Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Cipher

New York has me happy as a clam, I love its diversity and I am finding it surprisingly friendly.  I had an amazing night on thursday evening.  My friend Toni Blackman, a global hip hop ambassador and all-around Dove, invited me up to Harlem to come to her cipher.

I hopped the train from Brooklyn all the way across Manhattan.  The train was slowed by the fact that the express switched to local, and we went stop to stop.   I got up to Harlem, and was singing to myself Across 110th St.  I found the place, a loft office for a social justice organization, and was welcomed into the most amazing class on freestyle.

Toni was running beats, and four hip hop artists were going back and forth on rhymes.  One of the artists was Mahogany Jones, who is going on the American Music Abroad program.  Mahogany was an amazing artist with a real poised flow.

The class/cipher was incredible.  Over polished beats, Toni would give the artists topics or questions and they would then freestyle.  She picked proverbs from the bible or other sources ("there is no progress without struggle"), and they would flow to the thoughts posed.  

I spent the whole time thumbing my prayer beads and bobbing my head to the beat and rhymes.  Toni gave the artists insight on how to channel their energy and thoughts into their lyrics.  She threw out topics like "what do you regret" and they would spit poetry to answer her.  The session on regret was my favorite, as it became a freestyle confession, communion and benediction.

By the end of the night, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.  It was an unforgettable experience, and an amazing welcome to New York.

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