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The Cipher

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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.




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...

Duration: 01:41:20

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...

Duration: 01:21:09

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...

Duration: 01:32:55

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...

Duration: 01:11:49

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...

Duration: 01:15:27

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...

Duration: 01:32:43

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...

Duration: 00:56:51

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,...

Duration: 01:04:03

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...

Duration: 01:12:54

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...

Duration: 01:10:49

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...

Duration: 00:56:30

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...

Duration: 01:12:14

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...

Duration: 01:07:54

216: Rock

Rock is best-known for being one half of the seminal rap duo Heltah Skeltah, along with his partner, the late Sean Price. The duo, also known as Rock and Ruck, released three albums and were a key part of NYC’s influential underground rap crew the Boot Camp Clik. As a solo artist, Rock has released a number of great mixtapes - including our favorite, 2010’s Rockin’ Out West. But despite several record deals, he’s never released a proper solo album, until now. Rock has just released...

Duration: 01:46:14

215: Lecrae

Lecrae is a rapper whose Christian faith is central to his music and his message, but don’t dare call him a “Christian rapper.” From the very beginning, as you’ll hear, Lecrae was determined to be both, as he frequently puts it, “authentically hip-hop and authentically Christian,” and his music, which has incorporated everything from Southern rap sounds to soul samples to rock guitars, shows that he has stayed true to that aim. Lecrae has managed to expand far outside the confines of...

Duration: 01:09:48

214: Trae Tha Truth

Trae is a true Houston rap legend who got his start as a member of DJ Screw’s Screwed Up Click. Since the late 1990s, he has been sharing his street stories using his one-of-a-kind voice. Through countless mixtapes and albums, he has helped shape the sound and focus of his hometown scene, and played a large role in bringing it to the attention of the wider world. But Trae is not only notable for his rapping. In 2008, the city of Houston awarded him his own day, and Trae Day has become an...

Duration: 00:55:32

213: Hurricane Harvey Special: Trae tha Truth, Killa Kyleon, & Z-Ro

Welcome to a special episode of The Cipher. This is an episode dedicated to Houston. Like countless people around the world, we were devastated by news of Hurricane Harvey and its effects on the city. If you’re a regular listener, you’ve noticed that we have many episodes discussing Houston music and culture with the city’s artists, businesspeople, and authors. So, because of that love for Houston’s music, culture, and most of all its people, we decided to reach out to three H-town rap...

Duration: 00:43:52

212: Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown is one of the foremost stars of modern r&b. Starting out with his childhood pals Ricky, Michael, Ronnie, and Ralph, he formed New Edition, one of the biggest groups of the era. But that was only the beginning. Bobby became a megastar with his 1988 solo album Don’t Be Cruel, whose hits like “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step” helped usher in the New Jack Swing phenomenon. Following several years of nearly non-stop touring, his followup LP, 1992’s Bobby, continued the streak...

Duration: 00:40:48

211: Divine

Divine, as he is fond of saying, has gone “from crack to rap to tech.” His wild and inspirational story starts in Newport, Rhode Island, where he started dealing drugs just as the crack epidemic took hold—and also as hip-hop was starting to blossom. It wasn’t until years later, as he was finding his way out of the criminal life, that Divine let his passion for music take hold, and began his career as a rapper. But a chance meeting over Twitter with venture capitalist Ben Horowitz would...

Duration: 01:16:07

210: Shaggy

Orville “Shaggy” Burrell was raised in Jamaica, but started spending most of his time in Flatbush, Brooklyn starting in his late teens. It was in the streets of Flatbush that he began to turn his talent for creating on-the-spot rhymes into a career, performing at block parties and clubs and recording his first few singles. One of those early songs, a cover of the Folkes Brothers’ “Oh Carolina,” became a huge hit in 1993, particularly in the UK, and really launched Shaggy’s career. He went...

Duration: 01:46:16

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