This footage is from a Radio Show that Biltmore Records Produced in 2012. The show was called Cipher Divine and it was basically Cyphers broadcasted live on air. The only rule was no cursing. Some of the shows Cyphers are on YouTube while others are still in the archives. The idea of a cipher is just a creative circle where participants are able to present their ideas to the group. Every real artist knows this is what a cypher looks like; every voice counts and anyone can participate.
When I look at the history of Mc-ing I think of the late 1970’s when I lived in a project that overlooked a park. Some nights I remember seeing crowds of people outside around a DJ and MC. The MC or Rapper rhymed to the records the DJ was playing and everyone seemed to be having a good time. There were several MC’s that grabbed the mic but at the end of the event the crowd ultimately judged who the best was.
As rap started surfacing from the underground into mainstream media in the 1980’s School kids were beat boxing and banging on lunch tables to MC’s kicking rhymes. It all sounded great if you were part of the audience but the truth is if you were in the circle it meant you were competing, unless you were in the same crew. The competition was based solely on who had the best poetry and most unique flow.
In the 1990’s MC’s would travel around NYC cyphering with other MC’s. Well not all MC’s but the best ones. NYC is a dangerous place and the birthplace of Hip-Hop so you had to be streetwise. That is a bold statement. That means as an MC if you were truly authentic your story would be recognizable and real wherever you went so you would not have any problems.
In the late 1990’s Hip-Hop became about business and the best MC’s were determined by their skill and business acumen. MC’s began creating their own record labels and building brands that will last a lifetime. However, in the 2000’s somewhere artists seemed to have veered off of the roots which is that true spirit of competition. Sure, nobody wants to get shot but technically that’s not what Hip-Hop is about. When rhyming in a cypher if you had to battle a gangster rapper you just battled them and prayed not to get shot. (Being Funny)
I truly think now that Hip-Hop has been accepted into popular culture it should go back to that spirit of competition. This is just one aspect of Mc-ing but the idea is in order to be the best you have to challenge and beat the best (or the best at the time your writing). Hip-Hop is a competition. Some think it’s a reality show, a popularity contest and some even think it’s a beauty pageant or fashion show. However, to those people I will say it again Hip-Hop is a competition. It is a gladiator sport. The way a boxer wakes up every day to train for a fight is the way MC’s should wake up to work on their next album. Aspiring rappers and MC’s should understand the history of competition and pay homage to those who paved the way. That will only make a good MC great. Check out this radio interview we did with MC Shan from the legendary Juice Crew. He actually spit a verse in this interview and that goes to show you that real artist are always prepared.