The Chronicle’s Cypher brings together state’s hottest artists

The Chronicle’s 2023 cypher features artists from all around North Carolina.

The Chronicle’s Cypher brings together state’s hottest artists
March 16
10:18 2023

For the past two years to celebrate the art form of hip-hop, The Chronicle has brought together some of the hottest artists in the state to participate in our annual cypher. And with 2023 marking the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do it again.The idea for the cypher came from marketing director Shayna Smith and office manager Deanna Taylor. Smith said she saw young poets from the local nonprofit Authoring Action perform and the next day she showed Taylor clips of the performance and talked about how she wanted to do something similar and it just took off from there. 

The beat for the cyphers was provided by Grammy award-winning producer and NC’s own 9th Wonder. Each of the cyphers is curated by videographer Gregg Penn. With the first cypher, Penn said he wanted to bring in MCs who have nice wordplay to appeal to the original hip-hop heads. With the second cypher, he focused on bringing in younger artists to appeal to a young crowd. 

This year Penn rounded up the best of both worlds. 

The artists participating in this year’s cypher are: Rakeebwize, Qlean, LB The Poet, Big Meezy and HotBoy Shaq. 

Rakeedwize, who’s originally from Virginia, said he got the call a few hours before filming was scheduled to start, but he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. 

“At first I was a little nervous. I didn’t know if I could pull it off or if I would be able to stay on topic, but I felt excited to do it because I felt this was needed,” Rakeebwize said. 

Qlean, who made the drive from Salisbury to be a part of the cypher, said he was grateful for the opportunity because it means he must be doing something right when he steps in the booth. “Anytime someone calls me and says, I want you to come and put on, I’m happy. Because that means people see something in me that I don’t even see in myself, so I’m always appreciative,” Qlean said. 

Like most of the artists, HotBoy Shaq has worked with Penn before, so when he got the invite he said it was a no-brainer. Shaq said the cypher is different from the type of music he usually performs, but as an artist you have to be able to adapt.

 “I’m not going to lie, when he first sent me the beat I don’t know, because I make a different type of music,” Shaq continued. “But at the same time, I’m an artist, it ain’t nothing I can’t do.”

Shaq also put in a good word for Big Meezy. Both artists are from Charlotte and grew up together. Meezy said when you got the assist from Shaq it only took him about 30 minutes to put his verse together. “It didn’t take me long at all … I’ve had a lot of stuff built up, honestly, so if you just play a beat I’ll hop on it,” Meezy said. 

LB The Poet, who is known throughout the city and the state for his writing talent, said after missing the cypher last year, there was no way he was going to miss it again.

“I always stay ready so I don’t have to get ready and that’s pretty much what it was,” LB said. “I really wanted to make sure I got here because I missed it last year. I got the call last year but I was busy and it just didn’t work for the schedule, but this year it worked out and I’m happy to be here.”

Although the cypher is designed to shine a light on the culture, just like it is in any competitive sport, you always want to put your best foot forward and come out on top. All five artists mentioned that they believed they have the best verse, but we’ll let you be the judge of that. 

The Chronicle’s Cypher can be viewed starting Monday, March 13, by visiting The Chronicle’s YouTube Channel and all social media platforms. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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