Music: Butterscotch

This article is part of our Create & Cultivate 100 List created in collaboration with KEDS, you can view the full Music List Here.

 A role model for gay women of color. 

Though she’s widely considered to be the best female beatboxer in the world, it took a while for the musician known as Butterscotch to find her voice. “I grew up surrounded by a musical family, but never knew if I had the voice I would need to be successful,” the 31 year old from Davis, CA says. “I played classical piano, saxophone, Uute and other instruments laying around the house and would constantly keep myself entertained because my mother wouldn't allow me to watch TV.”

Though she always knew she had a deep love for music, it wasn’t until a chance encounter in her teens that Butterscotch was able to meld her interests and talents. “In high school I met an amazing beatboxer and he taught me the basics. Beatboxing was the glue I needed to fuse all my talents together and came up with my own style; I combined beatboxing, hip-hop, jazz and R&B into my one woman show,” Butterscotch says of that magical moment when it all crystalized for her. Within a few years she was winning contests left and right, including nabbing the title of first female beatboxing champion in 2005. All that competing eventually landed her on the television show America’s Got Talent in 2007. She placed third, and has been traveling the world wowing audiences with her unique blend of vocal percussion, singing, and instrumentation ever since.

Though Butterscotch says taking the leap to audition for America’s Got Talent was one of the most important moments in her career, when asked what got her to the place she is now, she credits her own persistence. “I have been let down so many times. I have been told 'No' so many times. I have failed. I have been depressed,” she admits. “But I never want to disappoint the little girl who had a dream she would one day change the world.” It’s no surprise then that her biggest influence growing up was Michael Jordan, one of the most hardworking, persistent athletes of all time. “I was obsessed with basketball and he was the greatest and exemplified this to the infinite degree,” she says.

The award-winning musician has performed with Earth, Wind, & Fire, Nile Rodgers, Bobby McFerrin, KRS-One, and Wyclef Jean, shared a stage with Stevie Wonder, and toured extensively around the world, but despite the fact that it’s precisely her uniqueness that makes her such a dynamic artist and performer, Butterscotch has dealt with some push back to her individuality. “Being a gay woman of color, I have felt that a lot of people in the music industry have tried to guide me in the direction that they want to see me. ’Don't be so controversial, act more feminine, don't cut your hair, get a fake boyfriend,’" she says of challenges she’s faced in her career so far. But that negativity fuels her desire to keep doing her raw, honest thing, especially for others dealing with the same pressures. “I want to make sure everyone knows that they are unique and special and that is what makes them beautiful,” she says. “We have been conditioned in our education systems that we all have one path; school, college, more college, get married, have kids, job, steady career, retire, die. There is not just one way to live. We are humans. Not machines.”

"There is not just one way to live. We are humans. Not machines.”

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Butterscotch released her first set of EPs in the summer of 2016, entitled “The Scotch Tapes,” and in them she uses her retro-futuristic blend of jazz, classical, hip-hop, and R&B music to spread her message of self-acceptance and empowerment. Through her art she’s even been able to find some of that for herself. “I am beginning to fall in love with how to let myself be in the natural flow of things and trust in the universe,” she says. Part of that includes taking time from her travel schedule to indulge in some of her hobbies, which include working out, riding her bike, and taking photos on road trips. That’s not to say she isn’t hard at work creating, with plans to release both more EPs and her first full-length album in the near future. As for her other musical goals? “I would also like to score movies, play with orchestras, win a Grammy (or two or three), and collaborate with Kendrick Lamar & Erykah Badu.” But that’s not all. Butterscotch has bigger dreams as well. “I want to invent an app to help artists, start a tea infusion company, buy some land, paint with elephants, and eat yummy food,” she says of her five year goals. With her proven track record for blending talents, it’s doubtful that she won’t soon be doing all of the above, and potentially all at once.