Reggie Watts

Fuse Box

May 1, 2 & 3, 2008
by Katie Geha

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      Performance still from Reggie Watts
      Presented as part of the Fuse Box Festival 2008

      Reggie Watts is something like a one-man band with a microphone and a couple of 4-tracks. He creates beats and thumps with his mouth, records them, and then layers on soul ballads, nonsense raps and comedy routines to generate a sparklingly immediate song. With his all-encompassing afro, sly Kaufman-esque humor, and dada-play, Watts has honed an improvisational style that is unmatched in its originality.

      Since Watts is one of six Americans in possession of his full vocal range, he might remind you a little of Bobby McFerrin from his Don’t Worry Be Happy days or maybe Michael Winslow from the famous restaurant scene in Police Academy. But unlike those guys, Watts’ act is more than just a gimmick. The thrill of Watts’ performance lies in his process-oriented style; a nonsense beat eventually morphs into a veiled critique of the excesses of American society replete with an apt refrain—“a fuck shit stack.” Watts raps in a stream-of-conscious style: “I like to do whatever it takes to do something that creates an illusion of something that is just not quite responsible but on the edge enough so that someone can say ‘look at that mortherfucker on the screen.’” And with the twist of a 4-track knob, the song spirals in on itself; Watts deconstructs the once catchy tune down to an exhilarating abstraction of play and sound.

      Katie Geha is pursuing a Ph.D. in art history at The University of Texas at Austin.

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