Welcome to our Community Feature series led by Ashley Ayala of Sister House Collective. We’re so excited to have her be a part of our Fergusons community and crafting stories about people at make LasVegas so incredible! Our partnerships are so important to us and we take a lot of time to really dig into the amazing talent right here in our backyard to connect them to us … and you! A big part of our vision is supporting our community and sharing people’s passions and dreams, and doing what we can to help further them! We’re #rootedincommunity and it shines through every decision we make, every person we meet and every idea we work hard to highlight.
Meet Jay R Beatbox
Jay R Beatbox is a local community activist and beatbox professional. The Las Vegas native graduated from UNLV in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. He is currently creating the first annual Las Vegas Beatbox Battles, which takes place June 23 from 4 – 9 p.m. at The Downtown Container Park. This marks the city’s first ever beatbox battle and is set to host more than 20 competitors from all over the country. The event is sponsored by Zappos in partnership with HELP of Southern Nevada, an organization that works with at-risk teens. This free event is open to all ages.
Have you always been interested in music, and did you get into beatboxing first?
Well growing up in a Latin culture – a very strong Latin culture – my mother being Puerto Rican and my dad being Dominican, up to the age of 16, I want to say I was listening to Salsa, Merengue, Bachata – all Latin music.
And then I got put onto hip hop through beatboxing.
My sixth period government class freshman year of high school, I met this guy named Carl. Carl was this Hispanic kid from LA that got into trouble a lot, but what he did ALL the time was, literally everythingin the hip hop dictionary. The dude knew how to break dance, graffiti; he was a lyricist, and a great spokesman. He also beatboxed, and that’s what caught my attention. He would make crazy noises in the back of the classroom. So, one day after school, I introduced myself. Him and I became really good friends and we hung out a lot that summer. He showed me my first CD of all the hip hop legends of Rahzel, Wu Tang – all the collaborations with beatboxing and I just became addicted.
I was so addicted!
I used to literally, like, virus my computer with Limewire downloads. I used to boost everything off of torrents – like live streams from the forum. Limewire had a hip hop forum – you would download all these little sample clips of people around the world beatboxing. I would take that and I would try to learn all the techniques.
Is there a difference around the culture of beatboxing depending on the region?
I want to say a difference of styles. You know, you come from a very strong hip hop culture. You definitely got the basic beats of hip hop, then you got the EDM, Techno, House, Trans, Bass, Trap and Bass. A lot of young generations in the beatbox community started incorporating those trends of the EDM world. So you hear a lot of liberals, a lot of dope techno sounds and to keep it root to all of the hip hop, the basic beat is the whole ‘Boots and Cats’. When you get into sound effects and different noises that the human mouth makes, it was not meant to be even created or implemented. That’s where it gets really cool — all the technicality.
That makes sense! I had no idea. So what has been your proudest moment? I know that you’ve performed at some pretty big shows.
Honestly, I don’t have a proud moment, I have many proud moments. One was when I was 22 and got my first big break in a big nightclub performing with a DJ. That was the day that I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. And then I did everything I could to transition my lifestyle from being a culinary chef at a casino for 11-and-a-half years to being who I am today. All the sacrifices, all the choices that I had to make, career moves … whether I should stay secure with a job or live a really spontaneous lifestyle where maybe tomorrow is unexpected.
Another moment was when my daughter was born and that kind of told me like, hey, what do I want to provide for her? What can I do with my lifestyle so I’m able to give to her? And what’s something that can be passed down from generation to generation? And that bleeds into the whole community activism. That bleeds into why I put my heart and soul into the community – because they support me when I need them. You know, all these visions that I have, all these ambitions, it wouldn’t be possible without the supporters, the people who believe in me. Those are proud moments.
Another is my involvement with community events, knowing that people who aren’t aware of the beatbox culture can be introduced to something really amazing. Beatbox to me … it’s a universal language. You’re able to make such a big – such an amazing – impact on kids’ futures. Because they love music, but now they learn a new tool, another outlet, and they can really express themselves; and it transitions over to instruments and composing music and directing films.
And another proud moment: working with Downtown Project. That’s a really great moment. They put me on board for a lot of small events. Then I became a part of the family over the years in my career. They put me on Life is Beautiful as a keynote speaker; I got to tell my story. It was amazing and people were really, really impacted. All the way from Tony Hsieh’s family, all the way up to the Downtown Project family.
How long have you been involved with Downtown Project now?
I want to say about three solid years. Over the course of five years I’ve been doing events downtown, but meeting people, gradually getting to know them and having an authentic relationship with them, I want to say a solid three years.
And this community philanthropy that you do – giving back to kids – do you do that all over or is it concentrated in Downtown?
Oh yeah, it’s kids all over.
Do you speak in schools?
I do. I do elementary school tours, middle school tours, some high school. Depending on whether it’s career day or for friends who are teachers. Sometimes they just want to show me off or they want to make themselves look good. They’ll be like, “yo, I got a special guest!” and then I have to come by. And as soon as I leave, the kids will be beatboxing for a whole week straight.
So cool. What is it you like about Fergusons and what’s happening there?
I want to say, I just love the entrepreneurship. The artistic, creative lifestyle. The thing that Fergusons, Downtown Project and I have in common is that we all have a great, positive vision. Mine is implemented through music and beatboxing. Downtown Project, they’re implementing art and all kinds of festivities and so forth. So we just work hand-in-hand. I’m the beatbox music aspect of their vision with downtown and, positivity.
And what are YOU rooted in?
I want to say, I’m rooted in vision. People who have visions don’t always take action. They don’t really put the vision to life. One thing I was taught is that we all have visions, but if you don’t implement them and take action or make a commitment, they just stay in your mind. So express as much vision as you can into the world. You know, you never know who you’re impacting. You never know the influence you have on people. So I think having a vision and then creating it, making it a reality is something really good.