Interview w/ National Stuttering Association 2016

Stevie Soul Year Of Beatbox Press Photo.jpg

We recently met up with professional beatboxer Stevie Soul, who is also a person who stutters.  As a young child, Stevie used stuttering to transform into an award-winning artist.  You can check out some of Stevie’s video on his website, and read his interview below!

National Stuttering Association: Tell us a little about yourself.  Where do you live, and what do you do?

Stevie: I’m 28, I live in Detroit, Michigan, and I’m a professional beatboxer.  When I was a kid, as soon as I could talk up until about high school, I would stutter so bad, that I would struggle to speak and weird sounds would come out, like clicks and pops.  As a way to teach myself to speak, I would arrange these funny sounds into beats and patterns.  It gave me structure and a little bit of rhythm.  I used that as a technique to understand sentence structure and a beat to talk to, and then I discovered I could beatbox.

I kept doing it – it was my technique to help me speak better.  I kept developing and growing and stuck with it.  I became really good at it when I was young…fast forward to current day, and it helps me overcome and not stutter as much.  Kids would pick on me for not being able to speak, but then I found out that they were the same ones asking me to do that “thing that I do.”  It was an incredible transformation – even my brothers who would pick on me before would now ask me to do this thing.  They were amazed to see that I somehow figured out a way to pull it all off.  My parents were both immigrants and spoke English, although not that well, so I did what I could to figure this out on my own but with their support.  Once I figured out music and beatboxing became my voice, it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

My friends started signing me up for talent competitions, and I found out this was something I wanted to do for a career.  I researched what beatboxing was, the contribution it has had to hip hop music, and the icons in beatboxing, and I was obsessed with how they stayed relevant and made a living as artists.  I wanted to incorporate elements of singing into beatboxing – there’s so much more to the art form than standing on a corner making a beat – I started incorporating singing and other instruments and making music.  Who would have thought that this thing that I was doing when I was stuttering would let me make a living out of it?

I’m also a film producer, and I work on film projects like commercials. Performance is a big part of what I do, so that’s kind of one part of it, and I also fell in love with the production part of it.  I started producing music for producers and then was introduced to film.  I love film because it mixes every element of art into one thing.  Film is the highest level of art in a sense, where everything comes together.  Now I work in Detroit as a filmmaker and a film producer.

NSA: What is your experience with stuttering?

Stevie: It affects me in general conversation.  I’ve only recently opened up about it.  I never talked about it – why would I want to remind people that I stuttered?  It was only recently that I wanted to share it.  Stuttering doesn’t affect my music as much, but as an adult I still stutter as I speak.  I still do struggle with it, but I do my best to pause for a second and recompose myself and go through it.  I’m sure it’s different for everybody.  For me, sometimes I can predict when it will happen, but the worst part is that you never really see it’s coming.

NSA: What advice could you give to others who stutter?

Stevie: Take it slow.  I’m going to be my parents now, but there is some truth to that.  It’s hard because I don’t have any great cutting-edge, ground-breaking advice because everyone’s doing this differently.  Learn to beatbox! Basically, just be yourself and don’t let stuttering define who you are. No one can do you better then you!

I also was given the opportunity to teach in the Detroit public school system as a working artist.  For many years, I worked with 6th-12th graders in music production and graphic design.  The public school system consolidated every class into one program due to budget cuts, so I worked on that program.  I would tell these stories to every class, and every class, there were one or two people who stuttered.  There are more of us than you might think.  I have a special place in my heart for that.