Joe Hernandez-Kolski and Joshua Silverstein, aka So Fresh and So Clean, combine their poetic and beatboxing talents to flow about news events in their new YouTube series Pocho Joe & Silverstein. We chatted with the duo about their bromance, their days as go-go dancers and how they earned serious street cred.
What brought you two together?
Joshua: The short story is, Joe and I are both members of the spoken word scene. Joe came along one day and did a piece called “Getting Laid Since 11” and I decided to do my percussive rendition of A Love Supreme. That was kind of our first theater performance and became our piece. It was kind of this weird serendipitous thing that would put me and Joe on the same place.
Joshua, you’ve been beatboxing since you were five. How did you discover this talent?
Joshua: I’m a genius and a prodigy and the rest is history [laughs]. It was never like, ‘Hey mom and dad, when I grow up I want to do this.’ It was more that I’m an only child and spent hours entertaining myself mimicking the sounds that I heard in music and on TV. When I was introduced to what beatboxing was in the 80s, I was like, ‘Oh, I kind of do that.’
How many years have you been working together?
Over 14 years.
You have great chemistry. Is it always this way?
Joshua: Joe’s my big brother. He’s older and we definitely have moments of the kid brother relationship.
Joe: We’re getting better at knowing who needs to shut the f*ck up and who needs to take the reign at a particular moment. I like who I am when I’m around him. I definitely think Joshua has a certain comfortability that I am always impressed by. He’s got a way to just smooth talk people.
Joshua: I manipulate people. I’m abusive [laughs].
Joe: And I like to project all my insecurities onto him so it totally works. I affirm his ego as a way of dealing with my own narcissism.
Why did you create Pocho Joe & Silverstein?
Joe: To add more narcissistic points of views. It’s the Wild West out there [laughs]. In my opinion, we are the face of America. We’re white, we’re Latino, we’re black, we’re Jewish, you don’t get any more American than that. We really think that what we’re doing is creating a new point of view. Racists and sexists and homophobes, I want to pat them on the head and go, ‘Aww you guys are so cute. You really think you know what you’re talking about. You really don’t.’ I’m really tired of feeling like we’re trying to appease the mainstream majority, which is really code talk for white people, as opposed to trying to redefining what the mainstream is. That’s our goal.
Joshua: What we do is find a way to be entertaining, but also revealing. I don’t think entertainment is entertainment if it isn’t saying something to build a greater truth.
Joe: We really are trying to bear witness to what we’re going through.
What part of your culture have you introduced to each other? Joe, have you gotten Joshua belt out a Vicente Fernandez song after a drunk night?
Joe: I love boxing, so I punch him a lot.
Joshua: Being an Angeleno, ironically, I feel like I’ve experienced more Latino culture. Joe’s more hip-hop than I am.
Joe: He took me to Ethiopian food!
You’re big news buffs. Do you have other interests you’re ashamed to admit to, something less intellectual?
Joshua: I don’t have any guilt about all the weird shit I like. Joe used to be a go-go dancer. That’s pretty embarrassing! But he’s proud of it.
Joe: Yeah, I used to work the White House by day, club dancer by night. I was an assistant to health care speech writers under Clinton. I’d do a 12-hour day at the White House, then walk about half a mile to a club and work until 2 in the morning dancing on a box. It was very cool to be seen as a sex object. Greatest thing ever.
Joshua: I’ve been curvy since I was in kindergarten
What advice would you give your 20-year-old selves?
Joshua: Oh man, I would punch myself in the face! My biggest struggle has always been wanting to be cool. I’ve lived my life according to others until very recently. I feel like if I could go back in time and grab myself and shake me I’d say, ‘Love you.’ People may not ever get it, but as long as you go home loving yourself, you’re going to have a good time.
Joe: That’s really funny you say that you never thought you were cool because maybe that’s why you and I work so well together. I always knew I was cool [laughs]. I’m coming from a completely opposite place. In some ways, I think I got a lot of affirmation that he didn’t get. I’ve never questioned anything about myself because my mom told me how awesome I was all the time. Once I lost my mom, I really thought that maybe she’s been lying to me. Now I’m struggling with accepting that I’m not that cool and it’s not even about that anymore. It’s about letting that go.
Street cred is a big thing for you two. What’s the stupidest thing you’ve done to prove yourself on the streets?
Joe: Are you thinking about the story I’m thinking? My dance battle?
Joshua: Joe and I co-hosted an event. It ends, we’re done and we’re doing our single thing — single Joe is going to find single girls to dance with and single Joshua is going to get wasted at the bar and go home with nobody. I’m getting drunk and Joe’s dancing and all of a sudden a circle forms and I’m like ‘What’s this circle?’ I look and see Joe battling a 7-year-old!
Joe: Oh no! He wasn’t that young, I was battling like an 11-year-old.
Joshua: Joe was sweating; he was not f*cking around. He’s battling this kid. Joe was either going to win it or this kid’s gonna win it. Suddenly the kid spins around, humps the floor and hands Joe a business card!
Joe: He did! He puts the card in my shirt pocket. It was weird. These old school, 90s songs came on and I did the running man and then the Roger Rabbit. I was covered in sweat battling a child on the dance floor. That’s what I did to redeem my street cred.