The cypher is nothing new to hip-hop fans. Quality freestyles have been easier to produce than ever before with the help of the Internet; as long as you have a beat and a mic, you’re set. With such a simple formula, you’ll be hard pressed to find a cypher series that pushes listeners into new, sonically refreshing territory.
Samples and strong beats are just as important as a lyrical MC. We all know that jazz, funk, and R&B has played an integral role in the foundation of hip-hop, and these days, more so than ever, your favorite MCs are reaching out directly to the source. Take a look at Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, which heavily featured jazz musicians performing live in the studio alongside his tracks. Pianist Robert Glasper, virtuoso bassist Thundercat, and newcomer Kamasi Washington push the album to a place that blurs the line between hip-hop and jazz.
Our new series Complex City Cypher aims to pull the curtain back on the studio and push these musicians out into the spotlight with raw, live collaborations. These two disciplines have a long history of improvisation, either in the extended jazz solo or the school yard freestyle, both are rooted in the musicians ability to capture what inspires them in a raw environment. From the underground to the rising stars, each episode will promise to bring a unique collaboration.
In our first episode, we head to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Grammy-nominated jazz musician Christian Scott assembled a group of musicians around the greater NYC area—Devonne Harris (Keys), Corey Fonville (Drums), Burniss Travis II (Bass), and Gabe Schnider (Guitar)—to provide the backing tracks to verses from A$AP Ferg, Wiki, and Your Old Droog.