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69 minutes | Jan 18, 2019
252: Shawn and Josh With Jay Smooth
As many of you know, The Cipher is going on an indefinite hiatus following this episode. For more information about why, visit us on Twitter or Facebook, or just listen to this episode. But in short, we have no plans to make any more new episodes after this one. Our archives, however, will still be available and free on our website, on iTunes and other podcast apps, and on SoundCloud.For this goodbye episode, we called up our friend and episode 201 guest Jay Smooth to interview The Cipher’s host Shawn Setaro and its producer Josh Kross. Jay, as you’ll hear, did an amazing job, and got us to touch on so many aspects of the show’s history, and of ways we thought about it over the years.So here’s the end of the road, for now. Thanks for listening.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/252/ for full show notes and comments.
68 minutes | Dec 18, 2018
251: Xmas Jollies 2018 With Bill Adler
Every Christmas since 2013, we’ve sat down with Bill—who is the former head of PR at Def Jam, among numerous other accomplishments—to talk about his world-famous Xmas Jollies mix. Bill spends the whole year scouring record stores, flea markets, the internet, and everywhere in between to find the perfect batch of great holiday music, and then shares it with his select mailing list, and with us. Now, we talk to him about some of this year’s selections.You can hear Bill’s mix in its entirety at our Soundcloud page.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/251/ for full show notes and comments.
67 minutes | Nov 21, 2018
250: Masta Ace and Marco Polo
Masta Ace is a legendary rhymer whose career began with the Juice Crew and has continued through a series of beloved solo and group albums. Marco Polo is a Toronto-born producer who moved to New York City in the early 2000s, and took his adopted hometown’s traditional boom-bap aesthetic to heart. Marco has brought his rugged sound to Torae, Pharoahe Monch, Ruste Juxx, Sean Price, Vinnie Paz, Rah Digga, and many more.Now, Marco and Ace have joined up for a new album. A Breukelen Story combines a set of incredible songs with a series of skits that follow Marco’s journey from Toronto to NYC—an Ace-written storyline that both mirrors and features people from the producer’s real life.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/250/ for full show notes and comments.
80 minutes | Nov 6, 2018
249: Mike Heron
Mike “Heron” Herard is a record exec, producer, manager, label owner, and all-around music business legend. He first came to the attention of underground hip-hop fans when he was the co-founder of Hydra Records, which released music by Screwball, Godfather Don, and many others. He then moved over to Rawkus Records, where he played a key role in Big L’s posthumous album The Big Picture. He has also managed Joell Ortiz, and is currently the Vice President of A&R at Shady Records. In addition, he runs the company BeatHustle, a firm that manages composers who compose music specifically for rap producers to sample.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/249/ for full show notes and comments.
39 minutes | Oct 23, 2018
248: Jonah Hill and the 'Mid90s' Cast
Mid90s, which opened this past Friday, October 19th, is a film Hill wrote and directed about a group of skateboarding friends in—you guessed it—the mid-1990s. The incredibly authentic period piece features plenty of nods to the skateboarding scene and the music of the time period, including songs from the Pharcyde and the Gravediggaz, and a memorable cameo appearance by Del the Funkee Homosapien.This is Jonah’s first film as a writer/director. He has, of course, starred in tons of films, from Superbad to Moneyball to The Wolf of Wall Street. For this interview, Hill was joined by Sunny Suljic, who plays Stevie; Na-kel Smith, who plays Ray; Olan Prenatt, who plays Fuckshit; Gio Galicia, who plays Ruben; Ryder McLaughlin, who plays Fourth Grade; and Alexa Demie, who plays Estee. To rap fans, Na-Kel Smith’s name and voice may sound familiar—he has a music career of his own, and has appeared on songs with Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/248/ for full show notes and comments.
61 minutes | Oct 9, 2018
247: Jericho Jackson (Khrysis & Elzhi)
Jericho Jackson is a group made up of producer Khrysis and rapper Elzhi. Khrysis is best known for his work with the rap collective the Justus League, which counts among its members 9th Wonder. He is currently a member of 9th’s production team the Soul Council. In addition to his North Carolina crew, Khrysis has produced for Sean Price and Heltah Skeltah, Jean Grae, Evidence, Talib Kweli, Black Thought, and many others.Dedicated Cipher listeners will remember Elzhi from our talk with him on episode 152. The Detroit rapper came to a lot of fans’ attention during his time as a member of Slum Village. He followed that up with a staggering series of solo albums, including the Nas reinvention Elmatic and the deeply personal Lead Poison.Khrysis and Elzhi’s recent joint album is called Khrysis and Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/247/ for full show notes and comments.
63 minutes | Sep 25, 2018
K-Salaam is a producer and DJ who, both by himself and with his production partner Beatnick, has made beats for some of your favorite artists. A short, by no means complete list includes Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Talib Kweli, Trey Songz, Lil Wayne, Murs, Bun B, Sizzla, and Young Buck.K-Salaam got his start in Minneapolis, where he was an integral part of the early years of the Rhymesayers label. He DJ’d for many of the label’s acts, as well as for their signature radio show. In recent years, he and Beatnick also worked extensively with Ms. Lauryn Hill, and even had one of their tracks featured in the 2016 Summer Olympics.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/246/ for full show notes and comments.
81 minutes | Sep 11, 2018
245: Nick Cannon
Nick, as you undoubtedly already know, is a musician, actor, comedian, TV executive, and all-around entertainer. He got his start doing stand-up comedy while still a teenager. He parlayed that into work at Nickelodeon, where he wrote for and starred in now-classic shows like All That, Kenan & Kel, and the appropriately-named Nick Cannon Show. He moved from that into starring in movies like Drumline and Love Don’t Cost a Thing, putting out several stand up specials, and even hosting America’s Got Talent.But, as you’ll hear, Nick has always thought of himself as a musician first. He has released numerous albums and mixtapes, written and produced for other artists, and has worked with everyone from Biz Markie to Gucci Mane to the Neptunes to Kanye West. And, of course, he combined his loves of hip-hop and improv comedy into the long running hit TV show Wild ‘N Out. Nick’s latest musical project, released earlier this year, is Calling All Models: The Mixtape.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/245/ for full show notes and comments.
83 minutes | Aug 28, 2018
Glen “Daddy-O” Bolton is a rapper, producer, executive, and all-around hip-hop Renaissance man. He formed the ground breaking Stetsasonic in 1981, and the group went on to release several classic albums and become the first great hip-hop band.As a producer and remixer, he worked with everyone from Audio Two to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to They Might Be Giants. He was an executive at MCA and Motown, and continues to consult with a number of companies. And he’s still releasing music to this day. Daddy-O’s latest album, released this past May, is No Tablecloths.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/244/ for full show notes and comments.
68 minutes | Aug 14, 2018
243: Joan Morgan
Joan is a writer who got her start in the 1990s, helping to create what came to be known as “hip-hop journalism” with her articles at places like Vibe and the Village Voice. Whether she was writing about the Mike Tyson trial, profiling TLC, or investigating the sex trade in Jamaica, Joan brought her keen, Bronx-raised sensibility to everything she touched.Joan pioneered hip-hop feminism—and came up with the phrase “black girl magic,” to boot—in her classic 1999 book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. And now she has a brand new book, a reflection on Ms. Lauryn Hill’s classic debut album. It’s called She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/243/ for full show notes and comments.
74 minutes | Jul 10, 2018
242: Soundset Pt. 2 (Murs, Nikki Jean, OG Grip, Evidence)
Soundset is a festival in the Minneapolis area put on by the Rhymesayers label. It’s been running since 2008, and has grown from a show in a warehouse to a day-long outdoor event featuring some of music’s biggest acts.This past May, we went to the festival to hang out and talk to the performers, and and this is the second of two episodes where you can hear the results. This time, you’ll find conversations with Murs, Nikki Jean, OG Grip, and Evidence. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the conclusion of The Cipher’s Soundset special.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/242/ for full show notes and comments.
69 minutes | Jun 26, 2018
241: Soundset Pt. 1: Rapsody, Grieves, K-Salaam, Sa-Roc, Prof
Soundset is a festival in the Minneapolis area put on by the Rhymesayers label. It’s been running since 2008, and has grown from a show in a warehouse to a day-long outdoor event featuring some of music’s biggest acts.This past May, we went to the festival to hang out and talk to the performers, and on this episode and the next one, you’ll hear the results. This time, you’ll find conversations with Rapsody, Grieves, K-Salaam, Sa-Roc, and Prof. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the first half of The Cipher’s Soundset special.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/241/ for full show notes and comments.
79 minutes | Jun 12, 2018
240: Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp
Kalyn is a rapper and the leader of the eclectic Denver-based group Wheelchair Sports Camp, who have garnered critical acclaim for their music and their energetic live performances almost since their founding in 2009.Wheelchair Sports Camp - named after a real camp that Kalyn, who has brittle bone disease and has been in a wheelchair her whole life - used to attend, is a group that pushes the boundaries in sound and subject matter. Most performances consist of Kalyn, drums, and trumpet, and their latest album No Big Deal explores everything from gentrification to the pressure artists put on themselves to important social issues.In addition to being a great rapper, Kalyn is also an activist, and now a politician. She participated in a big protest against the repeal of the ACA that had her and other activists taking over a senator’s office. And now she’s running - or rather, as she puts it, rolling - for Mayor of Denver.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/240/ for full show notes and comments.
50 minutes | May 29, 2018
239: Big Daddy Kane Revisited
This week, we talk to a man who needs no introduction, Big Daddy Kane. Kane tells us about his legacy, dissing Erick Sermon, who really produced his first album, and tons more. This is a Cipher-ized, improved version of an episode that originally ran in 2013.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/239/ for full show notes and comments.
92 minutes | May 15, 2018
238: MC Paul Barman
MC Paul Barman first started making songs in the late 1990s, during his time at Brown University. His wild rhymes about topics like a slacker college student who becomes half man, half goat in order to become a star quickly caught the ear of legendary producer Prince Paul, who produced Barman’s 2000 EP It’s Very Stimulating. That project introduced Paul Barman to the hip-hop masses as a guy as likely to drop a reference to a Polish filmmaker as LL Cool J, and to write lyrics that incorporate elaborate rhyme schemes, acrostics, and even Morse code.Since It’s Very Stimulating, Barman has released two full-length albums and several mixtapes. His brand-new album (((echo chamber))) is out Friday, May 18th on Mello Music Group.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/238/ for full show notes and comments.
73 minutes | May 1, 2018
237: Phonte: No News Is Good News
Phonte first visited us in early 2016, when we had a career-spanning interview. But now he’s back with No News Is Good News, an incredible new album that turns the rapper’s last several years of tragedies and triumphs into amazing art.Phonte first came to most rap fans’ notice as a member of the critically acclaimed group Little Brother, and has since released an array of solo, duo, and group projects - most notably with Foreign Exchange. No News Is Good News finds Phonte reflecting on the deaths of close family members, the happiness brought by a new marriage, and what it’s like to possibly have more years behind you and in front of you. All of that, combined with Phonte’s incredible rhyming, makes for one of the best records of the year.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/237/ for full show notes and comments.
103 minutes | Apr 17, 2018
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 Brain.Now Jean and Quelle have joined forces for the incredible new album Everything’s Fine. The project has been met with critical raves from pretty much everywhere, and rightly so. It shows Jean and Quelle in absolute top form: rapping, singing, producing, and playing on a group of songs that respond to today’s often-frightening world with humor, sadness, and a reminder that when we tell people that everything’s fine, we almost never mean it.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/236/ for full show notes and comments.
80 minutes | Apr 3, 2018
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 1999.An intense touring schedule and its attendant stresses put pressure on the crew, and it splintered after the 2001 follow-up Date of Birth. But the Arsonists are back with a new album, Lost in the Fire, and a reissued version of their debut. Lost in the Fire features a mix of old but previously unreleased material alongside new songs.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/235/ for full show notes and comments.
75 minutes | Mar 20, 2018
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 to support them—all while running Strange Famous. B. Dolan is an equally talented wordsmith whose solo work is as likely to give new life to old union hymn as it is to pay tribute to the Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The group has a new EP, Season 1, and an album on the way.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/234/ for full show notes and comments.
80 minutes | Mar 6, 2018
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 began a successful career as a solo artist and producer, culminating in his giant 2001 hit “Music.” As a producer, he’s helmed hits for LL Cool J, Jay Z, Illegal, Jodeci, and even Shaquille O’Neal. Most recently, Sermon completed a successful campaign to crowdfund a new album.See http://theciphershow.com/episode/233/ for full show notes and comments.
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