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Millersville artists share their passion during rap cypher production

Millersville upcoming rappers perform their beats together in the great room of South Village over fall break. Pictured above are the talented freshmen students trying to make it in this crazy world. Photo Courtesy of Bomaly Castamby

Simren Shah
Associate Features Editor

Brain Markley
Associate Sports Editor

Millersville’s first rap cypher was held over fall break in the Great Room located in the dorms. The first-of-its-kind event featured five Millersville rappers: Tall $tax, Velkro LaStrange, D.R.E, Jui¢e and Kid Uzimaki.

For those who are not familiar, a rap cypher is when rappers come together and rap over the same beat together. Hip-hop publication XXL has their yearly Freshman Cypher, where they hand-pick a group of rappers that are making noise on the scene.

The Millersville version was similar, only without all of the glitz and glamor of XXL.

We walked into a room that had YBN Cordae’s hit “Kung-Fu” playing, with the five rappers bobbing their heads and reciting verses from the song. Each of the five artists were welcoming, and they all came up to us and introduced themselves and thanked us for covering the cypher. 

There was a sense of authenticity within the group of artists. Everyone was having a good time, and there was a reverberating blast of excitement coming from the local, up-and-coming emcees. This event was important to the artists, and they made it clear with the amount of practice and preparation they put in before they began recording. 

There was an absence of ego, something that is often wrongly associated with rappers. They wanted to see each other succeed in an event that is often seen as competitive. Of course, each artist wanted to be the best, but they also wanted to see their peers do well, too. 

Pictured above from left to right are student rappers D.R.E and Jui¢e, making history during Millersville’s first ever rap cypher. Brain Markley/Snapper

Each artist rapped an individual freestyle without a backing beat, and then they were separated into two groups. Group one consisted of D.R.E and Jui¢e, while the other group consisted of Kid Uzimaki, Velkro LaStrange and Tall $tax.

D.R.E and Jui¢e came out strong, and they had a strong dynamic between them. D.R.E came out swinging in his cypher verse, completing the whole thing in one take. Jui¢e started his verse more melodically, and then came through with some nice bars, showing his versatility.

The second group, which consisted of Velkro LaStrange, Kid Uzimaki and Tall $tax, followed up the strong performance of group one with a strong effort of their own. I was surprised with the ambition of all of the rappers, but Velkro LaStrange stood out to me the most with his style of rap and how different it felt. 

I got to sit down with Velkro LaStrange, or Abdulai Jalloh for a few minutes in between takes, and he was ecstatic to answer some questions.

Prior to the cypher, we found Velkro’s Soundcloud profile and listened to the one post he had, which was a remix to UK group Krept and Konan’s “ISpy.” I was taken aback by this, because I wasn’t expecting a Millersville rapper to know much about the UK rap scene.

“I’m from West Africa and our people, we are very connected to overseas life because a lot of our parents were refugees. My stepmom had family in London, so when I was over in Sierre Leone, I would spend all my summers in London before I came to America. I basically grew up there for half of my childhood, and so I was exposed to all these different sounds. When I ran into Krept and Konan, I was like wait, this sound is very reminiscent, it feels like something that is in my blood already.”

Jalloh is also heavily influenced by the Atlanta rap scene, in particular Young Thug.

“Lately, I’ve been very influenced by the Atlanta sound. It’s very big on me right now. One person I really look up to is Young Thug. He was misunderstood at first, but he dared to be different, and little did we know he brought in a whole new sound.”

Jalloh says that he is focusing more on the bigger picture now as he grows with his music rather than just being a rapper. He wants to focus more on what goes into the making of the music and take a more behind-the-scenes approach. 

“Honestly, as I’ve been becoming bigger into my life as an artist and a musician, I’m a producer and the reason it is significant for me to say that I am also a producer, it’s come to show me that there’s a bigger stance than being a rapper. It puts me in a position where I’m much bigger than a rapper now, I’m more focused on the bigger picture, I’m more focused on who else is involved, where this is going as a community. I’ve been at Millersville for so long now, and this is just the first time I’m ever seeing something like this happen, where artists come together. It’s almost like its real already.”

He also made it clear that this was something that he believed in and that it could develop into something special. 

“I had imagined this already with Millersville. It’s a college campus, but where else is better than a college campus where people are from different places come together and discover we all like doing this type of thing? This could go very far because of how small Millersville as a geographic area is and how easy we could be knit together. If we come together, it could be a powerful thing. I really believe in that.”

I also had an opportunity to sit down with D.R.E, or Andre, who graduated from Millersville in 2018.

“It means everything. I actually have met all of these guys pretty much today, literally a couple of hours ago. It was all organic and it all started off of chemistry. When I came in here and was vibing with them and talking to everybody, you could just tell that they’re about what they’re here for, their music. It’s good to be around other people who take it serious like that.” 

D.R.E made it clear that he is influenced by many of the greats to ever pick up a microphone, in particular Jay-Z.

“I really value Jay-Z and his lyricism and his wordplay. I like the kind of artists, specifically rappers, but if I hear a line or a bar and I go back and listen to it, it makes sense or it hits me, like “oh that’s what he meant.” Hov does that a lot for me.”

D.R.E also made it clear that while he has his influences, he still wants to remain true to himself and the music he makes.

“I don’t try to be like anybody. I just want to be original and make my quality sound good and always work on my own verses and my own music. I take influence and draw influence from other people and what’s popular right now as well, but I definitely try to stay true to myself. If I try to be too much like them, then it won’t come off as authentic.”

He shares the same sentiment as Velkro when it comes to the importance of an event like this to Millersville.  

“I think this is dope as hell. It’s good for Millersville because Millersville has a lot of artists in this area and a lot of artists here on campus who want an outlet, who want to be heard and who want to be known. Millersville is the perfect size and the perfect bubble for those artists to grow and be in a community with not only their fans, but other artists that are like themselves. I think it means everything and I think it is good growth and opportunity for the school to provide something like this.”   

William “Tall $tax” Schrader, talked about how he got into rap when he was in middle school. “I was just always into music and once I started, I just started,” says $tax. He also described how he chose his stage name.

“I wanted a  really dope name. At the time I used to be the tallest in my grade. People always said that I was tall so I thought maybe I could use that because other people do ‘lil this and ‘lil that so I thought tall was different. Then I thought, ‘what is something people like? Well, money,’” said $tax. 

$tax uses Youtube as his main platform. However, he recently started using Apple Music and Spotify in order to get his music out there. $tax recently came out with an extended project called “The Evolving EP.”

$tax says, “it’s basically four songs that I made while I felt like I was in that in between stage where I was figuring out how to really make my music sound good and the process of coming here and studying music.”

“It’s songs that I made just trying to figure things out and trying to become the better artist that I want to be,” said $tax. 

During his freestyle verse, $tax raps about everything from cars, to cereal, to the struggles behind making a come-up. 

Dj “Kid Uzimaki” Lewis says he chose his name because of his interest in the Japanese anime series, Naruto.

“I initially never really had any interest in making music but I tried it out and it was really fun,” said Uzimaki. 

He talked about starting off as an artist by making music with his brother. Then, once he came to MU Uzimaki joined a poetry club known as “Original Thought.”

Uzimaki says, “I thought that it was going to help me out and it just became something that I like to do.”

The roots of rap music are in poetry, so many artists start out by writing poetry. Essentially before the beat and instrumentals are added, rap is spoken-word poetry.

Kid Uzimaki chooses to maintain a level of vulgarity in his rap. As Velkro said, “it adds character.” 

In his freestyle, Uzimaki ends with the lines, “changing up the game like I was using my white voice/All up in her box and her cookie feels moist.”

Each artist talked about having his own inspiration for writing and performing raps.

“I’m a lyricist so it’s hard for me to make a track and not have no meaning to it. Influences for me would be Andre 3000, Chance The Rapper, Big Sean, and of course J Cole,” says Rasheid “Jui¢e” Malette. Jui¢e refers to himself as a lyricist and an artist instead of a rapper.

“I wouldn’t label myself as a rapper, I like to be called an artist,” says Jui¢e. Jui¢e offered the perspective that rap is an art form.

Originally from Goldsboro, North Carolina, Jui¢e came to MU on a football scholarship. He said he decided to stop playing and focus on pursuing music instead. Jui¢e liked poetry growing up but did not realize his passion for rap until around February of this year.

“I used to do open mics,” said Jui¢e.

Jui¢e is a senior in MU’s sports business program with an associate’s degree in sports management from Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Each artist who performed at the rap cypher displayed his individuality through various styles, backstories, and philosophies. They came together in one room with the common goal of creating a cypher video in order to share the work that they are passionate about. Individual freestyles from the cypher have started to be posted on Youtube and can be found on Dudelove9’s channel. One of the group cypher videos can be watched below: