Leisure/Music

BET Cypher Breakdown: “Jon Connor and Friends”

Every year, millions of people tune in to watch the same people win the same awards, and they are somehow entertained by it. Aside from watching Drake win in almost every category and watching incredible performances by artists like Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, and even Bone Thugs N Harmony, everyone’s favorite moment of the show occurs when they air the cyphers. The hottest rappers out, the nicest rappers on the come up, and past rap legends are selected hha13-cypher-jonconnoreach year to freestyle at the BET Hip Hop Awards; and every time, hip-hop fans and critics debate as to who had the best performance, especially on the cyphers. Here are my thoughts.

This year, although I felt that the cyphers were mediocre, especially in comparison to last year’s performances, It was an overall good performance due to certain rappers who just stood out more than others (i.e. Kendrick who killed it in the TDE cypher).  Nonetheless, I was most impressed by the Jon Connor & Friends’ cyphers.  Here, there was a strong showcase of undiluted and raw underground talent.

The first rapper who graced the stage was Wax. Wax, who originates from Calvert County, Maryland, was signed to Def Jam back in 2011, but was released from the label in 2012.  This was allegedly because the label was unable to successfully market an artist who fit into many different genres of music.  His sound tends to be a mix of Macklemore and Shwayze. He is great at putting together ridiculous mashes and coming up with the most imaginative, creative metaphors. The best thing about Wax is that you won’t hear him talking about killing, gangbanging, or selling drugs. He only references drugs when he speaks on his journey to quit them. He mainly raps about having a good time, trying to make it big in music and his love for it, and hitting on women. Even in his verse in the cypher, he makes it known that regardless of what you may think of him, he’s going to continue to continue to chill, rap, and not worry about foolishness.

Cypher Highlight:

“ You watching this, I don’t need your co-sign.

Regardless I’ll be chilling up in a hammock in no time.

Hawaiian coastline, my girl’s so fine,

Bikini blow-drying, up on the clothesline,

No mind on the bovine.”

Next up in the cypher was North Carolina rapper, Rapsody.  She is currently signed to 9th Wonder’s label “It’s a Wonderful World Music Group,” and has worked with a slew of artists ranging from Erykah Badu to Kendrick Lamar. I had never heard of her prior to the BET Hip Hop Awards and decided to check out some of her past work. I was irked that I was unaware of her for such a long period of time.   She is possibly the best female lyricist that I have heard since Missy Elliot. I checked out her song with Kendrick and it is absolute fire! I have never heard a song where someone was able to match Kendrick’s talent (except for maybe Cartoon and Cereal, but we all know that that was a rare occurrence for Gunplay) until I heard “Rock the Bells.”  They both compliment each other in the song, literally.  Similar to Wax, Rapsody is amazing at piecing words together in a rhyme, all while managing to remain consistent in her storytelling throughout the song.  It’s ridiculous how she can come up with the lines that she does, and her verse in the cypher was just a little sample of what she is truly capable of.

Cypher Highlight:

“Despite Sprite, I thirst for mics.

Like the look on racists’ face if Kanye was Christ.

It’s unbelievable; put fear in a poltergeist.

He shaking twice.

Spit something that the Pope won’t like.”

Following Rapsody was Emis Killa, a well-known Italian rapper.  His flow sounded good to my ears, but I don’t really speak Italian so I can’t really attest to how well the guy can rap. I was reading the subtitles while he was performing, and I wasn’t really impressed by what the man had to say. I honestly thought he was kind of corny, but to each his own I reckon.

Up next was Rittz who hails from Gwinnett County, Georgia. He is signed to Tech N9ne’s “Strange Music” label and I must say that it is a perfect fit for him.  During his struggle to achieve fame, he hit some rather discouraging roadblocks.  He was not making any money, couldn’t catch any breaks, and thought about quitting rap altogether. All that changed once he received a call from Yelawolf to be featured on his “Box Chevy” track.  After that, his career began to escalate and started working with other big name rappers such as Big KRIT. Rittz does not look like your stereotypical rapper either.  He’s a chubby redhead that normally rocks a black stocking cap that causes his hair to drift down the side of his shoulders and the sides of his hat.  His rap and flow is very similar to Yelawolf’s in that he raps rapidly in double time and talks about how his whole life he was expected to amount to nothing. He is a force to be reckoned with and is on a mission to prove all of the skeptics wrong.

Cypher Highlight:

“I’m getting paid, I finally made it,

But haters don’t wanna see me win.

Well I hate the word swag.

I hate people that say “my G” and “fam.”

I hate I gotta listen.

I’m what hip hop is missing.

After this one, they’ll consider me competition.”

Last, but most definitely not least, was Flint, Michigan’s own Jon Connor. There was no doubt that he was clearly the best one in the cypher. He gets his name from the character in Terminator 2 and terminating the beat was exactly what he did.  I’ve been listening to Jon Connor for some years now, and I was definitely surprised by how much he stepped it up in his BET Hip Hop Awards cypher performance.  I knew that he was destined to make it big after releasing his mixtape, “The Blue Album,” but this performance solidified it. I guarantee you that he will have a spot on the XXL’s Freshman Class list for 2014.  His performance is possibly the best behind Kendrick’s and he finished off on his verse by announcing that he recently signed with Dr. Dre at Aftermath Records. Big things are definitely to be expected from him in the future.

Cypher Highlight:

“Somebody tell Rita Ora I sorta got feelings for her.

Got a crib out in Georgia, we could raise a son and a daughter.

Or we could go out to Florida where the weather is just as gorgeous.

Baby, I ain’t playing no games like I ran out of quarters.”

Like I mentioned previously, I was most impressed by the rappers in the “John Connor and Friends” cypher.  Never in a million years would I expect BET to assemble a team of underground rappers that would produce such an electrifying and intense performance.  Furthermore, I appreciate that the network saw it necessary to shed some light on some highly talented individuals that we don’t necessary get to hear everyday.  These rappers were given an opportunity to showcase their talent on a well respected network, on what is arguably its most watched program of the year, and they killed it.

Lamar Holmes, Leisure/Music Staff Writer

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