THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015|
Posted by: Niko Demetriou
You can't find much more of a lunch table debate than this: the dream cypher. The pinnacle of freestyling, a rap cypher is simultaneously one of the simplest types of tracks and the most revealing. Take one consistent beat, throw in a handful of rappers and come out with either an ensemble showcasing the best of the best or what sounds like a bunch of high-schoolers trying to spit for the first time. It also isn't as simple as just putting together a list of the best hip hop artists around. It takes an understanding of stylings, knowing who goes where and what the pace of the track is going to be, it takes patience to create this -- the dream cypher.
(The Beat) Flying Lotus
A solid foundation is key here. What's the point of rounding up the talent just to put them on another basic beat. Give me something like the beats on Flying Lotus's You're Dead! -- a record that's interesting and smooth with complex layering that doesn't sound complex at all. Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg have shone over FlyLo beats; this one just needs to have a steadier pace and room for the lyricists to take advantage of.
Chance, The Rapper
Chance knows how to open tracks. He has such a wide variety of styles to choose from, both singing and rapping, that he can single handedly decide how the rest of a track is going to play out. Always hitting on admirable topics, Chance is the perfect opener for the dream cypher. Give me him starting it off singing a hook and jumping into a silky, slower freestyle. Not to mention his killer adlib. AH!
Don't deny a legend of his legendary status. What dream cypher could possibly be absent of Kanye? He can defy genres and create an industrial electronic rap album that still sports some of the catchiest rhymes and intelligent wordplay out to date. His classics set the standard for hip hop today and his new work defines the scene, a necessity here. He often has an aggressive side to his raps but here I see him coming in mellow off of Chance's vibe and working his way up to that blunt style that is so distinguishably Kanye.
The majority of Action's work is basically cyphers with himself; at least until his recent album, Bronson was very publicly anti-hook. His raps are continuous and strong, not ending a track until he's positive he has absolutely killed it. He spits nonsense and it works so well, referencing fine cuisine and specific athletes that can easily fly over most peoples heads, but he doesn't care. Action knows how to rap and he is well aware of that; he lets himself have fun and get creative. That's why he's perfect here: he can bounce off of Kanye easily, bringing up the intensity of the track to set up the next artist flawlessly.
Although he's been a little quiet recently, this is where Danny Brown belongs. Rounding off our team of wordsmiths, we have the new-school king of flawless flow. Coming in hot off of Action, Danny would go for a verse or two with his hard hitting rhymes and powerful presence. He's a blast to listen to, and can bust out both the tough, molly praising track like "Dip" or the softer and self-aware "Float On." Let him go crazy here to bring the track home.
I couldn't resist. Just like Frank Ocean in "Oldie," throw a curveball into the lineup to set the track above all expectations. That little something that comes out of nowhere but always ends up completing the piece. Give me Justin Timberlake rounding out my cypher, 10 times out of 10. He has already worked with big name rappers, produced some seriously groovy beats, and has a phenomenal sense of musical direction. Justin is the only person that would know how to end this masterpiece. Post up on the beat and belt out those high notes, he's got it. And with that, we have it: the one and only dream cypher.
A couple of honorable mentions that almost made the cut, and some top notch cyphers to get you thinking:
Tyler, The Creator - M.F. Doom - A$AP Rocky - Miguel - J. Cole - Kendrick Lamar - Ab-Soul