Learning to Rap Through Cyphers
Macklemore: “I think going through puberty and your voice gets deeper. And you’re like, ‘I don’t sound like a chipmunk anymore.’ That was one thing with kind of the Rawkus era, it was something, you know, growing up listening to Wu-Tang and Mobb Deep, there was a much greater emphasis on cyphers back then. There wasn’t a studio to record in. Nowadays, everybody has a studio. Back then, you know one person with a studio. There was one studio in Seattle, now there are a couple and it was before anybody could record music on their computer. A big part of the culture was freestyling, beatboxing, and being out in public.That was kind of the studio, just honing your craft with other people in cyphers. And people were doing it at my school.
“It took me a minute [to learn how to rap.] My whole freshman year I would do it with my friends. In terms of people that were older and much better than me, I was just kind of watching from the sideline and studying it. I definitely didn’t feel comfortable with it at first. I was horrible.
“The greatest thing to me, it’s almost a long lost art. What we call a freestyle nowadays isn’t what I am referring to. This was improv off the top of the head. There’s something about that energy that can’t be duplicated. Like even when people are spitting written raps and call it a cypher or whatever, it is just not the same. That improv and that comfortably with your skill that you can fuck up and still keep going and save it. Just feeding off of other people’s energy. Just very raw. And nowadays it’s very manufactured. People don’t really freestyle anymore. It’s all in the studio. It’s just a different art form.”