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Welcome to The Cipher, a weekly podcast featuring in-depth conversations with the most interesting figures in Hip-Hop.

Welcome to The Cipher, a weekly podcast featuring in-depth conversations with the most interesting figures in Hip-Hop.
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Welcome to The Cipher, a weekly podcast featuring in-depth conversations with the most interesting figures in Hip-Hop.




245: Nick Cannon

Nick, as you undoubtedly already know, is a musician, actor, comedian, TV executive, and all-around entertainer. He got his start doing stand-up comedy while still a teenager. He parlayed that into work at Nickelodeon, where he wrote for and starred in now-classic shows like All That, Kenan & Kel, and the appropriately-named Nick Cannon Show. He moved from that into starring in movies like Drumline and Love Don’t Cost a Thing, putting out several stand up specials, and even hosting...


244: Daddy-O

Glen “Daddy-O” Bolton is a rapper, producer, executive, and all-around hip-hop Renaissance man. He formed the ground breaking Stetsasonic in 1981, and the group went on to release several classic albums and become the first great hip-hop band. As a producer and remixer, he worked with everyone from Audio Two to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to They Might Be Giants. He was an executive at MCA and Motown, and continues to consult with a number of companies. And he’s still releasing music to...


243: Joan Morgan

Joan is a writer who got her start in the 1990s, helping to create what came to be known as “hip-hop journalism” with her articles at places like Vibe and the Village Voice. Whether she was writing about the Mike Tyson trial, profiling TLC, or investigating the sex trade in Jamaica, Joan brought her keen, Bronx-raised sensibility to everything she touched. Joan pioneered hip-hop feminism—and came up with the phrase “black girl magic,” to boot—in her classic 1999 book When Chickenheads...


242: Soundset Pt. 2 (Murs, Nikki Jean, OG Grip, Evidence)

Soundset is a festival in the Minneapolis area put on by the Rhymesayers label. It’s been running since 2008, and has grown from a show in a warehouse to a day-long outdoor event featuring some of music’s biggest acts. This past May, we went to the festival to hang out and talk to the performers, and and this is the second of two episodes where you can hear the results. This time, you’ll find conversations with Murs, Nikki Jean, OG Grip, and Evidence. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the...


241: Soundset Pt. 1: Rapsody, Grieves, K-Salaam, Sa-Roc, Prof

Soundset is a festival in the Minneapolis area put on by the Rhymesayers label. It’s been running since 2008, and has grown from a show in a warehouse to a day-long outdoor event featuring some of music’s biggest acts. This past May, we went to the festival to hang out and talk to the performers, and on this episode and the next one, you’ll hear the results. This time, you’ll find conversations with Rapsody, Grieves, K-Salaam, Sa-Roc, and Prof. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the first half...


240: Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp

Kalyn is a rapper and the leader of the eclectic Denver-based group Wheelchair Sports Camp, who have garnered critical acclaim for their music and their energetic live performances almost since their founding in 2009. Wheelchair Sports Camp - named after a real camp that Kalyn, who has brittle bone disease and has been in a wheelchair her whole life - used to attend, is a group that pushes the boundaries in sound and subject matter. Most performances consist of Kalyn, drums, and trumpet,...


239: Big Daddy Kane Revisited

This week, we talk to a man who needs no introduction, Big Daddy Kane. Kane tells us about his legacy, dissing Erick Sermon, who really produced his first album, and tons more. This is a Cipher-ized, improved version of an episode that originally ran in 2013. See for full show notes and comments.


238: MC Paul Barman

MC Paul Barman first started making songs in the late 1990s, during his time at Brown University. His wild rhymes about topics like a slacker college student who becomes half man, half goat in order to become a star quickly caught the ear of legendary producer Prince Paul, who produced Barman’s 2000 EP It’s Very Stimulating. That project introduced Paul Barman to the hip-hop masses as a guy as likely to drop a reference to a Polish filmmaker as LL Cool J, and to write lyrics that...


237: Phonte: No News Is Good News

Phonte first visited us in early 2016, when we had a career-spanning interview. But now he’s back with No News Is Good News, an incredible new album that turns the rapper’s last several years of tragedies and triumphs into amazing art. Phonte first came to most rap fans’ notice as a member of the critically acclaimed group Little Brother, and has since released an array of solo, duo, and group projects - most notably with Foreign Exchange. No News Is Good News finds Phonte reflecting on...


236: Jean Grae & Quelle Chris

Jean Grae was our show’s first-ever guest back in 2012. She is one of the finest rappers out there, and a great producer as well. But in recent years, she’s expanded her horizons even further, pushing into comedy, sitcoms, instructional albums, audiobooks, talk shows, variety shows, and even her own church. Quelle Chris joined us in 2016. Since then, he’s released the acclaimed album Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often and the instrumental project Lullabies for the Broken...


235: D-Stroy & Q-Unique of the Arsonists

The Arsonists were a crew formed in Bushwick in the early 1990s. D-Stroy, who began his rap career in his early teens alongside famed DJ Tony Touch in the duo Touch and D-Stroy, helped to solidify a group that would come to consist of, among others, Freestyle, Jise One, Swel Boogie, and Q-Unique. After putting out several early singles, the group was the first hip-hop act to sign to Matador Records, a label better known for indie rock. They released their debut album As the World Burns in...


234: Epic Beard Men (Sage Francis & B. Dolan)

Sage Francis and B. Dolan are both from Providence, are both rappers who have roots in spoken word, have toured and sporadically recorded together for years, and even share a label—the Sage-founded Strange Famous Records. But it has taken them until 2018 to release a full project as a duo: the Epic Beard Men. Sage is a beloved underground rap veteran who has been releasing albums of his smart, introspective, and emotional music consistently since 2002, and touring the universe maniacally...


233: Erick Sermon

Erick Sermon got his start alongside Parrish Smith as a member of the iconic duo EPMD. Starting with their debut single in 1987 and their first album the following year, the group released four classic LPs in a row - a nearly unprecedented run in a still-new genre - before splitting (for the first time) in 1993. At the same time, Sermon was instrumental in finding and introducing hit acts like Das EFX, K-Solo, Keith Murray, and Redman for his Hit Squad collective. After the breakup, Erick...


232: Evidence

Evidence first became known to most hip-hop fans as a member of Dilated Peoples. The group, which consists of Ev, Rakaa Iriscience, and the virtuosic DJ Babu, were beloved champions of hip-hop’s underground in the early 2000s. After a number of successful Dilated projects, Evidence decided to go solo in 2007 with The Weatherman. Since then, he’s continued to release music on his own, with the group, and even with his longtime friend, the producer Alchemist, as the Step Brothers. His...


231: Skyzoo: In Celebration of Us

Skyzoo is a fantastic Brooklyn rapper whose sophisticated lyrics and ear for soulful beats has long made him one of our favorites. Longtime listeners will no doubt remember that he’s been a guest on the show twice before. But this is different. Sky approached us last month with the idea of having an in-depth conversation to tease out the themes and ideas in his awesome new record. In Celebration of Us, easily his most topical project to date, deals with police violence, gentrification,...


230: Ice-T

Ice is someone who surely needs no introduction…which won’t stop us from giving him one anyway. He got his start in music as part of L.A.s mid-1980s electro scene, emceeing and managing the stage at the noted club Radio, working with people like The Unknown DJ and Chris “The Glove” Taylor, and making a notable appearance in the 1984 film Breakin’. Following the release of his classic song “6 in the Mornin’” and a fateful 1986 trip to New York City, Ice landed a deal with Sire Records, and...


229: Combat Jack Remembered

Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé was a lawyer, a blogger, a music executive, a father, and much more. But most people will remember him as a podcasting legend. The host of the eponymous Combat Jack Show raised the bar throughout his time as a media figure, becoming the most influential hip-hop podcaster and even the co-creator of an entire podcast network. Ossé died on December 20, 2017. To celebrate his life, this is a revamped version of an interview we first did with him that aired in early...


228: Xmas Jollies 2017 With Bill Adler

Bill Adler is…well, you probably already know who Bill is. Publicist, journalist, author, gallery owner, archivist - Bill has done it all. From helping to popularize acts like Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys to defending free speech alongside Luther Campbell to boycotting the Grammys with Public Enemy and the Fresh Prince, there’s very little Bill hasn’t done. But most importantly, Bill Adler is a Christmas music obsessive. Every year since 1982, he’s created a mix of seasonal music that he...


227: Percee P

Percee P is a rapper whose reputation and influence far outpaces his relatively small recorded output. The Bronx-born artist grew up right alongside hip-hop - he started rapping as a young kid right as the first rap records were coming out, and was in the mix as hip-hop was being created in his neighborhood. Whether it was watching DJ’s at park jams, being around noted graffiti writers, or watching up-and-coming groups rehearse their routines, Percee was right there. His first record was...


226: Statik Selektah

DJ Statik Selektah has been on his grind since he first started DJing in his very early teens. He made a name for himself as a mixtape DJ, but really broke out once he started making beats on his own. He has released seven solo albums, with his latest, 8, coming out this Friday, December 8th. Those records have featured guest appearances from almost everyone in hip-hop, from Kool G Rap and Bun B to Smoke DZA and 2 Chainz. In addition, he has released collaborative albums with Bumpy...