Every Wednesday night at 10 p.m., the sounds of beatboxing, rhyming and applause can be heard echoing from the free expression tunnels under Rivers Street.
A crowd of about 50 observers on average can be seen, gathered around a group of about 10 people that have come together to contribute to AppCypher, a group on Appalachian State University’s campus that organizes freestyle sessions.
In addition to the sessions held every Wednesday, AppCypher meets on the first Friday of every month on King Street during First Friday Art Crawl.
“A cypher is basically a channel,” said Chris Shreve, a rapper and Appalachian State University health and exercise science lecturer. “It is a gathering of like minds that are open to hip-hop, but it essentially is a circle of poets, MCs, beat boxers, musicians – like a jam session. It tends to be lyrically formatted for open word language and rhythmic language but it is essentially rapping.”
Shreve, whose rap name is “C. Shreve the Professor,” helped start the cyphers with former student and Boone resident John Harper.
Harper said those who started AppCypher were were encouraged by the consistency of the N.C. State Cypher, which started nearly four years ago on North Carolina State University’s campus and brings roughly 100 people in attendance.
“It took us six months to get [the cyphers] together, contacting each other through email, and we decided to debut our first cypher art crawl,” Harper said. “I brought some [MCs] to the cypher that I knew and it turned out to be something really special.
After having a large turnout for the cypher at First Friday Art Crawl, Shreve and Harper brought the event to the free expression tunnel that leads to Newland Residence Hall, where people have come out to participate and watch every Wednesday night since the cyphers started this past June.
“I would like to have a place to rap with my friends every week,” Shreve said. “ It’s cool because we’re training these people that come out during the weekdays and then they can really show off their stuff on King Street once a month so people can watch.”
Shreve said there are only a handful of rules for participating in the cypher sessions.
“Respect, project [your voice], keep the peace, f**k the camera and be original,” Shreve said.
Freshman electronic media and broadcasting major Cason Griffin had never rapped before coming to school at Appalachian. After attending his first AppCypher session, Griffin has been returning every week.
“One night my friend and I walked by and there were six people [at the tunnel], and we just sat here for hours and rapped,” Griffin said. “I like poetry, but I didn’t like thinking a lot about the words. It is fun to not think so much about what you’re saying and just let the words flow.”
Harper said he thinks the cyphers are a place where people can come out and be “vivid and real.”
“When you’re in that circle and you’re saying things that you don’t even remember saying, that’s one of the realest things you can experience,” Harper said. “You’re completely in the moment and the moment is addicting, and it grows with every single person, relationship and personality.”
Shreve said he encourages anyone involved in poetry, writing, rapping and beatboxing to attend. The AppCypher Facebook page, which can be found under the same name, updates followers on where and when the group will be gathering on a weekly basis.
Story: Casey Suglia, Intern A&E Reporter