She’s got the beat

Michael Stockinger

Butterscotch – those hard, little, yellow candies, smooth and full of flavor – the ones you picked up at grocery stores without paying the sample fee, or pulled out of candy dishes at somebody’s office.

Remember those?

Well look out candy, there’s another who goes by this title: Sacramento State’s very own Antoinette “Butterscotch” Clinton, the International Female Beatbox Champion, who, like the candy, spits out smooth percussion beats full of flavor and color.

“I started beatboxing about three years ago,” Clinton said. “I’ve always been surrounded by music – my mom’s a piano teacher – and she made us play piano and we also got to choose another instrument.”

Beatboxing is the art of creating percussion and beats simply using your mouth and sometimes incorporating lyrics, spoken word, or even other instruments.

Clinton wowed audiences as the opening act for Lyrics Born on Friday in Serna Plaza.

The shy, quick to smile, 20-year-old student no doubt made many wonder where and how the noises and beats came from.

“It takes a lot of time,” Clinton said.

Clinton transferred to Natomas Charter School of Performing Arts for her sophomore year to develop her musical and songwriting skills.

It was there where she was first exposed to beatboxing through watching a friend perform.

“In high school I heard one of my friends Leejay beatbox and he was the first guy I had ever seen beatbox live,” recalled Clinton. “I thought it was one of the coolest things.”

Clinton, a multi-instrumentalist, plays piano, saxophone, flute, guitar and bass, decided that she would begin to beatbox and incorporate it into her own music.

“The first year was not serious ?” it was a lot of messing around,” Clinton said. “I went to this open mic night at Jamaican House, Sweet Fingers on Broadway and that was the first time I had ever done it solo.”

The performance was well received, reinforcing Clinton’s interest.

“I had a lot of fun, so I thought it was something I should continue practicing,” Clinton said.

After a lot of practicing and performing at community centers, open mic nights, and school rallies, Clinton discovered an international beatboxing championship in Leipzig, Germany last year.

“They had a female category and they were looking for female beatboxers to compete,” Clinton said. “I actually forgot about it. I sent in the tape in May and I got something back from them in July.”

The event was set in September 2005, spending five days in Germany, but after a car accident that left her in crutches, Clinton competed against beatboxers from different countries.

“There had been four that were selected from the clips that they sent in; two from Poland, and one from Switzerland,” Clinton said. “The one from Switzerland, she was really good!”

At the event, Clinton became the International World Hip-Hop Challenge International Female Beatbox Champion.

Recently, Clinton was selected by Verizon Wireless to be part of its Beatbox Mixer (, an online beatbox generator that lets users listen to beats, create their own and watch videos of it being done.

“I flew out to New York three times this summer to do recording,” Clinton said. “I got to do the project with beatbox legends and perform with them.”

For the project, Clinton worked with beatboxers Rob Brown, Click Tha Super Latin, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Rahzel and Kid Lucky.

“Just being around them I learned so much about beatboxing in general, about hip-hop history,” Clinton said. “I actually got a chance to jam with Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie, which was amazing!”

The Davis native and Sacramento resident chose Sac State last year to pursue a major in Music.

“I’m not a very good student,” Clinton, a sophomore, said with a laugh. “I’ve got about three more years to go.”

The vocal jazz ensemble has also welcomed Clinton’s unique talents at Sac State.

“She’s retarded good,” said Gioia Caesar, music major and member of the ensemble. “I call her the ‘World Renowned Butterscotch’.”

Caesar said Clinton is also a great singer.

“She sang last semester at the New York Reparatory Ensemble ?” we both sang alto together,” recalled Caesar. “She’s a really talented singer.”

During performances, the ensemble lets Clinton do solo beatboxing and eventually harmonizes in the background, then with her.

“She is so ridiculously well-received-she’s amazing,” Caesar said. “We let her do her own thing to show how cool this girl is.”

Before her music career takes off, Clinton is focusing on her education.

“I’m trying to see if I could have a beatbox major or vocal percussion major, because I’m doing all the same things that regular musicians are doing – just with my mouth,” Clinton said. “I’m trying to talk to the Jazz director to see if that would be possible.”

Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]