After learning the lesson of fearlessness and finding new purpose in her music, musician Butterscotch is out to spread her newfound self-acceptance unto others.
“You make me feel like a dangerous woman…”
While the lyrics were first sung by pop coquette Ariana Grande, they take on new life when sung by Butterscotch, as the musician beatboxes and harmonizes with herself, vocals sultry and sensual, hip-swinging and sexy. Butterscotch has been covering songs on her YouTube channel so fans can get a taste of her sound while they’re waiting for new work to be released, including, but not limited to, covers of Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and Drake’s “Passionfruit.” While listening to them, the best possible experience occurs: you forget entirely that they were ever performed by other people. But this is the Butterscotch experience: all authenticity, all the time. She has a penchant for sleek suits, an expertly coiffed, dark curly undercut run through with streaks of bright blond and a signature, intricately shaped and sharpened eyebrow. The beatboxer, writer, singer, rapper, multi-instrumentalist and producer is never not 100% herself.
“I think now when we have so much social media, where people can be directly in contact or see into the lives of artists, people recognize when artists are authentic and when they’re not, so it’s only in your favor that you’re true to yourself,” she says. “You never know who you can affect, big or small.”
This wasn’t always something that was as easy for her to do as it is now. While appearing on the fourth season of America’s Got Talent, where she finished in third place, Butterscotch found herself not being as open as she could be. “I did have a girlfriend at the time and I never hid who I was, but I also was afraid to push things about that. I think within the past few years, [I’m] just realizing that I want to have fun in my life, I don’t want media or anyone else to dictate what’s wrong and right about my life,” she says. “If I’m going to inspire other people to be their true selves, then I need to take a look at what I’m doing in my life. If I can’t even post a picture of me and my girlfriend because I’m scared, how is anyone else going to follow in my footsteps of being fearless about who they are?”
Fearlessness, Butterscotch says, was something she had to learn. In middle school and high school, the musician shares that she felt a lot differently about herself. “I came from a predominantly white town and I wanted to be like the other kids. I didn’t appreciate my body, I didn’t feel like I necessarily fit in anywhere,” she says. She felt depressed and suicidal, but eventually she made music her outlet while attending an arts high school. “I don’t know what I would’ve been doing or how happy I would’ve been if I didn’t have art as a way to express myself,” she says. But ultimately she turned her self-expression and catharsis into a career.
“I want to make uplifting music,” she says, a nod to the artists whose music helped her through her own difficult times like Tupac, especially his album Me Against the World, and Earth, Wind & Fire. She also cites Erykah Badu and Sade as influences for their realness, emotion, and passion. “I want to have the same effect that different artists had on me,” she says. To inspire, to help, to show others there’s another voice that understands, that they’re not alone. This is something she seeks to do in songs like “Accept Who I Am” from her 2016 EP The Scotch Tapes, Vol. 1-3. She raps, “The walls may crumble/Keep on climbing to the top/They try to drag us down/But we’re never gonna stop.”
Butterscotch was exposed to music from a young age: her mother is a piano teacher, so she grew up loving composers like Chopin, Beethoven, and Debussy; her father is a big Motown fan; and her siblings listened to hip-hop. She found beatboxing while attending the aforementioned arts high school, and for a long time the form dominated her musical expression. She became the world’s first female beatboxing champion in 2005, all the while combining her different musical interests to form the signature Butterscotch sound she shared on America’s Got Talent in 2007. This led to appearances on Ellen, The Tyra Banks Show, and MTV’s Made as well as steady performances at the Rose.Rabbit.Lie show at Las Vegas’s Cosmopolitan Hotel and gigs performing alongside Earth, Wind & Fire, Wyclef Jean, and KRS-One. She also appeared on soul legend George Benson’s album Songs and Stories in 2009. At the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival, she opened for Tony Bennett and performed with legends like Nile Rodgers and Sergio Mendes. She has since toured around the world, from San Francisco to Berlin and everywhere in between.
As she continues to perform, Butterscotch has also found a new purpose in her work, using music as a way to share with young people her experiences with music, the necessity of authenticity, the darkness of her younger years and how she turned them into lightness. “It’s important that they have someone who has been through it, not just someone saying ‘get help’ or ‘you need this’ or ‘you need that,’” she says. “It’s just giving the kids something real.” She’s been talking to both high school and college age students around the country, and hopes in the future to do a TED Talk that combines her message of self-acceptance with her music. In addition to speaking engagements, Butterscotch is also currently working on music project with Chief Xcel of Blackalicious which will finish up this year and she hopes will be followed by the release of new music and a tour in the spring. For Butterscotch, the dream of making it big as a musician is now coupled with the goal of bringing messages of self-acceptance and compassion to whoever might need them. Her song “We Are All We Got,” released last year, offers a call to a brighter future.
“Can we illuminate the skies so we can see
What the world with love’s supposed to be?”
Listen to Butterscotch’s latest cover here and download her EP The Scotch Tapes, Vol. 1-3 here.