On his possible path to the "American Idol" title next week, Blake Lewis has already notched a lot of firsts for the show.
He was the first contestant to rock a tuxedo T-shirt; the first to brave songs by the Cure (via 311), Jamiroquai and Maroon 5; the first finalist with visible tattoos; the first one to rap (see " 'Idol' Gets Its First Taste Of Hip-Hop — Thanks To A Rock Band"); and the first person — possibly ever — to add a beatbox breakdown to the Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancin'."
Ah, yes, the beatboxing. The kids seem to love it, but Simon has said it was a bit much and kind of gimmicky for him, and Randy has complained that Lewis doesn't really need it. But Lewis can't resist adding a little bit of mouth-magic to his songs — even Bon Jovi tunes (see " 'Idol' Recap: Blake's Brave Choice Is 'Brilliant'; Jordin Is 'Criminally Heinous' ") — so we wondered what professional beatboxers make of Lewis' skills. We polled some of the greatest voicestrumentalists around to get their take.
Who: Doug E. Fresh
Beatbox cred: Considered one of the greatest beatboxers of all time, Fresh is best known for his landmark 1985 single "The Show/ La Di Da Di," featuring Slick Rick.
Nickname: "Original Human Beatbox" (the name of an early single).
His take: Fresh said he's been following the ascent of Lewis all season and he loves what he's seen. So much, in fact, that he's in talks to make an appearance on next week's finale (though a spokesperson for the show would not confirm his appearance at press time). "I've seen the kid, and I love him," Fresh said. "I'm really happy about it, and I think that including me in the show will really help shed light on where the art started and the history of beatbox."
Who: Michael Winslow
Beatbox cred: The "Police Academy" movies, Weird Al's "Eat It" video.
Nickname: Man of 10,000 sound effects.
His take: The actor/ standup comedian, who's been beatboxing for nearly 30 years, gave Lewis props for doing his thing. "I have to congratulate him on doing it at all," Winslow said. "It's not entered mainstream culture, and it's mainstream now because of him." Winslow, who does occasionally watch the show and has seen Lewis interject his signature air scratches and beatboxing into songs by Thicke and the Bee Gees, said — Simon be damned — the kid from Washington does a "credible" job. He also thinks Lewis should definitely use some beatboxing on his inevitable first album.
Who: Kenny Muhammad
Beatbox cred: Has performed with Rahzel, Squarepusher, Matisyahu, Stevie Wonder and Angie Stone and beatboxed with the New York Symphony Orchestra.
Nickname: The Human Orchestra.
His take: "I can't believe he made it to the next round!" said Muhammad, who tuned in to "Idol" Wednesday night during a break from recording his debut album. "The other chick [Melinda Doolittle] got snubbed. As far as him doing the human beatbox, he doesn't take it seriously. He isn't a serious human-beatbox artist. He's an amateur. He's using it as a gimmick to let people know he's hip, to get that edge so he can get over by doing that. He's not really laying it down and his attitude doesn't really say, 'I believe in this.' "