Rap cyphers, unlike rap battles, don’t necessarily involve insulting someone’s mother, talking bad about their footwear or how much money they don’t have … It’s a lot more of a casual and friendly affair, consisting of written and freestyle verses over pre-selected beats. It lends to a different atmosphere, which is a good or a bad thing—depending on how you look at it. On Nov. 15, 12 Gage Agency put on an event that many observers probably thought it wasn’t going to be so good, but it actually turned out to be a pretty dope night of good vibes, good beats, good flows and great people.
The venue was Metro Music Hall.
The participants included a long list of Utah wordsmiths: There was host and rapper, Syncro-nice (now Gabino Grhymes), Dennis James, Coyotl, Em Garcia, Shadow D, Mousely, B-Leaf, BrutalTurn, SOAP, Hemis, L.O.E., Mana, Savvy K-Two, King Deezy, Shelbadine, Negrodomus, Zac Ivie, Ocelot and Rhyme Time. Adding to the Wasatch ambiance were Utah beat-makers such as “the mayor” Linus Stubbs, Melvin Junko, BriskOner, Chance Lewis, Konsickwence and Eric Flames.
Holding down the decks all night was DJ Intimin8, who blessed the old-school heads with choice tracks from Utah and abroad. Acts like O.C. and Task Rock blended together like a salt and pepper while microphone fiends paced back and forth waiting for their time to “lose themselves” in a verse.
In between four groups of cypher participants was a performance by Big Lo, from Pensacola, Florida. Lo and I stepped outside and discussed things like his career, his take on college football and the letter “U.”
SLUG: Is this your first visit to Salt Lake City?
Big Lo: This is my very first time in Salt Lake City. It’s weird because I’ve been touring the East Coast and the whole Southeast and up through New England and that area for about three/four years now, and this is my first time foraying over the Mississippi River.
SLUG: Have you ever heard of fry sauce before?
Big Lo: Of what?
SLUG: It’s a condiment. It’s a mixture of two things basically.
Big Lo: Does it have mayonnaise in it?
Big Lo: I don’t fuck with mayonnaise … I mean, I’ll try to see what it tastes like.
SLUG: What do you like to eat?
Big Lo: I live by the water, so I eat a lot of seafood. I got a really seafood-heavy diet. If I’m doing OK financially, I like to splurge and get a good steak every now and then, but seafood is my thing—order the fish …
SLUG: Who is your favorite movie director?
Big Lo: John Woo. He’s got the real heavy-gun flicks. I think his studio is based outta Hong Kong.
SLUG: What’s one of the your most coincidental collaborations you’ve done? What are some of your favorite moments?
Big Lo: I’ve done records with a lot of people, but the coolest things I’ve done hip-hop-wise … I did a record with Chaundon from the Justus League and Little Brother. It was really dope—we met him at a gig we played in Florida and the next thing you know, boom, we end up doing a record. And to be able to go to up to North Carolina and perform that live in his hometown with him onstage—that was a dope feeling.
Playing with [Ghostface] and [Raekwon] was probably one of my main highlights for me personally, because Ghost is definitely in my top five. Rae is right up there, too. And that was a really cool story. Ghost, he was kinda quiet and subdued. I asked him, “What was your favorite: Ironman or Supreme Clientele?” Supreme Clientele is probably my favorite album in hip-hop history. So I asked him, and he just gave me this big shit-eating smile. But then, on the other hand, Raekwon was just lit all night and we partying with him … I’m wearing these grey Forces. My mans and them, they got the $300 Jordans on, and they trying to stunt and everything and Rae is drunk. He touches my sneakers like, “Yo, these is so fucking fresh, B.” And I’m looking at my boys like, yo, Rae is touching my sneakers right now; one of the freshest dressed people in hip-hop history and he’s fucking with my fit right now. It was a really big moment for me. Doing shit with the Geto Boys … Eating waffle house with them mothafuckas after a show and just sitting down with Scarface and Willie D for an hour was probably another highlight, too. You know and being able to talk one-on-one with them. Not really talk, more like listen to them, ya know.
SLUG: You mentioned your wife a lot during your set. Give us some advice about being a good husband.
Big Lo: Aw, man, it’s all about trust, man. My wife is super-dope, and I got somebody who isn’t a bugaboo with weird trust issues. You just don’t break that bond. So trust—it’s probably the most cliché thing I could say. Make sure you eat together. Sit down and eat family dinners and shit like that—old-school-style, no phones. Sit around as a family and go over your day. That’s what I do with my wife and my daughter. So, trust and make sure you take time to do the family shit, to do all the corny stuff. Because your wife will appreciate it, and who knows, you find out a lot of that shit is fun. So … do the corny things and trust.
SLUG: You put the names of your songs on easels during your performance. Where did you get that from?
Big Lo: Two years ago, I released an EP called The Amazing Luxurious Adventures of Baron von Lowenstein. And it’s just like this weird dystopian, opulent shit. A lot of my music is like that. We had a real swanky release party for it with caterers and everything. I wanted to do something special that’s not like … a projector for my set. So we made [the easels], and it just went over very well, so I brought it on tour with me. In every city, it kept building. It’s become kinda like a thing. That’s my shit. Think about it. When somebody’s out there rocking with your set or they’re taking pictures or filming your set, they might be diggin’ a particular record, and when they’re going back through their phone, they’re like, “Oh, shit, that’s that record I wanna find. Boom, lemme go to iTunes, lemme go to Spotify,” or whatever. It’s about making both a visual as well as an audible connection with the crowd.
SLUG: We have a common connection with the letter U. What’s your favorite moment as a Miami University fan?
Big Lo: That 2001 team was a lot of fun … These guys were like superheroes to us. It wasn’t about the Dolphins—it was the ‘Canes. These guys were larger than life. Everybody from Michael Irvin to Horace Copeland to Lamar Thomas and all these different players through the years growing up; because the Dolphins have always been ass. You had the Marino years, but I was still young then.
SLUG: Tell us about some of the foods we have to eat when visiting Miami or Florida in general, as Utahns.
Big Lo: Conk fritters is the thing in South Florida. Fried conk is where it’s at. I mean, all the different Cuban foods you got. I mean you got papas reanas, which are little potato balls with seasoned ground beef on the inside, and they’re fried, and they’re mad cheap and really good. And the Cuban coffee. There’s a lot of different dishes. If you think about Creole swamp culture, you think about Caribbean culture, and then you think about Southern fried-food culture, and you jam all three of them together—you got Florida food … and I just thought of that right there when I was telling you that [laughs].
Big Lo paints pictures with words in a style that is “The South meets New York” over boom bap–style beats. “He’s what Skyzoo would be if Skyzoo was from the South,” promoter Gage Luce explained.
The turnout was pretty good for a weekday soirée. Artists came to support. New connections were made. Old friends were reunited. Rap fans discovered artists whom they didn’t know had bars. Most of all, Big Lo was introduced to the culture of Salt Lake and the hip-hop heads that inhabit the Valley of Inversion and vice versa.
Connect with Big Lo @BigLoHipHop across all platforms.