Rap Reviews

I caught the old deja vu before writing this review thinking we had already covered Ciphurphace, but a quick search of our extensive review database disproved my belief. Undaunted I keyed on a message left on his Bandcamp page reading "I checked it 'cause Palumbo said to." Well there's only one Palumbo I know in hip-hop and that's Jake Palumbo, and based on that it didn't take me long to find e-mails from Jake promoting their Moonshine Burrito collaboration. That led me further down the rabbit hole to a series of singles that Ciphur's hard working publicist had sent to us for publication on the newsfeed, which ultimately leads me to suspect either her or Jake sent me this release, but nothing on it says for sure.

One of those singles his publicist sent me was "I'll Always Love H.E.R." produced by Scorpioflo, which is included on this "In Phaced God We Trust" release. It's a pretty fly track with a catchy guitar lick backdrop and lyrics which make it a spiritual successor to Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." or The Roots "Act Too" featuring Common two decades ago. He's not trying to hide that thanks to the song title and obvious punchlines like "She's played in mad jeeps - in the streets - she's SOUNDBOMBIN'/a RESURRECTION would be nice - we would have things in COMMON" but my favorite hip-hop references come in verse three.

"She's an ONYX, a DIAMOND in the rough
She got THE CHRONIC, rhymin for the love
Back then we bought it, in the store on CD
and now we get it for free in the form of MP3
Stayin true to her ROOTS, she asked us DO YOU WANT MORE?
Got a LIL FAME and asked us HOW BOUT SOME HARDCORE?
She was NAUGHTY BY NATURE, she gave us ANTHEMS galore
A PUBLIC ENEMY who FIGHTS THE POWER in stores"

He goes on to namecheck Mos Def, Reflection Eternal, Main Source and more - you get the idea - it's a love letter to hip-hop. That doesn't make it a profound exercise in thought or content, since I could pen a song with 35 years worth of hip-hop references, but given how little regard seems to be shown for the history of the arts these days it's nonetheless appreciated. There's certainly little doubt I could flow it as well as Ciphurphace, who at times has that Talib Kweli like mentality of cramming as much information into his bars as possible until he practically overflows the beats he's flowing over. Again that's not really a negative, just something to be aware of when listening to songs like the AF-17 produced "Age of the Icon." There's a very Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind vibe to AF's beats, and amongst the density of Ciphur's verbosity, he's trying to make you examine some things you take for granted critically.

"The working poor
As we elevate, something's missing like the 13th floor
So we just work some more and keep working 'til we can't work no more
What's the purpose for?
We hurtin and we hurt some more
What do you think the purpose for?
What do you think the church is for?
What do you think that sermon's for?
What do you think the diversion's for?
What do you think all the soul-searching's for?
Life is a big spectacle like a circus tour
We stay jugglin things, we walk a tightrope
and disappear - on Earth no more"

The Tucson, AZ based rapper also reminds me a lot of the Philadelphia based Vinnie Paz, and while nowhere near as gruff vocally, he's got the hardcore hip-hop sensibility and a strong distrust of traditional institutions, without quite as much of the illumnati global conspiracies and penchant for harrowing verbal threats. I suppose saying he's a cross between Paz and Kweli would be fair, if those two were even mutually compatible, but stranger things have definitely happened in hip-hop. The aforementioned Jake Palumbo produces, scratches and appears on "The Righteous Hour," and the only thing I dislike is that it's not a couple of minutes longer. In fact that also sums up my thoughts on "In Phaced God We Trust," which clocks in at 24 minutes and change, meaning just when I get into the lyrical bravado of tracks like "Elbow Space" with alternating nerdy and MMA punchlines ("choke competition like Urijah Faber... can't see me like a Bilbo Baggins") it's already over.

If I had to tag one major complaint with "In Phaced God We Trust" besides the fact it's too short like Todd Shaw, it would be that the guests on "Goin' Down" aren't as good as Ciphur and the beat feels like a poor imitation of old school Kanye. The aforementioned "Elbow Space" could use a better beat as well. That's really the only thing that holds Ciphurphace back, as he's clearly got the intellect to drop gems and the flow to spit them, but with a longer album and even stronger production those gems would shine brighter.

Music Vibes6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes7 of 10

Kung Fu Grip! Zine

"Roads Are Rough (Holdin' Up)", is featured on South By Southwest, the new ten-track album from SpaceLAB Recordings label mates Jake Palumbo and Ciphurphace. Together these longtime pals combine to form Moonshine Burrito and, as the name probably suggests, the music made by this dynamic duo is all about unholy unions and unlikely combinations."

Alive Not Dead

“James Ciphurphace is a hard-working hip-hop wordsmith whose rhymes often reflect back on that time when rap music was much less commercial, and rap artists seemed to place more emphasis on the 'art' portion of the title. Ciphurphace himself embodies this period on "How to MC," a heavenly Koncept Jones-produced track on the Arizona mic controller's ambitious sophomore album, Apply Within. Riding deep in the groove – seemingly in the spirit of Wu-Tang's GZA drivin' a topless Bentley down the autobahn – the "swAZian" microphone fiend from Tucson waxes metaphoric on the challenges of staying true to the art of meaningful rap music. For a no commitment test drive of Ciph's newly-released Apply Within, download "How to MC" and "Maker" for free-ninety-nine by clicking on the links below. – SP”

Grimey Republik

“Ciphurphace calls out every aspect of hip-hop that he is disgusted by with an unrelenting conviction. He leaves no stone unturned with lyrics like /your live show that ain’t nothin’ amazin’ to see/man, you paid the promoter to be on stage to MC/let me break this down to make sure y’all brains grabbin’ it/the new age promoter this is how they handle it/get 10 opening acts that pay to play, advantage is/ tickets get sold, headliners paid, no cancellin’ a show/3 hours of garbage the real fans ain’t havin’ it/someone needs to make a call to Waste Management/ The video’s backdrop is a brilliant methaphor exemplifying Ciphurphace’s existence within the hip-hop scene; a solid mc holding his own amidst a deserted wasteland of wack rappers.”

Arizona Beats

"Tucson's own James Ciphurphace with DJ Grapla put on one of the most intense sets I've ever seen by an AZ act when I saw them live."

Myxer

"From the scorching desert confines of Tucson, Arizona comes a true beast of an emcee, the one they call, Ciphurphace. Sounding a bit like legendary mic-holders, Eminem and Chino XL, you know right away that Ciphur is not to be messed with on the mic! Peep his heartfelt jam, "The City Speaks," a true gem." - Myxer.com

Capcom

“James Ciphurphace is a Tucson, AZ MC who is sick wit' it. He puts his all into every verse. He was the first MC I had heard in Arizona, and still manages to impress me. We worked together a while back on my "City Boy" remix, but I hadn't done a joint with him where we were just spittin'.”

OkayPlayer

“James Ciphurphace is a solid first representative for Arizona's up-and-coming hip-hop scene.”

Kung Fu Grip! Zine

“Baptized in the trial-by-fire traditions that produced razor sharp wordsmiths like Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Canibus, Chino XL, Eminem and others, this Asian microphone fiend forged a formidable reputation rocking MC battles and rhyme ciphers across the Southwest "Terror-zona" desert.”

Real Rap Reviews

“An Honest Day's Work is a damned respectable offering to the underground from an emcee who clearly knows what he is doing.”

Tucson Hip Hop Scene

“you can tell this cat lives hip hop.”

AZ Night Buzz

“It’s hard to think of Tucson hip-hop music and not think of James Ciphurphace.”

Arizona Beats

“James Ciphurphace can make exceptional songs, and can also rip your stomach from your gut and feed it to you while begging for a response in a battle.”