18-year-old R-tizt knows how to work a crowd. Attracting hundreds of passersby in a matter of seconds with a speaker, eight AA batteries and a mouthful of beats, he’s representing a new generation of music.
Originally hailing from East London, R-tizt (AKA Ben Francis) now moves between Essex and the West End, beatboxing and dance battling on streets and in clubs. i-D first spied him and his mate Contrix dropping beats along South Bank last summer, one of several appearances that resulted in a ripple of YouTube films from taken aback pedestrians. When Ben popped into the office last week to shoot a film for us, a playground full of kids from the local school appeared as if from nowhere, throwing comments like, “this is siiiiick bruv”. Beatboxing a range of R’n'B big hitters, drum and bass beats and house remixes, you can’t take your eyes or ears off the boy. Ben is a kid who experimented, gave it a try, suffered the ‘haters’ and learnt a trade. Playing his first gig to a crowd of 32,000, he has since performed at Madonna’s son Rocco’s fifth birthday party, taught seminars with his beatbox hero Beardyman, and he’s still got love for the street, busking in every spare moment. Watch, listen and learn…
When and why did you start beatboxing? Before I started I used to just make random sounds and people thought I had tourrets. A guy called Contrix started me off when he performed at my school about five years ago. He taught me the basic sounds and then I started learning my own beats and sound effects.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you whilst performing? My batteries ran out once and I was half way through a really good show so I couldn’t finish. There’s been haters in the audience and they’ve thrown stuff. The most embarrassing thing though was the second time I performed, I wasn’t very confident and after about 30 seconds I forgot all my beats and my throat got really dry so I just stopped on stage and was like, “sorry but my throat’s dry” and everyone laughed.
Can you sing? Lots of singers tell me I should have a good singing voice because of my vocal range. Singing is one of the things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I started off really bad but I’m improving. With beatboxing and dance I didn’t believe I was going to get to a good level but I have, so with singing if I stick at it now, in about two years maybe it’ll pay off.
Tell us about your dance, where do you do it? I’m a hip hop dancer and a dance teacher. I train in Trocadero Underground or just in clubs and teach in schools and at dance studios.
How would you describe your personal style? Dance is a big part of my fashion sense. A lot of hip hop dancers have a certain dress sense but I do try to find my own style and shop in places other people wouldn’t because I don’t like to look the same. Sometimes I might wear a panda hat and a tail, people think I look weird, but I don’t care.
Who are your all time musical heroes? From beatboxing, people like Beardyman and Umbilical Brothers, music-wise, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, singing-wise Whitney Houston. I listen to and watch a lot of artists because there’s always something you can take and change it. Most people think they can find their own style by just doing things themselves, but I don’t think that’s true. You need to get inspiration from somewhere, even if you take something from someone else and change it and make it your own, it has to come from somewhere.
Where are you off to now? I’m going to busk in the West End and then headed to a club.