Ciph Barker - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
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After kicking up some serious dust on the Dutch underground scene with his Lingwistikz crew, Ciph Barker is ready to set out as a solo artist on Super Charger Records. With his "broke like a motherfucker lifestyle", Ciph has carved his niche as one of the most talented emcees overseas. Super Charger Records debut mixtape release The Campaign has been in rotation at MVRemix since its release, so it was only right we present to you the artists behind the album. This is part 1 of our exclusive interviews with the Super Charger roster, so pay attention and don't sleep.
MVRemix: I just want to start with some background questions so fans can get to know the person behind the music. So where were you born and raised, and what was it like growing up there?
Ciph Barker: I was Born and raised in the Netherlands. Been living in Zoetermeer (Sweet Water Pondz) for most of my life. Itís a pretty laid back city in between all the major cities over here but when you look beneath the surface thereís a lot of lowlife scum, lot of people snap over here, itís on some cult movie shit really but itís aight though.
My grandmother and my moms fled to the Netherlands from Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring in Ď68, when the Russian Communists send an army over there because their grip on the country was slippin' and basically everybody that wasnít supporting the communist regime after that was getting fucked in every possible way. My grandmother always spoke her mind plus she was part of the movement that had the Russians flippin' out over the whole situation. So when the communists took charge again and replaced their puppets shit was more fucked up then ever. She schemed some permission papers to go on vacation with my moms and didnít come back. I grew up with all that in the back of my head, seeing how they couldnít go back for years, seeing how my fam over there was living every time we went there, shit is mad different especially when youíre a kid. So growing up in the Netherlands was cool especially when I compare it to how shit couldíve been. Itís a good thing, getting to see two worlds, two sides of life growing up and that shit definitely changed my view on a lot of things.
MVRemix: What is your first memory of Hip Hop?
Ciph Barker: As a kid I wasnít really interested in the music that was popular at the time except maybe some Michael Jackson shit [laughter]. I just listened to whatever my moms or dad were bumpin' and that was all old stuff, some crazy 60ís Czech shit, some blues, some Beatles. My first memory of Hip Hop is sneakin' into the bedroom of one of my friendsí sisters and just playing whatever was in the tape deck and going through her magazines and shit, tearing out Ice T and Kool G Rap & Polo posters. We had no idea who G Rap was at the time but that poster was crazy. I used to bring cassette tapes and weíd tape whatever we could find on that, I didnít understand most of the shit they were saying but it was all good. I couldnít listen to a lot of music back then, I just had 4 cassettes or something and had to tape over all that when I wanted to hear some new shit. It wasnít for some years after all that that I really got that passion burning though.
MVRemix: How did you first get into rhyming?
Ciph Barker: I used to mess around with some graffiti shit and started b-boying for a while through some of these graffiti dudes. They used to practice in this dump somewhere in the city and mad peoples came around just to chill out there, drink, smoke, or just build with each other - whatever. And one dude who came around always spit some freestyles outside, blasting instrumental tapes out of his ride and I was like okay this is some dope shit. So after a while I was like fuck it I can do this shit too, so I started writing down all kinds of shit that was buggin' me out at the time and it came out pretty dope but I couldnít really spit so I kept it to myself but kept writing till I felt I could blow some dudes away. And a lot of dudes were spittin' bullshit, so I started taking it more seriously and sharpening my whole shit.
MVRemix: How did you start to make a name for yourself locally, then on a larger scale?
Ciph Barker: In the beginning I didnít really know a lot of peoples in my city that fucked around with Hip Hop. You had some graffiti heads and some b-boys, but no MCís and DJís that I knew of. There was no scene in the city at the time so the people who were busy moved to bigger cities and were a lot older then me. So I used to spit my joints just for my peoples when we got drunk outside and shit. After some time I got in touch with one of my peoples that moved to The Hague (a bigger city close to mine) and found out he was spitting' too. So we teamed up and started hitting all the open mics everywhere in the city. We were the youngest dudes in there at every open mic and didnít know nobody but we were there, every party, every week. Eventually my man Joe Banz, a London based producer Beat Butcher and me formed a group Lingwistikz and started seriously hitting the studio and doing shows across the country. Since I hooked up with MOD some time ago and this SuperCharger thing popped off weíve been doing mad shows. We did a couple of little tours and a lot of Support Acts for acts like Nas, Heltah Skeltah, Ghostface, Black Market and some others, a couple of crazy ass shows in other countries and now itís time to go international, lets get it moving!
MVRemix: For those who haven't heard your music, how would you describe your sound or style? What are your strong points as an emcee?
Ciph Barker: On some grab-you-by-the-throat shit, I say what I feel and motherfuckers are gonna listen to it if they want to or not. Its like Iím stabbing up your brain with words, so even if you donít understand everything Iím saying at the first listen your still gonna feel it because the track will hit you hard. You can walk away smiling but after some time youíll feel the wound open up and then that shit will really hit you [laughter].
A strong point as an MC for me I think is that I give it all no matter what. It donít matter if I'm spitting my shit for ten thousand people or if I'm spitting my shit for one person, I'm still going to go all out because I'm laying my soul on the table trying to tell you something and I fucking mean it. Thatís hunger yo, I'll bite a chunk out your dinner table.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Supercharger Records?
Ciph Barker: I used to run into MOD every now and then when I was just starting out, I didnít even really spit yet but he would always tell me, "Yo drop by the studio sometime." But at the time I was struggling with some fucked up school shit and had some personal problems so I never got around to drop by. Plus I would always forget the address when I did have the time [laughter]. But eventually after some time I dropped by and I was like Damn! People are on some crazy shit, and I wasnít feeling nothing from the Netherlands at the time. So second time I dropped by we laced a beat, did a track together and shit was sick. Twann was already connected with MOD from way back and through him the connection with Jordan River Banks and Dirty Needlez was established. After a while peoples decided that they had to make this label shit happen for themselves if they wanted to bring out the raw uncut music all of us were making and invited me onboard.
MVRemix: Tell us about The Campaign Mixtape?
Ciph Barker: The Campaign is just a taste of what we've been cooking up for the past years, tip of the iceberg. Yo we already got archives man, but we've all been laying in the shadows waiting till the time was right for people to feel what we were doing - with beats, with lyrics, with the whole movement straight up. The Campaign got joints on there from all SuperCharger artists, tracks by Black Market, Killah Priest, Hell Razah, Timbo King, Shabazz The Disciple who were all produced by the SuperCharger in house production team (Godz Wrath). And that shit is 33 tracks deep, no fillers, back to back bangers with no concessions.
MVRemix: What has been the biggest headache for you coming up in this Hip Hop game?
Ciph Barker: Sleepwalkers. The majority of the people really donít hear what you have to say if its going to make life even harder. I mean they just wanna live their little lives, have their little fun and be as happy as they can be, so if theyíre caught up in all kinds of day to day struggles at the end of the day when they bump some music, they want to dance, they want to forget all that shit. Of course its kept that way by all these corporate snakes who keep feeding peoples with all that meaningless empty bullshit music but we need to take it back to that raw Hip Hop shit really speak to these peoples and wake 'em the fuck up.
MVRemix: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of emcees from overseas?
Ciph Barker: I think a lot of peoples from the U.S. think we ain't up to date over here or something. With flows, with the way we formulate our shit, with Hip Hop in general. You just gotta look a bit harder but thereís a lot of crazy shit peoples ain't heard yet. But its all good because weíre catching them off guard like this. If you ain't expect it, itís going to hit you even harder.
MVRemix: A lot of people feel that people overseas have a better appreciation for Hip Hop than people in America. What are your thoughts on that?
Ciph Barker: Hip Hop just started to get some decent airplay over the last few years over here, before that we had some shit on the radio and on TV but not that much. So the peoples who were checking for all that had to stay hungry and keep digging and checking for that dope shit. Same with shows, we didnít get mad artists over here every weekend so when you got to see that artist after mad years youíd wild the fuck out, and I guess that mentality stuck with most people. It seems a lot of peoples in the U.S. ain't looking beyond all that trash you see on TV anymore, theyíre being conditioned with that bullshit.
MVRemix: A lot of people look at American culture as ignorant or in a negative light, so when you look at America, what do you see?
Ciph Barker: The entire country was built on lies and death, and it looks like that ain't gonna change anytime soon. But itís all on some government shit, I donít think everybody is ignorant and shit but people need to open up their eyes man, allover the world but especially in America. I canít believe how many people just accept what they see on TV or what they are told by their ďleadersĒ as the truth, they should try looking beyond their borders and see what their ďleadersĒ are doing all over the world, shit is ridiculous.
MVRemix: I'm assuming you are working on your solo album now. Tell us about that?
Ciph Barker: Itís gonna be on some raw raw raw shit. I ain't in a happy place right now and ain't been there for a long long time. Basically youíre gonna hear about everything thatís on my mind, no bullshit party joints just straight up lyrics, food for thought. A lot of life joints just reflecting on everything from being fucking broke to world politics, from crazy story shit to dusted ass zoned out scum joints. Beat wise, itís pretty much gonna be on some filthy sewer shit, the beats are out there on some crazy shit.
MVRemix: Who is producing on the album?
Ciph Barker: Godz Wrath - all of it.
MVRemix: Any guest appearances?
Ciph Barker: Strictly fam probably.
MVRemix: What else do you have going on in the future?
Ciph Barker: Youíll see, just keep your ears open.
MVRemix: Any last words, shout outs, or plugs?
Ciph Barker: Keep an eye out for all that SuperCharger shit. MOD album is dropping soon, thatís been a classic since the first joint got taped. Godz Wrath is handling a lot of production on Killah Priest, Hell Razah and Timbo Kingís next albums, and all of that is straight flames. A lot of other shit is cooking right now as well but peoples just have to stay tuned for that, its all still in the shadows. And a final shout to all of them peoples that have been supporting us, weíve been getting crazy love but this is still the beginning we still campaigning. The spark of revolution you know, time for the masses to join the movement.
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"The Campaign is just a taste of what we've been cooking up for the past years, tip of the iceberg. Yo we already got archives man, but we've all been laying in the shadows waiting till the time was right for people to feel what we were doing - with beats, with lyrics, with the whole movement straight up."