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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.




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...


225: Mathematics

Mathematics, or Allah Mathematics, is a DJ and producer who has been part of the Wu-Tang Clan since before there was a Wu-Tang Clan. He DJ’d for GZA in the early 1990s, back when the rapper was known as “The Genius.” At the same time, Mathematics kept seeing a young rapper named Rakeem around town. That guy, Rakeem, would soon become the RZA, and would assemble an all-star team of MCs to form one of the most influential rap groups of all time. Mathematics DJ’d for almost all of the Wu...


224: kris ex

kris ex is a writer who played a key role in the creation of hip-hop journalism. Starting in the early 1990s, his work at Ego Trip, One Nut, Rolling Stone, The Source, and especially Vibe helped set the template for what it meant to write about rap music and the people who make it. His eye for the perfect detail, love for the music and culture, and willingness to challenge pretty much anyone and anything has made him arguably the most well-regarded writer in a peer group that includes many...


223: Lil' Flip

Lil’ Flip is a Houston rapper and member of DJ Screw’s famed Screwed Up Click who has more than earned his title of the “Freestyle King.” Flip began his career in the late 1990s, mixing solo and group projects, mixtapes, guest appearances, and, of course, countless freestyles. But it was his 2004 album U Gotta Feel Me, which included the massive hits “Game Over” and “Sunshine,” that really launched him to stardom. Since then, Flip has had his share of ups, downs, and notorious beefs, but...


222: DJ Head

Kevin “DJ Head” Bell is a producer and DJ from Detroit who played a big role in that city’s scene during the mid-to-late 1990s. At that time, an insanely talented group of people were getting together for open mics, beat battles, ciphers, and shows. Among that crew were people who would go on to be some of the most popular and well-regarded rappers and producers of all time, including J. Dilla and Eminem. DJ Head worked closely with them both. He was also tight with the late rapper Proof,...


221: Jack Thriller

Jack Thriller is a comedian who most people know from his time doing funny—and often outrageous—interviews on 50 Cent’s website ThisIs50. He’s talked to everyone from porn actors to fellow comedians to rap stars to athletes and beyond. But in addition to that, Jack is also a talented sketch comedian and writer, stand-up, and even a singer. He got his start working as a writer, warm-up act, and all around right hand man to comedian Lil Duval, before breaking out on his own and moving from...


220: E.S.G.

E.S.G. is a Houston rapper best known for his association with DJ Screw and the Screwed Up Click. He was the very first artist to have Screw remix a song on a commercially-available project, with a Screwed up version of “Swangin and Bangin” on his 1994 album Ocean of Funk. E.S.G., a talented freestyler who can rap off the top of his head for hours at a time, found regional success with that album and its followup, 1995’s Sailin’ Da South, before legal issues stalled things for several...


219: Kurtis Blow

Kurtis Blow was the first rap superstar. He was the first rapper to be signed to a major label and the first one to have a gold single with “The Breaks.” But his career is a whole lot more than just that song and “Christmas Rappin’.” Even before stardom, Blow was a busy DJ and performer who was sharing bills with the likes of old-school legends DJ Hollywood and Eddie Cheeba. And after he broke big—with the help of his manager Russell Simmons—Blow stayed on top, releasing a long string of...


218: Crazy Legs

Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon is a b-boying pioneer and the longtime president of the Rock Steady Crew, arguably the most famous b-boy crew in the world. He joined the Rock Steady crew in its early days, and quickly rose to become its leader. As early as 1981, he was already getting press attention as one of the best dancers out there in the still-new form of b-boying or breaking, and he invented many of the moves we still associate with breaking today. Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew...


217: Fred the Godson

Fred is a rapper who can say that hip-hop is in his blood, literally. Not only is he from the home of hip-hop, the Bronx, but his father also used to work at the NYC nightspot The Tunnel, whose hip-hop nights on Sundays, presided over by Funkmaster Flex, were legendary. So it only makes sense that Fred would grow up to become one of the best rappers out there. His intricate punchlines and metaphors are the stuff of mixtape legend, and his talent has led him to collaborate with some of the...


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