mouth, tongue, lips and voice are used to mimic drum machines – allowed him to emulate the new hip-hop sounds he was loving.

"When we heard that it was the greatest sound in music, especially since my mum and dad made us listen to Motown - Gladys Knight and the Four Tops, we were so tired of that. You hear that type of music coming out, we had to duplicate it."

Ed had a difficult start, he says, dropping out of high school and not learning to read until he was 20.

Then he met his wife and had three kids he worked three minimum-wage jobs to support, so hardly got to see.

"I had to find something to bond with all three of them."

That became beatboxing.

Nicole first heard her father's beats in utero.

"She was just jumping in the belly, she was moving around. And my wife, she would be like, 'Look, don't do that as much, 'cause you're not feeling what I'm feeling!'

When Nicole signing up for her first talent show as a child, she ran home excitedly to tell her father.

"He asked 'What are you gonna do?' And I said 'I'm gonna beatbox. You're gonna teach me how to beatbox'.

Later, she decided to compose her own beats – "sounds that would never think of or hear on a daily basis" – in a reaction to the classification of beatboxing as EDM (electronic dance music).

"I wanted [people] to have an open mind as far as what beatbox is and could be ... My dad always taught me that hip-hop is freedom of expression, so the style that I have is more of my story. I also speak inside of my beatboxing, you know?"

Ed was sceptical at first, but then corrected himself, he says.

"I can remember telling her 'That's not beatboxing, but once again hip-hop always pushed the boundaries… If you want to go out and you wanna put snares and drums, if you want to sound like a Pokemon, Pikachu or whatever you want to sound like, knock yourself out."