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Butterscotch, more than candy

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Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 12:00 am

Antoinette "Butterscotch" Clinton, a Sacramento State alumna, is a multi-talented beatboxer who recently performed at Sac State's Hip-Hop Elements Event.

Antoinette Clinton's stage name, Butterscotch, originated from a song she wrote about candy in high school.

"It's funny because as a performer you always search for different stage names," she said. "I tried to make up different names - like taking my last name and trying "Clintonium.'"

Even with efforts toward other celebrity stage names, the name "Butterscotch," along with her characteristic musical talents, stuck around.

Butterscotch is now famously known for using beat boxing skills to accompany the various instruments she plays, like the classical piano."Through all my experience with piano, guitar and songwriting, I started putting everything together and created my own style," Butterscotch said.

Since then Butterscotch has spent the last few years being a beatbox mentor on MTV's "Made," becoming the World Hip-Hop Beatbox Women's Champion in 2005 and winning the West Coast Championship in 2007.

Butterscotch's mom, Yvonne Clinton, said Butterscotch was originally majoring in classical piano at Sac State, but had to postpone her education because her music career was taking over.

Since then, she has was popularized in 2007 by "America's Got Talent," when she placed third for beat boxing while playing the piano.

Her classical piano professor at Sac State, Richard Cionco, said he was proud to see her on the show.

"She played "My Funny Valentine,' as she beat boxed, and also sang," Cionco said.

The first time Cionco heard Butterscotch beatbox while playing piano, he said he was in intrigued awe.

"It's absolutely new to me," Cionco said. "And she does it very successfully."

When Cionco heard Butterscotch was leaving Sac State, he was disappointed, but supported her dream.

"When these opportunities happen, you have to take them," Cionco said.Yvonne Clinton agreed that chasing Butterscotch's dreams was the right choice for her.

"She's very talented in classical music and so she could have made a career of that if she had pursued it, so in that sense I was disappointed, but my philosophy for my kids is that we need to find in life what makes us happy and something that is fulfilling to us," she said.

While most people know Butterscotch through YouTube videos, few fans know the story behind her beginnings.

Butterscotch said her mother got her started on piano at an early age.

"My mom was a piano teacher, so me and my siblings all played the piano and at least one other instrument," Butterscotch said. "My siblings played the trumpet, cello, trombone, clarinet; I had access to all these instruments."

As Butterscotch grew older, she was exposed to beat boxing by her high school friends, and said she was inspired to learn the skill.

When she first started to beat box, Butterscotch said, she sounded "pretty horrible," but through lots of practice she acquired a knack for it.

"One of the funniest questions I get asked is, "When did you discover you could do this?' And I'm like, "Uh, someone is not just born with this, you have to practice,'" Butterscotch said.

Her mom said when she first heard her daughter beatbox in high school, she was impressed but not surprised with Butterscotch's talent.

"One of the things I mention to people is that she's very good at mimicking sounds," Yvonne Clinton said. "I remember several occasions during soccer carpooling, when her teammates would ask her to make different sounds - "bark like a dog, now like a chicken!'"

Today, Butterscotch hopes to create a curriculum where professional beat boxers will be able to help interested students strengthen their skills while attending school.

"When I was going here (Sac State), I was performing with the vocal jazz group with the different jazz combos in the music department, but they didn't have anything specifically for people like me," Butterscotch said.

As she works on her future beatboxing endeavors, she advises fellow beat boxers to also keep evolving their craft and fighting for their goals, no matter how crazy they may be.

"Just get involved with anything musical as much as possible, even if you're not into hip-hop," Butterscotch said. "It'd be sick to have a rock band with a beatboxer."

Author can be reached at jsiopongco@statehornet.com

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