The State of the Cypher
Local artist Izaiah Dopka released his album “97 ‘Til Infinity” in late August of this year. With the album being a concept piece towards the 90s era of Hip-Hop, I was intrigued and got excited when I heard the bars pouring out of this project. If you read my last piece on the Hip-Hop Butterfly Effect in Minneapolis, you are seeing it unfold as you read this sentence. I met Vlad G through the Urban Lights record store open mics that he has created with owner Tim. As I met Vlad, I later on met Izaiah through the same mission only to find out that Vlad and Izaiah have been in contact as well. The three of us put it together and got in contact for a cypher to be in our near future, as a bat signal for the lost element of Hip-Hop to return in a major way. There will be more on that in a bit. Izaiah Dopka was able to answer a few questions I had for him regarding his work and thought process.
Describe Hip-Hop in the best 3 words you would use for it
Political, Raw and Party
What is the “97” club?
The 97 club is a record label I made last year. It’s a flip on the 27 club. I wanted the artists that work with me to have a long, healthy and happy life and legacy. Hence the 9 instead of the 2. I was born in ‘97 myself and that’s where the idea was sparked to fit any artist.
Who are some rappers that inspire you the most lyrically and style wise?
Nas, Jay Z, Kendrick, J Cole, Eminem and Andre, our usual suspects. Others are Prince Ea, Tyler the Creator, Malz Monday, Vince Staples, Cousin Stizz, and Ivan Ave. For other styles I like Betty Davis and Pink Floyd. James Brown, Sade, can’t forget about MF Doom. I can go on forever but every style influences and pushes me to try something new and become a better artist.
Tell me about your newest album, what was the process?
My album “97 'Til Infinity” was released August 31st, 2021! It’s a complete concept album, an ode to the 90s golden era of Hip-Hop. I’m really on a new wave, blending new school with old school. I just wanted to say one last hoorah to the straight up classic style. It took me about one night to finish the majority of the album and then 11 months to edit lyrics and song structure with Ace.
How does it feel to get it out?
It means the most to get this album out, Josh. I’ve rapped everywhere from basements to closets to bathrooms. Just to see my music getting love after a 2 year hiatus, discovering myself in California… It means the world to me. This interview means the world is straight up. Every time I look and see the song count going up, It literally warms my heart and makes my day a little bit better. Thank you for all the love you’ve shown me.
What’s your opinion on the Minneapolis music scene?
I think right now the talent that’s bubbling is on its way to greatness. Not just the rappers but the photographers, producers, writers etc. I do feel like OGs like Tim from the Urban Lights record store are representing us as a lot of other established OGs forgot about us or never really gave a fuck about the local artists coming up. The 97 club wants to change that, not only for the artists my age (24) but younger artists too. I would say Mineesota is up next with bars, singles and style because we just mesh everything in our own way. Right now we are crafting our own sound.
It was clear to me Izaiah was inspired by some of my favorite MCs growing up as I can hear it in his smooth entries and structured melody work. The album is a great listen especially if you need something that focuses on song structure and bars. Izaiah is a prominent local artist here and his work ethic towards his career will pay dividends as he has shown me how much he pours into his words and music. You can follow Izaiah on Instagram, izaiahdopka, as well as stream his album 97 ‘Til Infinity on DSPs now.
Cyphers have been a part of Hip-Hop since the moment DJ Kool Herc spun that record in the bronx. Poets and writers now known as MCs, in a circle late at night or in the middle of the day, going bar for bar on loops of a record. It could have gotten competitive or it was just to have a good time with people you love. Words. Words that didn’t need a mic or stage. If you had some vocal cords and a basement or empty parking lot, you were eligible to take part in the cypher. The question remains though, do you have bars? Cypher grounds served as the prove yourself platform for some, in their collective of what is usually 3-5 MCs, talking everything fly, even if it was just a couple minutes or less at a time. It’s an element of Hip-Hop that I personally find fascinating for the accessibility and craftsmanship that comes with it. To be poignant with one's words under the light of his own peers is the coolest concept to me, especially when beats were not as easy to come by. The showmanship and bravado that a cypher from a group of MCs could spark is unlike any other simple luxury I’ve seen in music.
Sadly, the cypher seems to be dead. In Minneapolis, across the country even. There is no doubt this is the newest era of new school that Hip-Hop has ever seen, as it extends itself into multiple sub cultures and regions. We all stem from somewhere musically though and I am sure there are many MCs such as myself, Vlad G and Izaiah that can share the sentiment of bringing back the exposure and hype that cyphers and freestyles provide. That’s why the three of us will be working together on reviving the Cypher scene to Minneapolis. It’s time to come correct, for whoever wants to be a part of this. Connect with an MC or two and pick a beat to get going. Videos released of everyone's cyphers and freestyles will be a great way for a comeback to brew in bringing back the lost element of Hip-Hop. Not to mention, cyphers were used by groups and individuals to broadcast their range and talent to any given audience. This is a great opportunity for the local 90s Hip-Hop lovers specifically to try out what they’ve already loved, all while putting on for their city. The JB, Izaiah Dopka and Vlad G cypher and music video, out soon. Come back for my next blog post to see it.