In cryptography, a cipher (or cypher) is an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption—a series of well-defined steps that can be followed as a procedure.
A ‘Cipher’ in Hip-Hop culture represents an exchange of artistic ideas in the form of a human circle. These circles are conventional rituals and are primarily performed orally(rap/beatbox) or physically(dance); each artist takes their turn in illustrating their own interpretation.
Furthermore, Ciphers, or “Freestyle Circles“, embody the development of Hip-Hop’s arts; this interchange is the main component for aligning the culture with its roots, which maintains its authenticity.
Here are a couple key reasons why Ciphering is crucial to sustaining Hip-Hop’s true personality:
- the concept of one-upmanship: to be inspired by the person before you and to flip(re-invent) their idea. Regarded as the informal contest to see who exhibits a stronger sense of originality, creativity, and skill, the “street nature” of these artistic dialogues often lead to head on rivalry…
- Cipher Battles! 1 VS 1 skirmishes in tight spaces are often the highlight of every circle; they are miracle moments that allow artful warriors to catch spiritual highs, revealing their true character. (Battles are sometimes misinterpreted as hostile combats that could escalate, but, 99% of battles end in peaceful handshakes and camaraderie.)
To sum up: Hip-Hop’s traditions of dispute, using nonviolent forms of creative warfare, constantly challenges its members to elevate their craft.
Additionally, there are unwritten laws about how one approaches and behaves in each circle: all Ciphers have their own secret system of trade, hence each Cipher has its own secret code. Thus, every person who wishes to participate must enter the ring with – in the words of Bruce Lee – the mind of an empty teacup–ready to adapt, be tested, and survive.