By Mr. Joe Walker
I’m not certain what I will say when hip-hop music event Project Cypher 2 begins tonight, May 16 at The Warehouse in Battle Creek, MI. As its host I’m expected to introduce each scheduled act, maintaining the flow of the show with smooth transitions from performer to performer.
Cypher’s creator is hip-hop star HighTyde (Ryan Evans of Battle Creek). Formally with Word/Warner Bros., the indie standout won the acclaimed 2014 Midwest Music Challenge, a competition sponsored in part by Concrete Magazine. For Cypher he’s booked a variety of talent to grace The Warehouse stage, and from the moment the night begins I have to assist in heightening audience excitement for each of their sets.
What I should be doing from the second I touch the microphone is basically morphing into a hype man. Stylizing my voice like a mixtape DJ might be fun and highly effective in this role. The hip-hop lover in me could seemingly do this with ease. However, this won’t be the case.
Once I’m called to the stage to kick Cypher off I won’t just be speaking to the hip-hop junkie found inside each person on hand. I’ll be addressing their humanity.
HighTyde created Project Cypher to build unity, offer exposure, but more importantly as a vehicle of charity; this 2nd iteration is to raise awareness for Mitochondrial Disease. Cypher 2 will specifically benefit Carter Buffum - a 6-year-old Jackson, MI native stricken by the debilitating cellular disorder.
I picture The Warehouse packed to capacity. The crowd is silent, attentive; all waiting for how I'll articulate the reason we’ve filled the venue. As a professional entertainment journalist I’ve been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Using words to engage is not foreign. My writing career began on the Internet with The Groove Spot Online Hip-Hop Magazine in 1997, finally granted ink in 2003. With an unconventional start I had to hustle my way to print, eventually contributing to such publications as Revue, Kalamazoo Gazette, Real Detroit Weekly, RIME, Notion, Murder Dog, and Grand Rapids Press. I returned online in 2010 with SoulTrain.com where my current role is their senior writer. I joined Concrete last fall.
The one constant no matter where my words have appeared has been to address the humanity in every entertainer I interview. At Cypher I will also be addressing my own.
I have three sons, my youngest came into my life two years ago. His journey to my arms was contested by several life-threatening obstacles, ones I relive every time I look at him. His tumultuous birth came just two days after my grandfather’s birthday; he and my grandmother, his wife, both passed away just a couple weeks prior. Overwhelming emotion was finding its way into everything I was writing. I'd been introduced to crowded feelings. The ovation was a tearjerker.
Most parents wish their children are born with no complications. They hope for the best. But we take the hand we're dealt, pressing on in the name of love. Parenting and being lovingly parented is a full house of hearts. And that's most likely the hand I'll show to open Cypher.
Carter Buffum is no stranger to support. The Buffum family established the Carter Buffum Fund to benefit mitochondrial disease research at Ann Arbor's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Proceeds have also been collected from a 5K run, among other Carter-centric fundraisers. I fully expect HighTyde's Project Cypher 2 to be unique and special among them. And here’s why: Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc introduced the “break”, the instrumental-extending turntable technique which lead to the birth of hip-hop, at a recreation room party in 1973 Bronx, NY. Social and financial crisis was widespread, gangs were wounding the neighborhoods, and unaffiliated youth needed a safe haven to heal. Clive's party was the place, his intentions were charitable.