The Midwest Beatbox Battle co-founder has grander plans for the art form

After taking first place in the Ohio Beatbox Battle in January, Ludovic “Lou” Nicolaidis thinks his competition days might be over. “I wanted to have a title under my belt,” he said in a late-September interview in his home. “But competing isn't necessarily where my passion is.”

Nicolaidis, whose stage name is LethalFX, is more excited about performing, which he has been doing for eight years. (He has been beatboxing for about 15 years.) He meshes “live looping” of his vocal beats with instruments like keyboard and synthesizer. “Beatboxing does have a ‘wow' factor,” he said. “But the challenge is how do you keep somebody's attention after 10 or 15 or 20 minutes?”

Nicolaidis may be stepping out of the ring, but he's not stepping away from the battle scene. In fact, as a co-founder of the Shut Your Mouth & Beatbox (SYMAB) event company, he produces the Midwest Beatbox Battle, which will return for a sixth season beginning on Friday, Oct. 6, and running through Sunday Oct. 8, at multiple venues in Columbus.

The competition was founded in 2012 in Youngstown, with the intent to boost the American beatboxing scene, and quickly grew to attract international participants. A high point occurred in 2014 when the event took place in conjunction with battles in other regions nationwide, with winners advancing to the American Beatbox Championships. That partnership has since ended — “The other regions just didn't stay consistent,” Nicolaidis said — but the Midwest Beatbox Battle is still going strong, and SYMAB has plans to move the competition to Chicago, a more centralized Midwest location, next year.

SYMAB will continue to host the annual Ohio Beatbox Battle in Columbus, and the company has revamped “The Breakdown,” a monthly beatbox workshop and open mic event. The next edition takes place as part of the Midwest Beatbox Battle on Sunday, Oct. 8, at Bossy Grrls Pin Up Joint. Anyone from young kids to adults can attend to learn the craft.

“We teach a lot of people how to do it with just basic syllables and words,” Nicolaidis said. “Everybody has the ability to learn how to beatbox, especially if they have the passion and the drive.”

“The Breakdown” also attracts a variety of other performers.

“We're getting comedians, singer-songwriters, spoken-word artists and poets,” Nicolaidis said. “I've done beatbox gigs with burlesque dancers and belly dancers and fire performers. Again, it comes back to that [idea that] beatboxing is cool, but where do we go from here?”