Friday, 22 June 2012

#FindOutFriday - Summer School Series - Lesson 3: What IS A 'Cypher'?

'What IS a Cypher?'

The great thing about working with a hugely talented roster, is that the learning process goes both ways.

In Lekhem's case, I have benefited from learning some musical 'technicalities' that I likely would never normally have come across otherwise. You could count on one hand how many times I've watched BET since the channel launched in the UK and prior to last January, I had never even heard of half the music websites that I now drop in on regularly.

So when the furore dropped last Summer over the two biggest US and UK cyphers of the year and every Social Media vehicle set alight with 'Who Did It Better' feedback; I called on my trusted HipHopology Professor to drop the knowledge...

"Basically, a 'Cypher' is a group of people expressing themselves in Hip Hop form.

Normally, a circle is formed and everyone takes their turn 'on the mic'; delivering lyrics already prepared or 'freestyling' over a beat, a capella or over someone beatboxing."

Right then. Simple enough...

But with the release of 'Mantis Claw'; R2S' viral cypher for Grime Daily last week, I found myself explaining the concept to others - now that's what I consider graduation!

With all the questions, it seemed that the next Summer School lesson topic set itself! Not quite qualified to teach a class on the subject, I asked my other favourite Rap Impresario - R2S' far too talented co-founder Krome, to take the lead:

"A cypher is hip hop in one of it's rawest forms, performed by more than one individual, normally liveA cypher brings different styles together to perform their trade (rap). Although many feel it is too competitive, the aim is to enjoy the music and learn new skills / techniques while holding your own with possibly better or worse MCs than yourself.

A cypher is not a group battle to see who is the hardest, nor an opportunity to make others look silly; although MCs that shine in a cypher are usually remembered and gain the most respect.

Cyphers, like the ones that R2S do in the studio, on the block, etc. are ways that we can grow lyrically, together and individually. We see it mainly as lyrical practice and to gain an idea of where we stand amongst each other in a non- competitive way.

This is not always the case when being in a cypher with other MCs. This can be more competitive as MCs usually focus on their best 'bars' and are trying to outshine each other to rep themselves, or their crew.

I, personally prefer the art of Freestyling in a cypher.

'Freestyle' meaning no written lyrics and everything is on the spot, off the top of your head. This usually relieves tension and it becomes more fun as no-one is under pressure to 'spit' really great lyrics, but to relax and let everything flow. This way, no spectator can judge you for your writing ability but only on your confidence and desire to take your skill to the next level.

A cypher sounds great if the MCs involved all compliment each other lyrically, instead of a gangster rapper in the middle of a conscious rap cypher, for example."

So there you have it you now have the definition from two experts in the field! Although I think Krome only finds freestyling easier and less tense, because he's one of the most talented the rap scene has seen in the artform, for quite some time!

Since they're here in theoretical form, it's only fitting we add a practical demonstration...

'Mantis Claw'

Krome, Culprit Cash, Seta Trend, TaYshan and Trix City:

So there you have it - for this week's lesson you learned the definition of a cypher and exactly how it should be done! Don't forget your suggestions for topics are more than welcome, in addition to your feedback on this week's feature via the usual box below...

For more from Krome, connect with him via his Social Media catalogue:

As you may remember from their April reviewKrome teamed up with Lekhem for my favourite mixtape of 2012:

Download the 'KROnciles Of IntelLEK'
For more on R2S as a whole, read the introduction following their first collaborative release, 'The Rebelution - Part 1':

Download 'The Rebelution - Part 1'
Enjoy the immense talent this group has to offer as they prepare to bring you their next instalment, 'The Rebelution - Part 2'; Trust Me: you won't want to miss the 'Underground Gems' they have to offer...
See you next time!
ES ;o)