Cipha Sounds - conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Cipha Sounds - More Laid-Back Than Sirius

November 2005

Cipha Sounds is one of the world's most recognized commercial Hip Hop DJ's. After being taken under Funkmaster Flex' wing, Cipha acquired a worldwide fanbase and slowly but surely made a name for himself alone. Now, DJ'ing, A&R'ing and running his own company are only a few of the things he does. He's also now the main Sirius radio personality on the Shade 45 morning show interviewing heavyweights such as 50 Cent and Jay-Z. He gets paid to chat with your favourite artists, and aren't you jealous?

MVRemix: What's your first memory of Hip Hop?

Cipha Sounds: Oh man, right into it, huh? My first memory of Hip Hop... There was a friend of my mom's that I was staying at her house and somebody was playing "Peter Piper" outside, like in the courtyards. I was just fascinated about where there was a hard beat with some of the nursery rhymes flipped. After that I started buying records.

MVRemix: I first heard of you on the Radio 1 rap show when Westwood traded with Flex once every so often in late 90's. How did you initially hook up with Funkmaster Flex?

Cipha Sounds: With Flex? I used to be down with a guy named DJ Rizz, he's part of the Crooklyn Clan - the guy that does all those party records. He was in this DJ group with Flex called the Flip Squad back in the day. They used to do The Tunnel nightclub back in the day and this guy Rizz used to open up. He didn't want to do it anymore so he suggested for me to get the job and from there I used to open up for like a half an hour, then Big Kap used to play and Flex used to play. Flex saw me playing there and it grew from there. He asked me to come to some other parties during the week and open up for him. He saw that I was on point like I was always on time, I didn't do no extra shit - then he asked me to come to the radio station and intern for him up at the radio station. From there we just became friends.

MVRemix: How did your moniker originate?

Cipha Sounds: In the early 90's there was a real big 5% thing in Hip Hop, like the Brand Nubians, Wu-Tang's, Poor Righteous Teachers - they were all part of this 5% movement. So the name comes from there. The "cipha" means 360 degrees and I got the name because you're always trying to educate yourself and add to your cipha. Then I flipped it and turned it into a DJ name. At the time there was a lot of "Cipha"s around, so I put the "Sounds" on it because that's what I was dealing with; music and all different types of sound in stuff. It just stuck.

MVRemix: You're described as being very shy growing up, how did you overcome that?

Cipha Sounds: I don't know. [chuckles] I don't care, I'll play music anywhere. I wasn't tryin' to talk on the mic and be a personality. But when you get to know me on a one on one basis, you'll know I just crack jokes all the time. We just have fun. I don't really be around a lot of people that I don't know, so if I know you everybody's family. I started talking a little on the mic, on the radio - just a little bit, like in between records and my boss head it and said, "You're sayin' some funny stuff in between the records." She's like, "I want you to be a jock," an air personality. I was like, "No way! I can't do that. I can't just talk." Then the few times I did it she said, "You sound really stiff, where's your personality?" So my friends told me, "Just pretend we're on a road trip, drivin' out of town somewhere. Just pretend you're talking to the mic like you're talking to your friends." That's where the personality came from. I don't really do real radio, I don't know how to do real radio. I just talk and people adapt to me like a friend.

MVRemix: What makes for a good on air interview?

Cipha Sounds: I think, with me, it's like Hip Hop is so big now - when you ask people "Who's on your album? Who produced it? When does it come out?" People almost already know. Hip Hop is so big with the internet and magazines that people already kind of know the generic questions and answers, so I try to hit them with a little shock value. I try to make everything funny. Even if they have a court case or something happened in the news - I throw it in out of nowhere just like a shock. Then everybody's like, "Oh man! I can't believe you just said that."

MVRemix: Which is the one interview which you think of the most with regards to being your best?

Cipha Sounds: Jay-Z. I do a morning show on Sirius Sattelite radio. For some reason it was right when he became president and it was the first time I ever got a real interview with him. I'd interviewed him a few times here and there but it was always Jay-Z the artist, Jay-Z the artist, Jay-Z the artist and it was the first interview I'd had with him where he'd became president. He wasn't promoting an album... He was promoting Memphis Bleek and Young Gunz, but he wasn't really promoting his own shit. He was doin' an interview. He was answering every question, we would hit him with a joke and he would hit us right back. We almost said some offending shit and he didn't even flinch, he hit us right back. That one when we walked out of there, I was high as a kite that day. It was as much him as it was us but we hit him with some questions that he didn't think anybody would ever say to him and he just hit us right back. At the end of the interview it wasn't like, "Yeah, buy my album." It was just Jay-Z the president of Def Jam, head of Roc-A-Fella. That was definitely the best.

MVRemix: How did your affiliation with Star Trak arise?

Cipha Sounds: All my stories are just the same, I'm just a really down to earth guy. I don't get star struck or Hollywood. People just know me as a music guy. I don't wear a lot of jewellry, I don't chase women... too much [whistles]. I don't buy a lot of fancy cars, I just really love music. So when they want an honest music answer, a lot of people ask me and Pharrell's manager Rod, he used to be good friends with DJ Clue and he would always come up to Hot 97. While he was there he would always ask me, "Hey do you like that?" They would just play me stuff that The Neptunes produced - random artists. "Hey do you like this? Do you like this? What do you think of this?" And I'd tell them whether I liked it or not, I'd be honest. "Mmm... I don't really like that one," where most people wouldn't wanna offend Pharrell because they're tryin' to get somethin' out of him one day. But I was always just a really big fan. From there, one day I was like, "Hey, you guys are growin' as a record company. I'd like to A&R for you guys." They were like, "Well we already have a budget for our new employee's." I was like, "Okay, I'll do it for free," and I worked there for seven months for free. I didn't need the money, I DJ'ed and stuff. I didn't need the money. I'm a workaholic, I'm mad tired all the time... But I did it for free. The point came along where they were like, "We have to start paying him. Because if he leaves our show will fall apart."

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