Cipha: I can play anywhere because of what I learned at the Tunnel. It was so intimidating. One time this dude threw ice at me; he hit me in the head with ice. And it wasn’t that he didn’t like what I was playing; it was that he wanted it louder. I was playing a Nas song, a single vinyl. 12” singles are louder because the grooves are wider. That’s why the albums started to be pressed on double vinyl—two pieces of vinyl for one album, so it would be louder in the club. The Nas track I was playing was too low, and dude said, “Yo, turn that shit up.” I said, “It’s up all the way.” So he threw ice at me. I told him, “You throw ice at me again and I’m going to jump over this booth.” He threw it right away, didn’t even blink. I had to jump off the side of the DJ booth, got into a huge fight. Security pulled me off, said, “Ciph, what are you doing?” They threw me back up into the booth, and that guy disappeared.

Flex: My mic skills weren’t up then like they are now.

Cipha: Flex didn’t talk as much then as he does now; Big Kap used to be on the mike the most. I used to be a purist. I blended the records so that the heads wouldn’t stop nodding. Flex would just fucking crash them in, and it was exciting. What I did, it sounded pretty. I thought that Flex was sloppy. But I found out the hard way that he was right. He controlled the room.

Flex: Reggae DJs used to pull records back and make the club go crazy. I would pull the record back and Big Kap wouldn't yell “Pull up” or nothing, he'd just say, “Oh, my God—it's fucking crazy in here!” He would acknowledge the moment. The reggae DJs didn't really acknowledge the moment, they acknowledged the song. But Kap would acknowledge the moment in the club.


He hit me in the head with ice. And it wasn’t that he didn’t like what I was playing; it was that he wanted it louder.
- Cipha Sounds 


CiphaFlex and me had this thing I called “The Shoulder.” He would always come early, even though he didn’t get on right away. I would be playing new records. I remember playing the Lost Boyz’ “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz.” That was the b-side to “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless,” which Flex was playing at the time. I played that record early one night and the crowd went crazy. Flex came over and put his hand on my shoulder. He didn’t say anything, but it meant “Don’t play that record next week.” I was the tester.

Flex: Memphis Bleek’s “My Mind Right,” Tha Alkaholiks' “Only When I’m Drunk,” Nas’ “Hate Me Now,” Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No Nigga—all those records broke out of the Tunnel.

Cipha: The remix to Craig Mack’s Flava in Ya Ear,” Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?,” Akinyele’s “Put It in Ya Mouth,” Busta’s “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” the remix to Biggie’s “One More Chance”—all those were big records. The first time Flex played one? A minimum of 20 minutes. Maybe more. When “It’s All About the Benjamins came out, Flex played it for an hour. One song for one hour.

[Ed. Note—Check out Cipha's list of the 75 greatest Tunnel bangers for more music.]

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