If you happen to be walking underground in the MBTA stations of Downtown Crossing between Washington Street and Winter Street of Boston on Sundays around 3-6 pm, you might hear the deep intonations, fast-paced beats, and fantastic lyrics of the innovative hip hop community, Wreck Shop Movement’s Subway Cipher.
Yes, under the very streets that we walk upon each day, lies a whole world of people trying to influence and inspire through their passion to spit fire and recite their own thoughts and opinions in poetic and melodic form. All of this performance is free for your eyes and ears to discover, see, and listen to.
In case you weren’t sure, a “cipher” is a secret or disguised way of writing, almost as if you are speaking in code. Wreck Shop Movement’s Subway Cipher was established last year by a man named Justice Born, on Easter Sunday, and its mission is to gather rappers, poets and appreciators from all ends of the city of Boston area every Sunday afternoon at the Downtown Crossing T stop. The collective hopes to empower, inform, and educate the people of the Hip Hop culture, and being in such a millennial and collegiate town, I think that will not be a problem for them. They wish to give back to the community through their passions, which is a call to action any one should wish to aspire to do as well.
Perry Eaton of boston.com writes that here, “some of Boston’s best Hip hop comes alive every Sunday…at a T stop.” And he is most certainly right.
Whether it be through the hustling of freestyle rap verses or the cool and cunning nature of the rhymes and actual knowledge behind the forceful, compelling, and dominant words of these echoing voices.
Can you just imagine how exhilarating it must feel to have a circle of people all with similar interests, but all coming from different perspectives and backgrounds?
Here are two videos of the squad in action:
Born, the founder, explains that the reasoning behind the name “Wreck Shop” Movement is because it actually represents an acronym, and that is “When Raw Elements Combine Kinetically, Start Helping Other People.” These people from this community of creatives, are artists executing their craft for the world to see. From DJs to producers to poets to song-writers and to every-day intellectuals, they support one another in this circle of the underground.
Born stated that:
the ultimate goal is to inspire,” and that “Hip-hop is originally a movement for the people, and we’re trying to bring it back to that. It’s why we come to a subway station that’s heavily concentrated with people.
The larger the crowd, the more recognition. They may use technology to film and upload their videos out through the internet, and they may hide within the confines of the underground world, but when they are standing there in that very moment, they are displaying a show of talents face-to-face. One look around the circle and this mission becomes clear of bringing all ages, genders, and backgrounds. You could find older rappers singing about their growth and development over the years, you may hear a multi-lingual rapper, you may hear a man who teaches sign language in schools actually voice his emotions, and you may hear odes to children and loved ones.
Eaton was able to interview several regulars of the Subway Cipher crew and here is what they had to say about their experiences and why this place is significant to them:
“The cipher is something that we do to connect. It’s something that people have been doing since before it was a rap thing. As far as hip-hop is concerned, the cipher is where we gather to kick our rhymes, to share our minds with each other. But this is folk. Hip-hop is the last true form of American folk music. It’s something that’s organic, natural in speech, you can just start doing it.”
“Hip-hop is a way of life, man. It’s a culture. It’s the music, the style of dressing, the dancing, the art. There’s a lot of things that you can’t express any other way. Every day we listen to music, we have conversations, we dress a certain way. We do all of those things to communicate through hip-hop.”
“One time there was a blind man who passed by the cipher, and he looked like he was just trying to pass through to get wherever he was going. I was telling people to stand back and give him some room, but he was actually looking to reach onto someone and say, ‘Hey, are you guys going to be here long?’ The guy ended up leaving and came back with a box of Boston Creme doughnuts. He gave them to us and said, ‘These are for you, you guys are Boston’s cream of the crop.’ So he stuck around and gravitated towards this random cellist, and so the cellist came over and asked if he could strum some chords over the beat that we were playing. Next thing you know, he comes over and joins that cipher, too. That was probably one of the most beautiful things we’ve seen here.”
“I think the biggest misconception about hip-hop is that it’s all about negativity. There’s a lot of people who perform a lot of socially conscious hip-hop. That’s why I’ve decided to step out and do it recently. I’ve been writing my whole life, but I never really had enough of a purpose to do it. Now my mission is to share my message. It’s beautiful, what’s going on here. It’s about unity and bringing the community together.”
“Maya Angelou said, and I don’t remember it verbatim, ‘You’ll forget a person’s face, you’ll forget their name, but you’ll never forget how they made you feel.’ As a poet, my aim is to touch people, and make them see the world through my eyes–feel my pain, feel my struggle. Look at this beautiful circle–you see different colors, different sizes, different genres, different genders, and everyone has something about them to share.”
“Wreck Shop has been my family for years. Everyone’s heard the phrase, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’ Well this is the perfect place to never judge a book by its cover. I’ve seen Santas hop in the cipher before! There’s a kid over there right now rapping who’s 16 years old. I’m homeless right now so weeks have been a bit crazy for me– figuring out what I’m going to eat, where I’m going to sleep. So this for me is like church. Everything in the outside world is muckery compared to when I can come here and just put all of those problems in a bag and toss it to the side for a little while.”
To these people of the sect, this is an artistic sanctuary for a musical genre that has taken place in some of the worst parts of cities and some of the most beautiful. It is genre that has taken several forms of sonic sound (of voice and song) and transformed it into a medium all its own, with both dominance and charisma. It is a realm where people feel safe from judgement and can speak out. It is amazing to see the world and how it reacts and implements the entertainment world to make a greater and more connected notion. It only goes to show how the power of music can link livestogether. This is what makes living in a spirited and active city, such as Boston, so incredible.
Here is their Facebook page: