Review: Debut Artist ‘Cipher’

Cipher - "Problem" (Mixtape)

Last week, up-and-coming rapper Cipher dropped his debut single, “Show Me What You Got,” featuring Sean Lee. Based on what we’ve seen, Cipher has the talent and energy to make a name for himself. But in such a crowded market, does Cipher have what it takes to stand out?

Cipher - "Problem" (Mixtape)

As far as the music goes, “Show Me What You Got” is a fairly standard hip-hop song with a heavy emphasis on the third beat and an auto-tuned chorus a la Sean Lee. But the music never feels stale, and that’s commendable. Cipher keeps us engaged with his expressive voice and engaging lyrics. He mixes English and Korean seamlessly into his raps, creating a truly transnational music. There is no doubt that Cipher has the talent to succeed. We expect to see him appearing in collaborations before long. His voice will pair nicely with a wide range of Kpop artists.

While “Show me what you got” is an impressive debut, it would also be worthwhile to check out his “Problem” (Mixtape #1) to see him really bust loose. Utilizing his impressive English, he takes down the music industry but also stars that pursue money instead of bettering their art. “What happened to the music? The relevant shit. Nowadays it’s all about drug, alcohol, bitch.”

Who knows if he’ll get a chance to really cut his own path within the system, but being in a smaller, newer agency like Loco probably does have its benefits, if not monetary ones: “Rapping for the money? Hell no, gotta refuse it.” Cipher can be Cipher and work with Loco to grow as an artist, instead of working under a major label and being a cog in the efficient, but often soulless, system.

Cipher - "Problem" (Mixtape)

In a way, this mixtape video works better than what we’ve seen of the teaser in matching his skills to his aesthetic. There’s something anarchic about the handheld footage that meshes with his anti-establishment persona. The suit in the teaser doesn’t fully match that persona, and it makes Cipher look even younger than he is. It doesn’t help that, in an effort to look sophisticated, the production value looks glaringly low-budget. We hope that future videos will chase the more grungy image that Cipher seems more comfortable in.

Before we see him take the main stage, Cipher needs to develop a style and aesthetic to match his considerable skills. We need to see more grunge, more personality from his image. We need to see his talent overtake the neat and clean look that he’s presented so far.

Cipher - "Show Me What You Got"

So far, we’re impressed with what we’re hearing. “Show Me What You Got” is a great debut from an artist we want to see again. If the coming weeks bring more of these fresh mixtapes and collaborations, and if Cipher can garner additional exposure, we expect he’ll go far.


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